26 July 2015

Wimbledon 2015

Did you honestly think I would not write about Wimbledon? If you thought I had forgotten Federer, or was ignoring Wimbledon's white pristine snobbishness, you are wrong.

Before the tournament began, we had a very distinct narrative for each of the four male tennis stars. Federer is really old. He is not athletic enough, not powerful enough, not agile enough. Murray is alright now, maybe he'll actually win. Maybe Britain will be happy again. Nadal is a lost cause. He's injured. Not to be confused with Federer's old age. And Djokovic is playing really well, but we don't really like him. He's too brash for Wimbledon. Also, he wears Uniqlo. More on all of this later.

So, Wimbledon 2015. What did you take away? There were large strawberries with fresh cream. There was a dress code controversy. Fun fact: the official Wimbledon headband was too bright to be allowed on court this year. There was that day where the temperatures crossed 36ÂșC and everyone panicked. John Isner played a long match though it did not (thankfully) come close to the 2010 one. Lleyton Hewitt retired, with his first round loss. Martina Hingis showed the world what a true champion she is, winning the Women's Doubles, as well as the Mixed Doubles. Fun fact: her partners in both cases were Indians. This, along with Sumit Nagal's Junior Doubles win, made 2015 a very good year for Indian tennis.

Unsurprisingly however, the biggest talking points were from the Men's and Women's Singles events. Serena Williams won spectacularly, defeating her sister, Azarenka, and Sharapova among others. Her "Serena Slam" broke quite a few records. It is sad that we underestimate her skill and prowess and find reasons such as her "man's body" to dismiss her achievements. I have never heard anyone attribute Djokovic's wins to his well-shaped ankles, have you? This discrepancy between Men's and Women's tennis annoys me greatly. Williams deserves a lot more credit and praise for her achievements, and I really do hope she manages to get a complete Grand Slam this year. She will then join a very elite club which includes Graff and Laver along with three others.

Should we get to Federer now? We've talked about everything else, haven't we? Well, Nadal did lose early on, struggling post-injury. That narrative was right. So now, Federer? It's sad. Federer played beautiful tennis this Wimbledon. As everyone has pointed out, he served magnificently throughout the two weeks. He only lost one set until the finals. His match against Murray was very interesting. Wimbledon dotes on Federer, but gets enmeshed in a deep moral conflict when he plays Murray. Crowd support was weirdly scattered and noisy. However, Federer served remarkably well and won relatively comfortably.

Last year, everyone sort of forgot Federer until he reached the finals. You just expected him to do well on grass, but you did not think too much about him - he was old. The media was determined to not repeat that mistake this year, and that became very apparent with the media coverage this year. Federer was playing beautifully, despite his age. He hadn't lost his serve, despite being almost 34. Oh look, he is so graceful but looks tired. Of course, he's so old after all. The media did not want to forget Federer, but did not want us to forget his age either. And so, as Federer reached the finals, we were all told about how absolutely beautiful his game was, but also that age affected stamina and confidence and ability.

I did not have access to a good stream for the finals, neither did I have access to a TV. So I decided to go the old fashioned way - I listened to the official Wimbledon radio stream! I had the score tracker open and tried to sync the score update to the radio. It didn't work very well; the radio lagged by two seconds throughout. Have I proved my loyalty though? So there I was, listening to a pompous British voice (who seemed to support Djokovic ever so slightly), while visualizing what was happening. "A sharp backhand from Federer straight down the court and Novak responds with a crosscourt forehand. We have Federer running down the court..." you get the point. My favourite line of the day was "He looks like a man possessed. It only remains to be seen whether he will possess the trophy tonight." I was hoping that the match would go differently than what happened last year. The first set should have been Federer's. That was truly cruel. But, he did well by winning the second set. However, the rain break messed things up.

I have to admit, I don't like Djokovic. While his beating Federer is part of the reason, it's not the only contributing factor. Djokovic is simply too loud, too brash, almost too crude. His game, one has to admit, is practically flawless. But, there is just something jarring and unpleasant about him. I swear, it's not just me: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/09/02/the-third-man-8. This is from 2013. While Djokovic has won a lot more since then, the basic tenet of the piece holds - his manner marks him as a permanent outsider in this world. And he's not the kind of outsider you feel bad for- or even support because he's different. He is the kinds you wished you could like, but simply cannot. I'm rambling now, but hopefully you get why I don't like him(and agree).

I was not crushed with Federer's defeat. I would have loved for him to win, but the loss did not hurt as much it did in 2008 or even last year. That seemed to be true for Federer himself, and a large portion of Federer fans, by the looks of it. Maybe, we are all learning to treat triumph and disaster just the same, as the gates to the Centre Court ask us to. Kipling would be proud. It is very clear that Federer is still very motivated to play, really likes to play, and still plays exceedingly well. We might want him to retire on a winning note, but he has been remarkably open and explicit about this - he wants to play while he enjoys it. He says he will come back to Wimbledon next year. Maybe, he'll win next year. Maybe, he won't. But we seem to be fine either way. And if that's how things roll now, then why not? You get to see elegant tennis. You get to see Federer mostly win. 

One sports columnist wrote, "Four years ago, I wrote that there was “an aura of weird sadness” around Federer’s arrested decline. Federer seemed invincible for so long — not just better than everyone else, invincible— that it was unnerving at first when he didn’t. ....These days, though? Federer’s career doesn’t seem so sad. ....it’s because Federer seems to be enjoying himself so much....What you take from watching him now is not so much a sense of tennis, but the sense of a life. .... when he’s beaten and leaving the stadium with tears in his eyes and one hand raised to the crowd, you understand why the moment doesn’t exactly feel bad, even though it hurts." (I would strongly recommend the article. http://grantland.com/the-triangle/the-sun-never-sets-on-roger-federer-endings-and-wimbledon/)

And that's how it is now. Federer seems to be happy, and that's enough for me to keep my faith in peRFection. 

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