The Final word: Federer chasing his moment of validation

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Old 24-Nov-2011
The Final word: Federer chasing his moment of validation

It was inspiring and sad to see Roger Federer finally draw up a perfect blueprint to beating Rafael Nadal at the ATP World Tour finals on Tuesday night.

As dynamic as their rivalry has been — with Nadal leading his arch-rival in head-to-head meetings — the latest instalment comes when both players are at a critical juncture in their careers. With the No 1 ranking no longer a goal to chase in the ATP Tour's food chain, the Swiss and the Spaniard are playing for pride and desperately trying to extract one last drop of validation — from their fans and themselves — that they still have what it takes to cling on to the cracks that have now appeared in the hitherto solid platform upon which they once stood so imperiously.

Baptised as the most complete player ever to have played in men's tennis, Federer turned the clock back on Tuesday and appeared to have rehearsed his parts perfectly. He rummaged into his bag of tricks like an ageing magician who seemed to have lost the tendency to deceive his audience for most of this year but who, like every proficient master of his trade, saved his best for last. If the phrase ‘don't count me out… ever' is Federer's latest declaration, then he definitely made an eloquent statement against Nadal.

To be critical, however, this is not the Federer that I am waiting to see, though as far as testimonies go he gave an exquisite account of himself. The meticulousness with which he ripped Nadal apart indicated a hunger in Federer that had threatened to take on a primal form. However, the Federer that I am waiting to applaud is the man who will go past 17 Grand Slam titles.

Federer's stress in the realisation of that goal has been rubbing off on me this past year. I need him to achieve it more than he does simply because it will make for the perfect climax and set my heart at rest. There are so many similarities between Federer and other greats in contemporary sport: Tendulkar looking for his 100th hundred; Michael Schumacher for his eighth world title and Tiger Woods seeking to go past Nicklaus' record of majors — the best of the best searching for that moment of salvation.

Ironically, a certain justice exists in the world of sport. Nothing can be taken for granted. Therefore, the most perfect player ever must chase down the most elusive goal of his life for the validation process to be complete. The biggest and most enduring record in any sport must be sought after by the best who have played in it. In tennis it is Federer and he must take that ultimate step in order to climb past that final hurdle. Only then can he look down at the world he has inhabited since he won his first ATP title in Milan in 2001.

Having seen that final live in Italy's fashion capital, I observed Federer defeating Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Goran Ivanisevic in succession, his body language injected by unprescribed amounts of boyish enthusiasm fed by abundant praise from a doting mother. Federer thought then that he had climbed the summit of his sport and who could begrudge him that? It was the unbridled happiness of a 20-year-old — a fusion of immaturity spiked with a sense of accomplishment.

I suspect he thought then that he had reached his zenith. The truth is that a decade later the perfectionist is still searching for that one decisive foothold, amongst all the cracks that have appeared, to help him realise this aspiration.

Old 24-Nov-2011
Saini Sa'aB
Re: The Final word: Federer chasing his moment of validation

for sharing

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