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Déjà vu

Life is cruel. Most of the time it gives us one single opportunity and if we don’t seize it, the door closes forever.
Don’t for a minute belive it. That is what the cynics have to say and I am no cynic. If I was I wouldn’t be a Fed-fan and neither would many of us, though a few may fall in a category called ‘devil’s advocates’.

Cut to 1989

Paris, Roland Garros

The semifinal line-up was intriguing. Edberg vs Becker. Their rivalry was at its peak. The other one – a seasoned Andrei Chesnakov who had taken out the defending champion Mats Wilander in the quarters against a young upstart called Michael Chang who had beaten Sampras & Lendl along the way.

Edberg defeated Becker in a pulsating 5-setter where Becker came back from two sets down to level but lost the final set 6-2. Edberg’s first French open final.

Chang on the other hand had come from 2 sets down against Ivan Lendl after having moon-balled and under-arm served him, leading to a complete mental annihilation of the Wolrd No1 in the 4th round. He further dispatched Chesnakov in 4 sets in the semis. The youngest Grand Slam finalist ever.

The game was afoot as our dear friend Sherlock would have said. History in a way beckoned both.

Chang drew first blood. 6-1. Edberg seemed to be drained from his match with Boris. But he was not my idol for nothing. He stormed back to take the next two sets. 6-3, 6-4. The upstart was being put in place. Just one more set.

But the upstart was made of sterner stuff. Though Edberg broke him straight away, Chang broke back. Edberg had chances to break in every

Chang game but could not and eventually was broken and lost the set 4-6. And then went on to lose the final set 2-6.

Chang made history. The youngest ever Grand Slam champion at 17 years and 4 months.

Edberg lost out the chance to be the first person to win the Career Grand Slam, as he had won the Australian Open & Wimbledon earlier and then went on to win the US Open twice later on.

Edberg in effect lost a match, which he should have won, leading by 2 sets to 1 and being a break up in the 4th.

Edberg Chang
Edberg peeping into Chang’s victory speech, one which should have been his.

Edberg never ever got to a French Open final again and finished his career without becoming the first to achieve a career slam, that feat going to Agassi.

Cut to 2016

Wimbledon.Semi-final. Fed vs Raonic

Same pattern. Fed losing the first set. Winning the next two. Break point chances in the 4th. And then losing the match inexplicably.

Federer Press 2016
The look says it all

A win over Raonic would have got him his 18th title. I make this bold statement because of Murray being on the other side.

Cut to 2009

US Open Final. Fed vs Delpo

Almost similar pattern. Fed up 2 sets to 1. Despite being rattled by Hawk-Eye. A heartbreaking tie-breaker loss in the 4th and a complete demolition in the 5th.

Fed Delpo 2009
The one that got away. Fed knows it.

Another opportunity gone up in smoke.

Cut to 2005

Australian Open. Semi final. Fed vs Safin

Same same same pattern. Fed leading by 2 sets to 1. What more, having match-points in the 4th set tie-breaker. Losing it and the match eventually 7 – 9 in the 5th. A great match no doubt but a victory would have ensured another Australian Open title. Another bold statement as it was Hewitt on the other side.

Fed Safin AO
A better match than the Fedal epic ( my opinion )

In effect, three ‘major’ opportunities lost ( pun intended ) despite Fed leading.
As a fan, I have always been extremely disappointed when Fed loses. It is as if tennis lost.
If he gets annihilated ( rarely ), well its one of those days.
If he loses fighting ( mostly ), too bad…. but immensely proud of him.

But when he loses after being in control, the disappointment is monumental and recovery time is huge.

Cut to now

Have recovered as we can see, but in the back of the mind the Edberg scene plays out. An opportunity lost for ever.

Will it be the same for Fed?

Three opportunities gone abegging. Could have been on 20 you know.

Cut to the future

As I said in the beginning, it’s the cynic who thinks life is cruel. Obviously Fed doesn’t think so. Or else a man who won his last Slam in 2012 wouldn’t be trying so hard year after year and coming tantalizingly close. A lesser mortal would have given up in disgust and hung his boots long back.

But not Fed. He is not one to give up. Déjà vu be damned.

About Murli Pillai

Murli Pillai
Fanatic Federer fan. Watch all his matches on TV if shown ( outside working hours ! ), and quite often drive down to Dubai from Muscat to watch him live. Apart from being an IT / Telecom sales professional, am a quiz-master, classic rock & blues fan, movie buff and a veteran tennis-ball cricketer. Love to research on Fed’s on-court & off-court doings – the Fedberg quiz an outcome of that.

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45 comments

  1. I really like that “Cut to the future” stanza…Cheers…Good one Murli..

  2. All the ones mentioned hurt, particularly 2009 USO (how did that happen?). It would (with the 2010 AO which followed) have given him the 4 slams consecutive along with the FO and Wimbledon. Grrr. However, being an optimist myself, I love your (dogged) optimism, and your last line – ‘Déjà vu be damned.’ Thanks Murli! 🙂

  3. Nice Murli, Thank You!

  4. Nice read! Love the positive end!

  5. Sid TheCookieThief

    There is no could’ve, would’ve, should’ve, in tennis. Djokovic in 2007 (US Open) could’ve easily won the first, and should’ve gone on to win the match, and would’ve left Federer at 16 slams.

    Roddick, should’ve picked up one of those four set points, which would’ve given him a two sets to love lead, and he could’ve won his second slam, leaving Federer at 15 slams now. Ooooooh! That’s scarily close to where Nadal stands right now.

    Federer could’ve missed that inside out facing break point against Haas at the French Open in 2009, which should’ve given Haas a straight sets win, and would’ve left Federer at 14 slams, just two ahead of Djokovic. Imagine that?

    At Wimbledon 2012, Benneteau was up two sets to love and couldn’t close. That would’ve put Federer at 13 slams. GOAT no more!

    Federer at 17 slams is the right number. Be content with it. Raise your hopes irrationally by all means but remember that being realistic is not the same as being negative.

    • Right, it seems small margins – and luck or ill-luck often what decides the win in this high level of tennis. That might also make the GOAT status exclusively out of winning statistic a bit absurd? But I agree with those fueled by not being content, ever. Being content means death of sport and spirit IMO.

    • Sid

      You are right about those “he could have and should have lost” but there are way more “he could have and should have won”.

      Nadal got under his skin, if he hadn’t, Fed would have all the RGs he was in final in, the AO09 as well so Fed could have had like 21 instead of 17 if we think the way you are thinking.

      I agree with you we should be content with 17.

      The fans of Djoker and Dull will quote numbers all day long because Djoker’s and Dull’s numbers are the only thing that make their tennis look good.

      This is where we (Fed fans) forget what Federer is all about. We see glimpses of brilliance in a lot of players. Wawrinka’s BH, Sampras and many other’s serves, Nadal’s and DJoker’s consistency and so on. Federer is the ONLY player in history who has had ALL that and then some more. Entertainment value – no other player is more entertaining to watch than him, you can ask commentators. No other player has come up with new shots in Tennis than Federer has, we have all seen countless shots from him that make your jaw drop. No other player is respected more than Federer.

      So what i am saying is that no other player has been able to bring EVERYTHING togather and that’s why I believe he is a COMPLETE tennis player.

      I think this, more than the GS numbers, makes him GOAT. I think we should celebrate and highlight this more than GS numbers or numbers of any kind. He is still miles ahead when it comes to numbers compared to most of the field but still.

      • Totally agree with you, Roger makes us love tennis and I actually started playing because of him (I have always wanted though).

        #GoRoger
        #GOAT

      • I have to say, I disagree with the comment regarding RGs. To put down nadal’s “beating Fed” at the French open to the fact that he got into his head is at best wildly optimistic. Let’s not be silly, no doubt fed has a mental block vs nadal, but come on. He’s never really been all that close in French open finals. Nadal has won 9; Federer has reached 5 finals, and won one.

        Nadal is a superior clay court player; this isn’t the mentality that’s the problem. Fed might have made it closer, but it’s not like the Spaniard hasn’t always won close matches anyway, versus fed or not, versus mental block or not.

        I agree wholly with Sid, though. You don’t get to where Fed is without being monumentally lucky, but also monumentally unlucky as well. You don’t live life without both happening to you. Just look at Fed’s five set record. He wins more than he loses. Those matches that “could go either way”? He tends to come out on top. As do all greats.

    • I agree with Sid. Realism is where it’s at.

      Slam numbers is obviously going to stay the barometer but even if someone had 20 slams to Fed’s 17. When Fed is playing – I’d rather watch. When anyone else is playing – I’d rather play. Kinda glad he wasn’t playing when I was a kid and playing every sport going, I’d have turned into a couch potato.

  6. Oh, Sid, you are just no fun anymore. But, I do agree. There are many matches Fed won that could have gone the other way.
    Logically, I know this but I always feel in the dumps for a few days when a USO 09 happens. Can’t help it no matter how hard I try.
    Thanks, Murli. I especially like the last paragraph.

    Oh hey. Did you see Shapovalov ( 17 yr old Canadian ) beat Kyrgios? Obviously Kyrgios didn’t want to be there but still great for Canada.

    • Sid TheCookieThief

      Sorry about that Sue 🙂 You know, when you feel like that, in the dumps, think about what went through Roddick’s mind when he got broken in that last game, the only game in the final he was broken. You can’t have it both ways. Some points or games are meant to go one way or the other. In the grand scheme of things, it all evens out.

      • I totally agree with you sid, totally

      • Sid: “in the grand scheme of things it all evens out. – “? How do you know that? if “somewhat” instead of “all” I might have agreed. As a fan I think Fed deserves nearly all his wins, and had ill-luck in nearly every losing. So is it (IMO)! 🙂 (And don’t try to convince me otherwise, you wouldn’t succeed, regardless of all the “being realistic” you tell about…(People telling of their more “realistic” attitude opposite more hopeful persons, always awakens my suspicion of their wanting to steel energy) – in sport all can happen, that’s the real!))
        Murli and many of us might be “unrealistic” – who knows? But he shares his feelings in a VERY realistic way. Thanks again, Murli.

      • Sid TheCookieThief

        If “somewhat” makes you happy, so be it! 🙂

      • Sid TheCookieThief

        Shamtoot Al Rafael Al Nadal! Good to hear from you! 🙂

      • 2009 Wimbledon, that’s the match come to mind without fail when Roger loses close matches, no escape on that, and completely agree there.. Respect for Roddick..

      • thanks Sid, its always pleasure to popup from time to time 😉 and post some comments here and there 🙂

      • “As a fan I think Fed deserves nearly all his wins, and had ill-luck in nearly every losing”

        How would he ever improve if that was the case?

      • I wouldn’t preclude apparent blindness. I think fandom is a wonderful thing, and you’re free to believe whatever. But I’m with Jon here. Fed quite often wins when he doesn’t deserve to, just as he loses when he doesn’t deserve to. That’s the format of tennis, and however great he is, he isn’t free from tennis.

  7. I remember Roddick said that after 09 Wimby, he was in the locker room and Fed came in. Fed and his team were very quiet and respectful. Roddick said he was so appreciative of that considering his huge loss.

    • Yep, I remember that, it was in one-on-one interview between them. Pure class from Fed.

      • … who of course at that stage had discovered what it was like to lose a Wimbledon final when you had chances. I hope he’d also have done it a few years previously.

  8. Being content is the enemy of success. If Fed felt 17 was a good number, he would have retired in 2012.

    There are two types of sportsmen.

    One who feels that he should’ve won the match and that fuels the desire to go for it again

    The other one is who feels that I could’ve won that match, but what the hell I tried at least.

    The second one is the also-ran and the first is mainly Fed.

    • Sid TheCookieThief

      [Being content is the enemy of success]

      The happiest people in the world are those who are at peace with themselves.

      Nobody is arguing that Federer lacks the steely desire. Even today, I’m sure he dreams of 6 more slam. Let’s be realistic, one more. But there is something we forget, that’s a great level. Age.

      No matter how optimistic you are, and I don’t care how much, we all end the same way. This may sound sordid, but it takes great strength to understand when to let go.

      You can be optimistic, and also be rational at the same time.

      A true player is one who after a loss does not think, “well, I tried”, but tells himsel, “I tried better than the last time”. Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. – Stan Wawrinka’s tattoo.

      Truth is, Federer ain’t exactly failing better.

      • Ah “Truth”, Sid. We are NOT talking about facts are we? Yes he’s 34, 35 in few days – and yes that might have impact, but nobody knows how much if any. And your statement “Federer ain’t exactly failing better” – and calling it the truth, is somewhat religious believing without evidential base. A lot disrespectful, too, to what might be more true than your assumptions.

      • Sid TheCookieThief

        Really? You’re telling me his performances, in slams specifically, were better this year than the last? Oh wait, he was MIA in Paris, and will be in New York, so those don’t count as bad performances. You can’t always use injury and age as an excuse by saying, “Well, he is aging, so taking that into account, he played really well.” That ain’t going to help. You don’t get a two game handicap in every set, or an extra challenge, or an extra 20 seconds at changeovers, for age. You are not handed an easy draw for being a senior. Please.

        The fact that Federer is taking an extended timeout is incontrovertible evidence that he doesn’t think his game is where he wants it to be. And if his game was better than last year, he wouldn’t’ve taken this break,which I actually like, as we may see a mini resurgence next year. Will that turn into a slam? I highly doubt, unless there is a dip in Djokovic’s form, and Nadal doesn’t become super man again, and suddenly the courts become faster, and the younger players spend most of their day catching Pokemon!

        Let’s agree that you saw a different Federer this year than I did, and we can both be content. Deal?

      • Well, deal Sid, I agree in much (but not all) of this your post. What I see may of course not be THE TRUTH, as I don’t believe anybody can have the monopoly of that, based on a mix of facts and views and presumptions. I have to protest on any speculation presented as the Truth, no less when this is negative, stealing spirit and energy.

  9. Thanks Murli love a tinge of of history and a big dollop of hope to fuel our Fed fervour.

  10. Oh I can think of quite a few actually.

    the first RG final against Nadal, won the 1st set 6-1 I think. When you win first set 6-1 in any match, you need to turn the screw and run through the opponent.

    The 2009 AO final was another one. Considering the kind of form he was in and nadal had played a tough 5 setter, Fed should have won it easily.

    The wimby 08 is probably the worst worst match for both him and his fans. HOW DID HE LOSE THAT?

    That would have been the greatest match he would have ever won if he had got that one and he had chances twice in the 5th. OMG we all would have watched it like 100 times.

    But I am just glad he is still around and still trying and may be have an opportunity to still win one more.

    I hope he does and then immediately announce his retirement.

  11. Oh fuck. Oh god no, this ruins everything.

  12. No no no! He’ll miss the entire rest of the season for rehab!

    Oh, Roger…

  13. Wow. WOW.

    Roger call it quits for 2016 in order to preserve 2017 and beyond.

    NOT RETIRING. Says he needs rehab if he wants to play for a few more years.

    I’d rather be looking forward to 2017 than a career ending Summer.

  14. Hell’s bells…

  15. I am finish watching tennis this year

    I

    Am

    Done

  16. Looks like no more watching tennis this year 😭😭😭😭

  17. You said it best when you wrote “But when he loses after being in control, the disappointment is monumental and recovery time is huge.” I feel the same way, especially on those close matches. I get particularly unnerved when he starts missing several first serves in a row. It’s really hard to take. But, onward!

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