Hey all, this is a guest contribution from Murli Pillai, the man, the myth, the legend behind the awesome Fedberg End of Season Quiz I posted in December. Enjoy!
Rao-ux to Rao-nic (The Fedexpress keep on rollin’)
It all started with Jimmy Connors. For me at least. Never liked the guy though. Too brash for my cash. Then came Borg with the rock star looks, unflappable temperament and ugly game. He was my connection to rock and tennis, the double-handed backhand notwithstanding. But he quit too soon, succumbed to pressure. Not the ideal connection, so to speak.
Enter Superbrat – naturally talented, emotionally volatile. McEnrowing and railing all the time. Well where do we go from here. Ivan the Terrible. And who could be blander than Wilander. It was yawn-tennis all the way.
Boom-Boom came – all serve and dives. All power and no finesse.
Till July 1988. Wimbledon semifinals. ‘The Big Cat’ Miloslav Mecir vs Stefan the Swede. The Swede didn't have the Borg type rock star looks. More hangdog as he lost the first two sets. Then came roaring to win the next two and finally trailing in the 5th by a break but again coming back to win the match and then go on to beat Boom-Boom in the finals. Grace vs Power. Elegance vs Athleticism. I was hooked. The real first breath of fresh air.
Then came 1996. Stefan called it a day. The day the tennis died. For me yes. The Sampras's, the Agassi's, the Couriers and many other great players went about winning grand slams, notching up records et al. But I wasn't there. Tuned off, logged out. I had called it a day too.
End of story? No way.
6th July 2003. The green, green, grass of Wimbledon. On one side stood Aussie Mark Phillippousis aka Scud – more a stud than anybody else, and on the other side a long-haired youngster with rock-star looks. Took me back to the flower-power days where grass didn't mean Wimbledon.
But back to Wimbledon. It was sheer magic on one side of the court. Magic, ballet, rock & roll, symphony, precision – all there on display. My posterior was glued to the sofa and my eyes to the TV. My drink had reduced a wee bit more due to evaporation than any imbibement from my side.
And as the Fedexpress slumped on the ground and burst into tears after winning two tie-breakers and breaking Scud twice in the second set. I was a changed man. Tennis had surely not died. Had only gone into hiding – just to surface on that momentous day. At least for me and maybe for millions around the world.
But this journey didn't begin at Wimbledon. It all started on an indoor court in Toulouse on 28th of September 1998, when a certain 28 year-old Frenchman Gillaume Raoux ranked 45 became part of history when he lost to a gangling youth ranked 878 and just 17 years old. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome Roger Federer.
This journey doesn’t seem like stopping 17 years later, 17 Grand Slam titles later, 4 children later, 999 match-wins later as we move to 11/1/2015.
Here was that journeyman on the threshold of a monumental achievement as he takes on Milos Raonic of Canada at Brisbane, Australia. Playing for the title. Playing to win his 1000th ATP match. Playing in front of his twin daughters. Playing in front of his idols. Playing a man 9 years his junior.
Again the same match-up. Grace vs Power. Will power overhaul grace? Will youth triumph? Will 1000 be a momentous number and not an unceremonious first round win at the ensuing Australian Open.
Would the ‘old man’ win? Would the ‘daddy’ win in front of his twin daughters? Would the ‘idol of millions’ not let his fans down? I had no doubt in my mind. Neither did he, I am sure. And so it transpired. 1000 happened. Wasn’t easy, but what the hell. Its a long way to the top ( if you want to rock & roll ) right.
Match over. 83rd Title won. 1000th match won. All over barring a few questions. Questions in all our minds.
- Why is it that this man can achieve all of what a few others can achieve only a part of?
- Why is it that this icon can still remain grounded despite all his achievements?
- Why is it that every other major sportsperson in the world is in awe of him?
Come to think of it, because he of the thousand wins is much much more than the sum of all.
Sum of all that have played tennis with their limited capabilities – the coolness of Borg, the talent of McEnroe, the longevity of Connors, the determination of Lendl, the power of Becker, the charisma of Agassi & Safin, the doggedness of Hewitt, the sportsmanship of Rafter, the all-court game of Sampras and the elegance and ethereality of Edberg.
A sum much greater than all the parts. The GOAT.