I was in Dubai yesterday and I called Federer.
He remembered me from my last interview and was glad to meet up. I picked him up from Palm Jumeira and we went out to down some tequilas at Music Room in Bur Dubai.
Fresh from his exploits in Hollywood and basking in the glory of his new Nike emoji, Fed was glowing. He downed a tequila faster than his fastest serve and the first thing he asked me was “How's Jonathan and the rest of the PeRFect gang?”
I was amazed that he looked so serenely mischievous after the stupid interview given by one Mr. Srdjan Djokovic. Well how do you pronounce Srdjan? I can only pronounce him stupid at this point of time.
I said “The gang is all good Roger, but are desperately missing you. With you out of action, the gang is out of sorts, nothing to watch, nothing to blog, nothing to comment. But we all do understand and are waiting for your return.”
Federer looked so beatific at this and said “Couldn't help it, my friend. But will be back soon. Am getting better all the time.” Reminded me of the Beatles song Getting Better.
That's great Roger, but to talk about a recent news item, what do you make of the statements of one Mr. S. Djokovic (pointless trying to pronounce the first name).
Federer laughed and laughed for quite a while, while I patiently waited for his mirth to die down. Then he said “I read about it too, me calling Novak a ‘joke'. I sure did and did you know, ever since, he has been called Djoker.” And Fed reached out for the next tequila shot giggling away at the thought.
I let that pass as I queried him about his reaction to Big Daddy asking as to why Fed is still playing at 34.
Fed winked and said “Actually, the gentleman has a point there. He does not expect Novak to be playing at 34. So he thinks that no one should play till they are 34. You know, I called up Djokovic Sr., soon as I was told about the interview (I don't think Fed also can pronounce Srjdan, so he referred to him as Djokovic Sr.)
Oh really, Roger, did you have it out with him, I asked. Roger laughed again and said “No No. I only told him that when I decide to retire, he will be the first person I will inform so that he can make the announcement.” I couldn't help admiring Federer's tongue-in-cheek attitude and was sure that Mr. SD would have taken it seriously and would be ardently waiting for that call from Federer.
Meanwhile after a few more tequilas and saying the goodbyes and the all the bests and he wishing the entire PeRFect Tennis gang, I was thinking less about this meeting but more about the interview.
I thought it would be a good idea to talk to some parents.
So I called up Sebastian Nadal.
Now Sebastian is not that involved a parent as the elder Djokovic, as he lets Toni handle everything, but he was quite funny and forthright when I asked him about Djokovic Sr. asking as to why Fed is still playing. “Let him play, poor man. Or else he will have to sit at home and look after four kids. Jokes apart, I really don't worry about whether Roger is still playing or not. I am more keen to see Rafa continue playing.” This I found more logical as his priority was setting his house in order.
But I persisted, Mr. Djokovic had also said earlier that Rafa & Novak are no longer friends. Is it true?” To which the Spaniard bellowed “What nonsense. In fact Rafa & Novak play Candy Crush every night. That close they are, he concluded.
Next call Judy Murray.
Before I could kick off with a question, she hollered “Don't even talk about Mr. Djokovic's condescending comments. Let Novak win the Olympic Gold before his Dad talks any further. Andy and Novak may be amazing friends, but I am no friend of Novak's dad” All I could say before hanging up was Keep calm, Madam. Keep Calm.
Judy's reaction did unnerve me a bit. So I decided to call Mr. Robert Federer, the affable Swiss.
When I queried him about the whole thing, he was unperturbed. His statement summed up the whole thing, “Novak has matured more than his dad in the last 10 years.” I couldn't help agree with him more and I told him that I will visit him when he comes to Dubai next.
A few days later….
Just received a call from Srjdan Djokovic.
Hello. I just read your lousy article in Perfect Tennis. Now that's a right name for a Novak Fan Blog not Federer's.
I told him in my politest fake voice “Sir, that is something you have to tell Mr. Jonathan”
“Jonathan?” he spluttered “Now let me ask you one thing. Why is this guy Jonathan still continuing with this blog?”