If you aren’t following Tennis right now, you are missing on something big, something that comes hardly once in your lifetime (that too if you are lucky) and it’s the opportunity to witness greatness, resurrected. If you are, you’ll take a lot more from this series than you expected.
Like umpteen millennials around the world, I started watching Tennis only because of Federer. Back in 2010, Star Sports used to have the Best of Wimbledon show at around 9 PM, wherein they showcased matches of Tennis stalwarts who have graced the grounds of All England Tennis and Croquet Club. The show apprised me with the rich legacy of Boris Becker, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and more. Sampras particularly delighted me with his decimating serve-and-volley game. Until there was a match between him and this new 19-year old kid on the block in the fourth round on Centre Court in 2001.
This boy had long hair, plucked into a ponytail in the back and controlled by a hair band in the front. He seemed a rebel, just as Agassi had seemed like when he first entered the Tennis circuit. The boy hit well-angled forehand shots and supremely smooth backhand against the World Number 1 of that era. The match went on for five long sets, with each player winning a set alternately and building the pressure until the fifth set. In the end, the boy won. He had ended Sampras’ reign and denied him his 8th Wimbledon title. The new king had arrived and he was here to stay.
After that match, I saw a lot of Federer’s awesome matches, mostly on the grass court only. His wins from ’03 to ’09, broken by the loss in ’08 (which still hurts), all kept on adding bricks to the monument that was my respect for Roger. What started as an innocuous pasttime soon became a raging obsession which slowly galloped past all boundaries, at first, of time and then, of distance, as I could no longer be vicariously satisfied from justwatching those classy backhand shots and inside-out winners. I vividly remember the first time I had gone to Tennis court with my dad’s Wilson racquet to learn tennis. It was just before IITB was to start and I thought I would learn some Tennis so that I could take that up as a compulsory sport in the first year. I met a guy called Vaishal who spared some time to teach me the basics:
Vaishal says, “So, there are these different grips with which you can hold the racquet. There’s Eastern, Continental, Western and hybrid versions of the same.” And he showed me each one of those by a swing of the racquet.
After that, “Which one does Federer play with?” was my question and that’s how the Tennis sojourn began.
This is the first post of my upcoming series on Tennis. Follow me on Medium to read more!