When talking about Federer, it’s tempting to start with a rundown of his history and his records; yet when I posed the question ‘What do you love most about Roger Federer?’ very few actually responded by listing a record. Most were drawn to listing specific performances in matches, aspects of his demeanor and appearance, parts of his game; things that are more intangible.
One suggestion that was made was “that he has never retired during a match.” Federer has played 959 matches on tour, the most of any active player, and his determination to finish every single match was perhaps most clearly evidenced in November 2008 during his final Round Robin match of the Masters Cup, against Andy Murray. He lost 4-6, 7-6(3), 7-5. After the match, when asked about the effect of the lower back injury he suffered with during the match which required three medical timeouts, he said, simply, “I don’t quit once I step on court.”
One tournament with which Roger is inexorably linked is Wimbledon. MoNiqLeFleur says, “I love his every Wimbledon title. Somehow Wimbledon says RF. The first time I watched him was on grass court, on Wimbledon 2003.” Roger’s six titles there make it his most successful slam.
Another match listed as a favourite by MoNiqLeFleur was the Australian Open final, 2006. It was won 5-7, 7-5, 6-0, 6-2, and after receiving the trophy from Rod Laver, Roger broke down in tears.
Three years later Roger was back in the Australian Open final, and though it was a match he lost in five sets, the trophy ceremony afterwards struck a chord with many of us. “I love his raw emotion, after he lost to Rafa in Australia he cried his eyes out, only a real man can do this,” said mafioso3000. MoNiqLeFleur said that “seeing him cry broke my heart,” but also that, “the most touching moment was when Rafa hugged Roger.”
Despite the loss at the start of the year, the 2009 season ended up being one of the best and most beautiful of Roger’s career. On the 6th of July 2009, after four hours and seventeen minutes, the Wimbledon 2009 final ended 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14 with Roger as the winner. He claimed his record 15th Grand Slam title and earned a thumbs up from Pete Sampras, who was looking on from the royal box. This moment was singled out by MoNiqLeFleur, sherelyn_paola and also Steven8Gerrard who singled out the “jump in the air winning moment,” as one of the best. After winning he wore a t-shirt to the press conference with the slogan ‘There is no finish line.’
Sixteen months later it was time for the World Tour Finals 2010. Roger had last claimed the title in 2007 and was looking to tie the mark of Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl by winning his fifth. He did so in devastating fashion, winning five of five matches over the world numbers 7, 5, 4, 3 and 1 to claim his 66th career title by defeating Rafa in the final, 6-3 3-6 6-1. “The WTF final against Nadal,” was singled out as one of the best by sherelyn_paola, and also by luisalberto2909; “Una de las mejores performances de Roger due la del año pasado en el Torneo de Maestros de Londres [One of the best performance of Roger was last year in the Masters Tournament in London].”
At last we come to a match of which few will need any reminder – the semi-finals of the 2011 French Open against Djokovic. The score by which it was won – 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5) – doesn’t get anywhere close to capturing the drama, and the excitement, and the insane level of play that saw shots such as this:
In the first set, Roger was up a break, then he was down a break, faced set points, before finally winning it in a tiebreak. In the second, he had points for a double break, then he faced break points when serving for the set. In the final set, he was down a break, then having broke back he saved more break points before finally taking it in a tiebreak. The brilliance of this was happily confirmed by melbietoast who said “he was so totally awesome!” The BBC commentator Andrew Castle shared the reaction of the media to this victory in saying, “Federer reduced some members of the broadcast media to emotional highs, tears almost; it was an extraordinary performance.” Though Fed did not go on to win the title on Sunday, it was without a doubt a tournament to be proud of; Steven8Gerrard notes loving “his spontaneous Allez/Come ons/fist pumps that have the ability to wake all his fans (and get them believing) even if he’s two sets and a break down,” as he was in the final, before he eventually took the third set 7-5. eridom7 sums up how we feel, as fans; “No importa quien haya ganado RG ni quien vaya a ganar el siguiente Grand Slam… Federer siempre será el #1! [No matter who won RG, or who will win the next Grand Slam… Federer will always be the #1].”
Finally, in terms of specific matches, we come to the French Open final 2009, which was a favourite of wingster55 and sherelyn_paola among others. Roger entered the event having reached the finals three consecutive years, having lost only to one man since 2005. The narrative spun by the press at the time was whether Djokovic might be able to take the upper hand after he pressured Rafa in an epic semi-final in Madrid, the preceding tournament. However, by the end of the first week this had all changed. With the defending champion no longer in the draw, the question was whether Roger could finally seize this great opportunity to claim the only major title to have eluded him during his career. Federer faced Tommy Haas in the fourth round with all this circling around in his mind, and despite not dropping a single point on serve in the first set, he lost it in a tiebreak. Then he lost the second. Then he faced a break point in the third set that would have allowed his opponent to serve for the match. To save it required one inside-out forehand winner.
Speaking about that point some months later, Roger said, “Basically after I hit that forehand against Tommy, I knew that this was not only going to make me win that game or maybe that match, but that tournament. And I knew what that would mean. I didn’t think about Wimbledon at that point, but honestly, deep down I knew this could be a turning point almost in my career.”
Having navigated tough early rounds, Roger found himself in the semi-finals against Juan Martin Del Potro who was playing in his first major semi-final. Despite falling down two sets to one, he eventually pulled out a victory 3-6, 7-6(2), 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 to leave him one win away from matching Sampras’ Grand Slam mark of 14. In the finals, Roger took the first set 6-1, before finding himself in a tiebreak to decide the second set. He won the tiebreak 7-1. He served four times in that tiebreak; every one was an ace. John McEnroe called it the greatest tiebreak of his career. Despite a court invasion by Jimmy Jump early in the third set, Roger saved a break point to hold his serve one final time and take the third and final set, 6-4. Steven8Gerrard noted the sight of him falling down on his knees after match point as one of the best moments. Roger called it “maybe my greatest victory – or certainly the one that takes the most pressure from my shoulders.”
In terms of aesthetics and demeanor, we find a lot to love. One aspect of his appearance that was particularly singled out was shared by manylivesandsecretsorrows and LaVidaLopa, who said “love the hair!”
Roger’s multilingualism appeals to many of us. He is fluent in Swiss German, German, English and French; something that certainly endears him to the Parisian crowd when playing the French Open. “When he spoke French at the French Open,” was mentioned by damnyourefree as a favourite moment. “His multilingualism,” is also listed by manylivesandsecretsorrows as one of the best parts of his character. Myheartisdamaged also “love[s] that he’s multilingual!”
Also much loved among us fans is his elegance, and also his classiness and professionalism. “He’s got class,” says grneeley1, simply, and hmdynasty agrees; he has “Class. Pure class.” myheartisdamaged concurs, saying “he is classy on and off the court.” “He is such a gentleman and he is very classy on court and during interviews,” affirms mahainthemiddle. ghicky79 likes “his professionalism, and he is always a gentleman no matter what. He is a role model for all up and coming stars in the game.” He’s called “an inspiration,” by b00dschanii. Theedgeofnoise said, “he’s the true personification of the gentleman’s sport that tennis is.”
His composure has also found respect. “I like his self control and tranquility,” said Julinacastillo. “His calmness, even at the most difficult and tough part of the game,” is respected by sambobiles. kylalovescheeseburgers answered with “the way he handles himself, and what he does when he wins a match.” This can be summed up be lecchan, who loves “Everything. But the way he manages to stay elegant during a match amazes me every time.”
On the flip side of respect for his composure, there is also respect for his passion for the game. Condorave appreciates “his sense of humor, the way he laughs. The way he celebrates big points. How he loves his wife. His respect for the game. His beautiful smile.” LaVidaLopa says, “I love that you can tell how much the game means to him. I love the emotions he shows when he wins and even when he loses.” Lukethoughts answered with “his falling to his knees then crying when he wins a slam,” and snazzers appreciates, “his passion for winning.” In terms of habits, mbthecool19 likes “how he flips the racquet before every point, adjusts his headband, runs his fingers through his hair.” After the end of the match, Steven8Gerrard loves “the smile and wave into the camera post wins.”
After individual matches, and aspects of his character, come aspects of his game – which got the most appreciation of the three by some distance. Perhaps the most loved aspect of his game is his movement; “he moves like a ballerina and makes it look effortless,” says myheartisdamaged, and s8gnarcissa agrees, saying “there’s nothing quite like it.” “When Fed moves on the court he glides like a butterfly,” says mbthecool19, “we can hardly hear his feet moving… absolutely amazing.” “When he moves on court, it’s as though he is moving to music. I watch every match twice, second time for the dancing feet,” agrees shackle52.
Learningtohope answered with “when he plays, it looks effortless. He doesn’t run across the court, he floats across it. It’s amazing and I love it.” “He’s just so quiet and graceful on the court. His perfect hair and his angelic play. He makes everything look so easy,” said federerisbetterer.
Continuing this theme, there was more appreciation for, as 10snut put it, “his grace and elegance on the court. How he can make the most unbelievable shots look almost without effort.” kahlanamnell said “Fed’s technique is close to ideal, grace in motion.” gasollywood believes, “he is pure tennis. The greatest player ever.” Sherelyn_paola likes “the elegance of his game.” His composure is given its due by kratlee who notes “how effortless his power looks,” and loves “his class, style, maturity, stamina (he never looks tired!) and his controlled emotion. mbthecool19 sums it up with, “I’ve never seen a player play tennis with so much grace and elegance… a full flowing Roger Federer is poetry in motion. A true magician on the tennis court.”
Federer’s forehand has been described as “a great liquid whip” by David Foster Wallace, and as “the greatest shot in our sport,” by John McEnroe. Shazkyaaa loves “when his serve and his forehand make a peRFect winner! With elegance!”
His backhand, and in particular his slice, was particularly loved. “It’s the best in the game,” said mafioso3000. “I love his slice and one-handed backhand,” confirms MoNiqLeFleur; manylivesandsecretsorrows loves “Everything. His class. His genius. His backhand slices.” revespia, too loves “his one handed backhand, great technique and charisma.” His drop shot receives affectionate regard from futtoi, who said “That’s art.”
And then, of course, there are the ‘indescribables’ – the shots that David Foster Wallace termed ‘Federer moments.’ This is noted by aQayed who loves “the number of times he makes me go ‘ahhh’ ‘waaaaah’ ‘ohhhh’! Even after years, he still comes up with amazshots!” “I love that every match I watch him play there’s a shot or play on his part that’s simply amazing,” says freda13. Steven8Gerrard loves “his reaction to his tweener vs Djok at USO. Clenched fist, raised arm brought down. Love Fed and everything he embodies.” b00dschanii notes “he still pulls out the greatest shots. And even if there’s a phase in which he doesn’t win anything or doesn’t play his best tennis, he ALWAYS comes back with something great.” Simply, alexakrivos loves “the fact that he knows the best tennis of every player put together.”
But after all this, undoubtedly the most popular answer to the question ‘What do you love most about Roger?’ was ‘everything.’ This was the answer given by king-of-swing and queenofsports; Eluvita loves “absolutely everything! He is simply beyond perfection on any level… gotta love him.” Federerblog said “EVERYTHING, everything, everything, I love him until the end of time and even after that.” “I love EVERYTHING about him – elegance of the MAESTRO!” agreed HRWonderWoman; wingster55 encapsulated everything with “generally his consistency.” Yuue14 said, “you gotta love everything about him he’s a living legend, he’s true class, he’s just PERFECT… just the way he is.”
Finally, from Yuue14: “watch this… it says it all.” And so it does.