Maybe the tenacity will upgrade to another level with Carlos Alcaraz, and the tempestuous Nick Kyrgios will raise the tantrum decibel in coming years. But tennis will forever be shorn of the tasteful elegance of Roger Federer, after the legend announced his retirement in what resembles a global dimming autumn of sport. Cold, clinical, numbers put Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic ahead of Federer in the GOAT race of tennis. But a perfect score of 20 Slam titles somehow suffice, or even render those ahead of him or those in pursuit quite irrelevant, when the nebulous beauty of Federer’s game conjures images of a glorious sheepdog who keeps the flock in geometric precision file from the back, rather than the silly bleating on, of herds and goats. Roger Federer won by inventing beautifully original angles of tennis strokes, not on automaton contests of “who blinks first?”
They say Federer had 20 variations of the forehand, arguably not the prettiest of his ogle-worthy ordnance, which was firmly the enduring silhouette of the gorgeous backhand. Nadal instead, could trigger 20 more revolutions on the ball, with his top-spin, to play his grunge game, in outlasting opponents. Yet, Federer had the slice and a serviceable top-spin and most importantly the half-volley, with which he countered the brute of baseliners. Tennis must tearfully accept there won’t be another Federer. A dream is over.
Federer summoned those angles and changes of pace and spin and positioning, in that LIVE moment, on the spot. It is said he was precocious enough to kick a football at age 1 and his footwork could make him seem like he glided inches off the floor. But it was the pure glee he derived from keeping every stroke different and unpredictable and creative that made him uncloneable. There was a beautiful mind — intent on staying beautiful and not turning deliberately brutal to stamp his authority — that had taken leave of tennis with a graceful bow. Let the tears flow.