Maybe, if Roger Federer wasn’t 35, and his game hadn’t perceptibly waned, or had he annexed Grand Slam No. 18 when he was still the undisputed monarch of the tennis universe, the joy that accompanied his Australian Open triumph might not have been quite so unbridled. What once might have been de rigueur, has now morphed into a magical thing. For as much as the tennis world would have loved to see Federer clasping the 18th, even the fiercest of Federer diehards would have sensed it was a dream too far.
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At 35, Federer’s rankings had plunged to 17. His body was creaking. He was injury-ridden and six months out of the circuit. The bookmakers had placed odds of 20/1 on him winning the title, the same number they had given to Canadian youngster Milos Raonic, and significantly lesser than Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal. Not even Federer himself had nursed real hopes of winning the title. “A quarterfinal I thought will be a great tournament,” he later said. Here, he was a pure outsider, though the adulation and roar were still there. And here he was, a champion, at the end of the fortnight.
Maybe, it was destiny’s way of making a victory feel sweeter. To take everything away from a champion, as if to assert the transience of human glory, and then at the unlikeliest moment, bestow it again. Or maybe, it was the way the tennis gods reciprocated the services of a man who has enriched the game in its broadest sense. Now that he is nearer to the finishing line than the starting blocks, we are reminded that we need to savour every single frame of the Federer experience.