by Mohan Mali
Five months ago, after losing to Nadal at The Australian Open final in Melbourne, Federer would have liked to rush to the locker room, have a cold shower and hide his emotions from the rest of the world. Emotions of frustration, disappointment, failure and anger.
On Sunday in Paris, Federer savoured the moment, batted his eyelids long enough to allow the tears of joy to roll down his cheeks as the national anthem of Switzerland was played in the background. (I really like the playing of the national anthem at victory celebrations, it gives an athlete the much needed private moment in public?? to reflect on the accomplishment.)
Throughout the match the raindrops refrained from playing the spoilsport, while history was being made. Towards the end they slowly started to come down becoming part of it. The missing crown in his kingdom was conquered, mission accomplished, dream of his life fulfilled. However you may summerise it, Federer was at peace with himself.
For Federer the Nirvana was achieved, at least in that moment.
What preceded that moment was something like this…
From the beginning it was Federer who took charge of the proceedings at Roland Garros on Sunday and controlled them all the way. Federer entered the stadium with a refreshing smile and walked up to the net for the coin toss with confidence in his stride. Soderling looked a bit lost and avoided eye contact with Federer. Obviously this was his first Grand Slam Final.
First Set : Soderling loses the first game on a double fault, it was him who was under pressure and not Federer. With pin point serving accuracy from Federer, the first set was done and dusted in 23 minutes at 6-1 and Mirka was already smiling away.
Second Set : Although Federer started the second set on a double fault, his serving throughout the match was so accurate that Soderling was left scratching his head literally after one of the aces that Federer hit. An intruder on the court as Federer led at 2-1 and Solderling serving at 15-0 did distract Federer. Visibly shaken Federer lost the game to love. (Soderling did keep his cool though and to his credit did not lose his concentration).
For a second, Federer must have thought it was Nadal in disguise with a spanish flag. When it passed as a bad dream, awoken from his sleep with relief, Federer looked more confident. Federer, more focussed and Soderling starting to find his groove, we were headed for a tiebreaker. 6 all. To Soderling’s misfortune Federer served 4 aces and sealed the tiebreaker and the third set 7-6(7-1).
Third set: It was a day when Soderling had to go for lines, missing them by a small margin. On the other hand and other end at 4-3 Federer was finding the lines on both flanks with amazing ease which he would normally miss. With a break ahead and serving at 5-3, there was no doubt that Federer was on his way to his 1st French Open and 14th Grand Slam Title. A wild backhand and an easy miss on a volley sent Federer fans into a fluttering frenzy, and Mirka clasped her hands in agony. Luckily Soderling’s resistance was over by then and he put the return on Federer’s serve into the net. The history was created at Roland Garros. Federer went down on his knees and cried out loud with emotions as the crowd applauded and chanted. Federer was already smiling and talking to the TV presenter on his accomplishment.
For the record, Federer served 16 Aces.
What next ?
Knowing Federer the state of Nirvana will be momentary for him and the peace that he has achieved is not going to last much longer.
After winning the French Open for the first time and equalling Pete Sampras’s record of 14 Grand Slams, Federer’s craving for more success will be growing. He will have new ambitions, obsessions and fixations as he will set new goals for his carreer.
He has made it public that he would like to be remembered as a legend of the game and would like to play as long as he can. He would actually start playing more free now that the pressure is gone from his shoulders.
Tennis fans, especially Federer’s, will have more to look forward to, apart from the frustration in coming years.
nirvana |nərˈvänə; nir-|noun Buddhisma transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and samsara. It represents the final goal of Buddhism.• Hinduism liberation of the soul from the effects of karma and from bodily existence.• a state of perfect happiness; an ideal or idyllic place : Hollywood’s dearest dream of small-town nirvana.ORIGIN from Sanskrit nirvāṇa, from nirvā ‘be extinguished,’ from nis ‘out’ + vā- ‘to blow.’(Reference: Oxford Dictionary)