Roger Federer wins 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open beating his archrival Rafael Nadal in a gripping see-saw five-set battle.
Reaffirms his GOAT status by this epic win at the age of 35, after a 6-month injury lay-off.
A few days later
Novak Djokovic (on the phone): Hi is that Andy?
Andy Murray : Sir Andrew Barron Murray speaking
Novak: Hey Andy, cut the crap, this is Nole here. Am in London. How about catching up for a drink?
Andy: Oh Nole. Sorry didn’t recognise your voice. How come in London?
Novak: Pepe is conducting a workshop at the Ritz and he wanted me to be there too for some healing. So here I am for a few days.
Andy: Oh your Pepe. In any case, we can surely catch up on Saturday bro. But not in London. There’s a nice pub by the seaside in Barton-on- sea, around two hours from London. I am actually holed up here. If you want, I can get you picked up from London.
Novak: Sea-side, great. Pick me up from the Ritz, bro.
Andy: Good, that settles it. My chauffeur will pick you up at 9 AM. But don’t bring that Pepe guy. He kinda psyches me.
Novak: No way bro. I too want some time off from him
Andy: 9 AM at the Ritz then on Saturday. (and disconnects)
Saturday – 4.2.2017
Andy’s chauffeur picks up Novak and they head out of London to the seaside pub at Barton-on- sea. It’s a lovely drive and soon enough, Novak walks in to the pub and spies Andy lugging a glass of ale.
The two shake hands and then settle down. Andy orders a mug of ale for Novak too.
Novak: Bro, this place is full of oldies. Saw a lot of them on the beach road and now at the bar too. You are the only young dude here. And you are not getting any younger (laughs at his own joke)
Andy: Yeah, this place is a haven for the retired folks. My mums got a nice pad here overlooking the sea. I thought I will hole up here for a few weeks.
Novak: Retired folks? Roger should have been here, bro. Well that’s what my dad would definitely say (laughs again at the thought)
Novak (continuing): Bro, are you checking the media. My God, It’s all Roger this Roger that, Rafa this Rafa that. Then Federer this Federer that .. Too much to take, bro.
Andy: Totally. I am just too sick of it. Except for that Pat Cash guy everybody is raving about Roger, Ivan hates that Aussie dude, but I think he is cool
Novak: Yeah in one bloody tournament, we both lose early and these guys Rafa & Roger go through to the finals. And that Andy, Roddick I mean, he said that this is the most important Grand Slam match in history. What nonsense !!!
Andy: Come on Nole. You have gone on record saying that Roger’s win is a boost for tennis and all that.
Novak: Hey bro. One has to talk like that when one is No. 1
Andy gives him a tough look. Novak notices it.
Novak: Sorry bro. What I meant is that once you have become No. 1, you have got to make these kind of statesman-like statements. Roger is the GOAT there, for sure. See how the crowd lapped it up when he said that I would have shared the trophy with Rafa. My ass, he would have shared it. It’s all for the record, bro.
Andy: I get it dude. Rafa also has become good at it, I guess. He said Roger deserved it a bit more than me. Crowd loved that too
Novak: Of course. But back in his mind, he must be thinking that bloody shit Roger sure got lucky this time. But as an ex- no. 1, you got to talk like that. (Novak stresses on the ex No 1 for Andy’s benefit)
Andy (ruefully): I wish Grigor would have beaten Rafa and Stan would have beaten Roger. People would have then missed us in the finals.
Novak: You bet, Andy. Stan never ever finds a way against Roger, only against me. You think some internal Swiss connection??
Andy (disregarding the question): And I thought Rafa was done for, in the semis. Grigor must have seen some cool Aussie birds in the crowd in the 5th set and poof two break points vanish. These young boys, man, too many distractions.
Novak: But bro, what the hell happened against the elder Zverev ? Rafa beats the younger one who is hot on the circuit, but you lose to the elder dude.
Andy: Serb & Bolley dude. (the ale seems to be taking effect) But seriously, same thing as what happened to you with that Uzbek bloke, Istomin.
Novak (changing topic): Well I wouldn’t have minded Grigor winning the title Andy. The whole tennis world is just beating the same dead horses, Federer Nadal, Federer Nadal…..
Just then Andy’s phone rings
Andy: Sir And.. Andy Murray here
Voice at the other end : Hola Andy, Rafa here. I come to the UK. Mallorca very boring, no. How about a tequila-meeting, hombre?
Andy: Oh hi what a surprise. Guess what, Nole is here too with me and we are having some ale.
Novak gestures asking who . Andy mock-picks at his own bum. Novak nods understandingly.
Novak (excitedly) : Ask Rafa to come here. We can bitch about the GOAT !!! (and laughs)
Andy: Hey Rafa. Where are you now?
Rafa: I am at Bournemouth now at a friend’s place.
Andy: Hey that’s close to where we are. Hang on there I am sending my chauffeur to pick you up. You should be here in 15 minutes, I guess. Ping me your location, dude.
Novak: Bro, I will take a bathroom break. Hang on.
Andy orders for some more ale. An elderly steward brings the ale and asks Andy. ‘Who is that foreign gentleman sir?’
Andy: Do you watch tennis, my man?
Steward: No sir, never do.
Andy: Oh then never mind, just a good friend of mine from Serbia
The steward retreats noiselessly. Novak returns.
Andy : Look Nole, don’t refer to Roger as the GOAT in front of Rafa. He sees red.
Novak (putting his palm on his chest): Chill bro. But how can a bull become a goat? (and laughs uncontrollably)
Andy : My time for a bathroom break, Nole.
Soon, Andy gets back from the loo.
Novak: Andy bro, I like this place. Nobody is bothering us at all
Andy: Dude, here nobody even knows who we are.
Novak: Oh really. I never thought…
And before he could he could finish his sentence, in burst Rafa.
Rafa: Hey Nole, hey Andy, long time no see, hombres. You guys left Melbourne pretty early, I hear.
The three shake hands and then settle down to mugs of ale and shots of tequila.
Novak: What happened bro? Final set, I thought you had his number, just like I always have yours. Just joking dude. But what happened really?
Rafa: I really don’t know. I fighted and fighted. But court too fast, ball too fast. All Roger backhand too fast too. I ask for slow court, they make fast court. I not happy, hombre.
Andy: That’s actually legalized cheating I think.
Novak: And why did you allow Roger to take an MTO? They should ban MTOs, bro.
Andy glares at Novak as if to say, Look who’s talking
And then it was Roger this, Toni this, Mirka this, Stan this, Nick this, Maria this, Serena this, Boris this, Ivan this, Jonathan this etc. etc., as the three of them tore into everyone, albeit good-naturedly and animatedly.
Novak: My God that was far more fun than what this guy Pepe is making me go through. It was awesome to catch up with you guys. I feel much better already. Need to head back to London in time for Pepe’s evening session, unfortunately.
Rafa: Me too. I play poker game in evening. Thanks so much Andy. Have to win tonight.
Andy : Thanks guys for coming. It was great fun. I too need to run some errands for my mum. Let’s do this again sometime.
He gestures to the steward to bring the bill
The elderly steward appears and says ‘Sir It is being taken care of.’
Andy : What? Taken care of? By whom?
Steward: By that pleasant looking gentleman at that table sir. He has come with his wife and you won’t believe this, with two sets of twins too, Sir. First time in these parts, I think. Never seen him before.
The three are shocked to see Federer at a far side table. They were so busy in their gossip session that they did not notice people coming in or going out.
Federer turns to see them and then ambles up towards them.
Fed: Howdy guys. A Big Three party or what?
Andy: Nice to see you around Roger.(spoken like a No. 1) How come here at Barton-on- sea?
Roger: Oh, Mirka wanted to buy a nice pad here post-retirement. I came on a lark. I told her we will start looking at it seriously only after a few years. See you guys later sometime.
And he walks away.
Andy, Novak, Rafa (in unison): GOAT !!!
Note: This is a euphoric figment of my imagination and a humorous attempt to humanize these four amazing champions who have given the tennis world so much pleasure. No disrespect should be construed. Lastly, ‘Down by the sea-side’ is one of my favourite songs of Led Zeppelin – my favourite rock band.