I became a fan of Rafa back in 2006, after his second French Open triumph. And again in 2007 when I watched him live in the Chennai Open and he hit a signed tennis ball into the crowd and I caught it. The brash aggression, stamina, and sheer power was captivating. He became one of my all time favourite sports persons. And naturally, Federer became the nemesis in what was one of the greatest rivalries in the sport.
Thwarted multiple times in Wimbledon previously, when he beat Federer in a rain interrupted and arguably best tennis game of all time in 2008 in a surface that didn’t match his playing style, I was over the moon. The rivalry deepened to become the greatest in history of the sport: grace and elegance vs energy and power, and the lack of a Federer-Nadal final in a tournament final would create a stir.
But in the last couple of years, with Nadal’s injury, Federer’s fading prominence and Djokovic and Murray’s rise, my interest in tennis started to dwindle. Not just mine, but most people who were closely following the sport and were fans of either Federer or Nadal. Hence, naturally, the Australian Open final of 2017 was extraordinarily hyped up, as a game between two veterans – one who last played a tour game more than six months ago, and another who had been missing from the circuit for much longer. I too joined the hype bandwagon, as this was a game that could never happen again: a Grand Slam final between two of the sport’s greatest players.
In matching attires including pink shoes (what was Nike thinking?), the two players played some extraordinary tennis. At the end of a seesawing match of high octane tennis of five sets and a thrilling last couple of games which went down to the wire, the game ended in favour of Federer. 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3. Although I was disappointed, I was really happy at the quality of play and reignition of the rivalry.
Federer, like the true gentleman that he was, said in his post match speech that he would have loved to share the trophy with Rafa, if only there was a draw in tennis. Nadal said he was at his prime again, and raring to go, which makes the fan in me go bonkers with excitement. Can’t wait for Roland Garros to start.
Go kill it, King of Clay! And make sure you beat Federer along the way.