Thursday, August 16, 2007

Roger Federer is a Loser

Note 6-21-09 : This column keeps coming up in search engines when people search for "Is Roger Federer Jewish?" I guess the random assortment of words on this page, along with my own mini-biography, convinced Google I would have the answer to that question.

Well, Roger Federer is not Jewish. He's Catholic.

I hope you stay for a minute and check out the following column.

Take Care,

a column:

He crushes you with serves that paint the lines and volleys that cut the angles. He puzzles you with the softest of drop shots and the deepest of forehands. He kills you, and he doesn't even break a sweat. He's notched eleven Grand Slams: five Wimbledons, three U.S. Opens, and three Australian Opens. He recently won forty-one matches in a row. John McEnroe called him "the most gifted player that I've ever seen in my life."

Roger Federer might be gifted, but he is a loser. Just like me.

This August, Federer lost to Novak Djokovic in the Montreal Master's Cup final; in the fall of 1998, I lost to some guy whose name I forgot in the first round of a Boys 14s Novice Tournament. In 2006 and 2007, Federer lost the French Open final to Rafael Nadal; In 2002 and 2003, I lost the Lausanne vs. Briarcrest High School match to my friend Matt Wiseman. Roger, I know how you feel. There are days when you're not the best player on a single court, much less the best player in the world.

Wait. Am I crazy? I'm not really comparing myself to Roger Federer, am I? The closest I've come to a Grand Slam is sitting in the cheap seats of the U.S. Open, where approximately 3.4 million people stood closer to the court than I did. But like Roger, I've lost matches. Like anyone who's ever held a racket before, I've lost matches. And even while I "retired" from the Tennessee junior circuit, graduated from high school and college, started a part-time job, and pondered and planned (a little) for my immediate future, I still can't forget that Alex Gates came back from two sets down to beat me at State Qualifying seven years ago. I still can't forget how Lee Cook stayed stoic as I screamed at the fence and slapped my thigh with one too many "Come on's." I still can't forget Henry Gindt's truck-full of Mississippi girl fans out-cheering my mom in the stands. I still can't forget all the matches I should-have-could-have-God-how-I-would-have won.

I'm a naturally nostalgic person, but I don't always remember the good times of the my career: I played #1 for my high school squad, I won a couple local tournaments, and I finished in the top twenty of the Boys 16s state rankings. Sometimes, I was the one who came back from two sets down; I was the one who kept my composure through a thousand deuces. I may not have had the softest of drop shots or the deepest of forehands, but I could play. And I could win.

But whenever I enjoy the memory of a long-ago victory, the memory of a loss always follows. The hard truth is that every victory, however satisfying, was really just a stepping stone to defeat; if not in the next match, then in the next tournament, or the tournament after that. If only I improved my serve, I could have made it to Southerns. If only. It's easy to play with ifs and create revisionist histories, for unless you're Roger Federer, you never truly hit the top of the game.

But there's nothing depressing about that. Why? Because as we know, the greatest winner in tennis loses too. The rest of us athletes might not have his skill set or bravado, but we might have his fight. We might have his passion. Even when we struggle through a country club match that nobody's watching, we pump our fists and yell "Come on!" like it's Roland Garros. We hustle and we swing and we lose and we do it all over again, fumbling towards a perfection we can feel in our nerves when we smack a screaming backhand.

And sometimes, we win. And when we do, it feels so good, almost good enough to remember.


Anonymous said...

Living and learning, Baby! You're a winner in every category as far as I'm concerned. Tennis is for sissies anyway...well, maybe not when it comes to Billie Jean King. ;~)


P.S. It IS kosher to respond to your own blog, thus clarifying any questions your readers may have. Go for it!

Michael said...

Amit has never beat me in tennis. And I won in the race against Gradon.

These are the two things that make my life worth living.