Today was exactly like the story that hardcore Roger Federer fans by now should be used to.
The story begins with a first round match which brings out some tentativeness in Roger. Then he paddles along with some impeccable tennis – almost reminds you of his era of invincibility. Before you realize it, he marches into the quarter final where he gets to meet his first real opponent. An opponent who is in the Top 10 or something. Roger brings out his best tennis and elevates his game to a level that makes you believe that this indeed is the grand slam that he is going to win because there is no way anyone could beat him in this form. He makes it to the semis.
It’s Rafa Nadal that he gets to meet there in the semis. And then it all ends. Dreams shattered. For Roger and for his millions of fans..
It is not that Rafa is better on the court than Roger in general but on this given day he plays into Roger’s psyche. So easily. Like a shrink working through a patient’s mind walking through the inner chambers to retune everything the patient believes about himself. Roger gets into a self-destruction mode. None of his forehand winners work. His backhand shots are as terrible as you have ever seen. His first serve % starts going down and ends up close to 50%. Meanwhile at the other side of the net, Rafa continues to play to Roger’s weaknesses consistently. Rafa doesn’t do anything extraordinary except keeping himself highly charged up and motivated to beat Roger at whatever cost. He keeps playing aggressive shots but doesn’t try anything new he hasn’t tried before. He knows exactly what works under the circumstances. Roger on the other end, starts losing it. He gets into a mode of series of unforced errors. Errors on shots he had comfortably played even in the first set. Sometimes he tries some new shots only to miss those too.
Then, it is only a matter of time for Rafa to prevail. It is only a matter of time for Roger to recoup and pack his bags to walk back to the dressing room in an elegant manner only he could do. It is only a matter of time before Roger during the post match conference starts telling everyone how he has had an incredible run getting into the tournament, winning a few minor titles here and there and how he has played spotless tennis till the semis and how he was unlucky on that day to miss out a few points, which eventually cost the game & the match for him, all the while making it sound like luck was not in his side even though he played better tennis….
A reluctant Roger, who continues to live in a state of denial marches onto the next grand slam. And as a highly-not-so-reluctant Roger fan, I don’t think I can take this denial much longer.