(Exchange of SMSes with Aishwarya when Roger Federer started blubbering unexpectedly at the prize-giving ceremony after the Australian Open final)
Aishwarya: Good grief!! This is unnerving.
Jai: Yes, a little like watching a robot short-circuit.
A mean-minded, cynical observer (and of course I’m not that person) might think there was something calculated about Federer’s tearful display – that it was put on, at just the right time, for the benefit of those who accuse him of being expressionless hence mechanical, and of undermining the sport’s human element. In my limitless munificence, however, I’m inclined to think it was genuine emotion – perhaps brought on in part by the presence of the legendary Rod Laver, whose achievement of winning all the Grand Slams in a year Federer will now hope to emulate.
Of course it isn’t fair to call Federer robotic – he’s beautiful to watch when he’s on the court, there’s nothing mechanical about his actual play. But the predictability of his matches– that familiar sinking feeling as you realise the script has been pre-written and there’s only going to be one result – has become depressing. Despite what I said in this post a few months ago, this sort of thing can’t be good for the sport.
It must be tough to be Federer – that is, once you’ve taken away the millions of dollars, the dozens of titles and the adulation. I often wonder how he must feel when a match ends and he has to walk to the net to shake hands with his disgraced opponent. What does he say to the other guy, especially when it’s someone he’s beaten the last six matches they played? He can’t say “Well played” or “You gave me a scare back then” because that would be an obvious lie and the other chap might spit in his eye. And because Federer’s a nice guy he can’t even be truthful and say to Lleyton Hewitt or Andy Roddick, “Look, I’m a thousand times better than you are at the thing you do best, and I’ve just made you look like an idiot again in front of millions of people.” That would be out of character. So he just looks down and mumbles something, and for that brief moment looks like he’d be happy for the ground to open and swallow him up – an odd reaction from a man who’s just won a tennis match, possibly a title.
Anyway, here’s hoping Nadal or Safin or Nalbandian or someone gives him a decent challenge soon. The first two sets of today’s final were at least enjoyable because one got to see him hurried - running around a lot, struggling to reach the ball, even missing it a few times. Would be good to see more of that this coming year, regardless of the result.
P.S. Also good to see Mahesh Bhupathi winning his 10th Grand Slam title. Watched a lot of tennis today.