All hail the greatest sportsman on the planet

CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY writes: It seems to be an unending rally. Finally, he sprints across the court, and from a position that defies the doctrine of physics, uses his back hand to almost sliver the ball, which responds meekly, keeps a low trajectory, drops into a gap, and drifts away from the confounded opponent’s outstretched racquet.

Even if it is on TV and just a replay of an earlier match, watching this guy can be nerve-wracking.

At 25, artistry and aggression combine to make tennis ace Roger Federer what he is: the planet’s greatest sportsman ever!

He has been ranked No. 1 in the world since February 2, 2004 and today (February 26) officially breaks Jimmy Connors‘s record for most consecutive weeks (160) as the top-ranked male player.

Let us look at Federer’s record (Courtesy Wikipedia): In 2004, Federer became the first man since Mats Wilander in 1988 to win three of four Grand Slam tournaments in the same year. In 2006, Federer repeated this feat and became the first man in the Open era to win at least ten singles tournaments in three consecutive years. He has won ten Grand Slam men’s singles titles in 31 appearances, three Tennis Masters Cup, and twelve ATP Masters Series singles titles. He is the only player to have won both the Wimbledon and U.S. Open singles titles in three consecutive years (2004-2006).

In 2007, when Federer won his third Australian Open title, he became the only player to have won three separate Grand Slam tournaments three times. He won the tournament without dropping a set, the first player to do so in a Grand Slam since Bjorn Borg at the 1980 French Open and the first to do it at the Australian Open since Ken Rosewall in 1971. Whew!

David Foster Wallace, the 40-something award-winning author-professor of several novels, short stories, and articles equated watching Federer to a “religious experience”. David has been called one of America’s most important young authors and this article that appeared in the New York Times of August 20 last year is one of the best pieces that I have read by any writer.

Says Wallace:

“A top athlete’s beauty is next to impossible to describe directly. Or to evoke. Federer’s forehand is a great liquid whip, his backhand a one-hander that he can drive flat, load with topspin, or slice the slice with such snap that the ball turns shapes in the air and skids on the grass to maybe ankle height. His serve has world-class pace and a degree of placement and variety no one else comes close to; the service motion is lithe and uneccentric, distinctive (on TV) only in a certain eel-like all-body snap at the moment of impact. His anticipation and court sense are otherworldly, and his footwork is the best in the game. As a child, he was also a soccer prodigy. All this is true, and yet none of it really explains anything or evokes the experience of watching this man play. Of witnessing, firsthand, the beauty and genius of his game. You more have to come at the aesthetic stuff obliquely, to talk around it, or as Aquinas did with his own ineffable subject—to try to define it in terms of what it is not.”

Let’s send Roger Federer to Kensington Oval. Cricket desperately needs a superman.

Savour one of the greatest pieces of sports writing here: Federer as Religious Experience


CHURUMURI QUESTION: Are sports fans living in the greatest era in sport? When the greatest each game has known, have all been contemporaries. Federer, Tiger Woods, Garry Kasparov, Michael Schumacher, Brian Lara. Has any other 10 or 15-year era ever had so many greats at the same time? Or is this just media hype?