Monday, January 30, 2017

Sorrow turned to Joy as Roger Federer wins his 18th Major

As I write my first post in almost a year I have the Federer-Berdych 3rd round match running in the background.  The magical run at this year's Australian Open can't be taken lightly and I plan to bask in it as long as possible.  But before talking about the joys we have experienced this month of January, ending with magical #18, lets review 2016, as difficult as it was.

After last year's semifinal loss in Australia there was the shocking announcement that Roger had had surgery on his knee.  

I want to inform you that yesterday I underwent arthroscopic surgery on my knee. I injured my knee the day after the semi-finals in Australia. After getting tests done when I returned home, it was determined that I had torn my meniscus. I apologize to my friends in Rotterdam and Dubai, as I was very much looking forward to playing those events. While this is an unfortunate setback, I am encouraged and grateful that my doctor said the procedure was a success. I am looking forward to attacking the rehabilitation process this afternoon with my team and working hard to get back out on tour as soon as possible. Thanks for all your incredible support. I will check in with all of you soon.

Then he gave this creative rundown of his experience:

 After the initial shock wore off that he had been required to have the first surgery of his career, my first thought was that meant that he likely wouldn't be coming to "my" tournament, Indian Wells, where I volunteer.  That was a bitter disappointment but I manged to survive it, still with some special memories.  Then followed several months of struggles in tournaments he tried to play, the withdrawl from the French Open, which meant missing his first grand slam in many, many years.  Then, of course his run to the semis at Wimbledon with a chance to win that match to get to the final, the fall, the disappointment.  But the biggest shock came with this announcement:

Dear Fans,
I’m extremely disappointed to announce that I will not be able to represent Switzerland at the Olympic Games in Rio and that I will also miss the remainder of the season. Considering all options after consulting with my doctors and my team, I have made the very difficult decision to call an end to my 2016 season as I need more extensive rehabilitation following my knee surgery earlier this year. The doctors advised that if I want to play on the ATP World Tour injury free for another few years, as I intend to do, I must give both my knee and body the proper time to fully recover. It is tough to miss the rest of the year. However, the silver lining is that this experience has made me realize how lucky I have been throughout my career with very few injuries. The love I have for tennis, the competition, tournaments and of course you, the fans remains intact. I am as motivated as ever and plan to put all my energy towards coming back strong, healthy and in shape to play attacking tennis in 2017.
Thanks for your continued support.

When that message appeared on his Facebook page and quickly spread, there was an almost audible moan of pain that reverberated amongst most of the tennis world.  This was followed by depression for all Federer fans that continued in varying degrees throughout the remainder of 2016.  As I worked through my depression, though, it became more and more evident, partly from what he was saying himself and partly from just knowing this in my heart, that he NEEDED this break and that it was going to pay off in the end if we could survive the long months.   

Time did eventually pass and the pain became a bit less stark and before we knew it full anticipation of the comeback was in force.  Hopman Cup was a joyous experience - no stress or pressure to have to win matches, just getting back to match play, plus the fun of mixed doubles with partner Belinda Bencic.  Federer fans were on cloud 9 having their man back.

When the draw came out in Melbourne there was a bit of a relief that the first two rounds would be qualifiers, but then the reality of what being the 17th seed really meant - potentially five top 10 players in a row.  It seemed impossible that he could win, so I tried to have the attitude of enjoying each match.  However, as each match went by and he played better and better, first beating Berdych in the 3rd round in scintillating fashion, then a scary 5-setter against Nishikori, at which point anticipated quarterfinal opponent Murray had shockingly lost to big brother Zverev, who served and volleyed him right out of the tournament.  With beautiful play by Roger to beat Mischa, all of a sudden he was into the semifinal and it was impossible not to think of the possibilities.  

The semifinal against Stan Wawrinka was the worst for me.  I had to watch it on a recording in the morning as I couldn't stay up all night on a work night.  After winning the first two sets he then went on to lose the next two, sending me into a panic, since I hadn't looked at the results.  At the end of that match I was emotionally exhausted because somehow I had gone from the point of just enjoying every match to really wanting him to win the whole thing.  The fact that this was suddenly a possibility was a beautiful surprise, but while I should have been rejoicing I found myself almost depressed once it was confirmed his opponent was to be none other than Rafael Nadal.  What for some was the dream final was to me the dread final.  I couldn't stand the thought of having him lose to the man who has given him so many heartbreaking losses over the years.  Though I like Rafa a lot better than I used to after meeting him last year and him giving European kisses to my friend and me, those feelings don't extend to him beating my guy or getting close to his GS record!

I was actually more calm during the final than I was in the semi - until the first half of the 5th set that is, when I had to actually just glance at the match while reading a novel to save my heart.  But we all know what happened - the break back, another break, the stressful last service game, and finally the absolute elation of realizing he had actually done it - he had won his 18th major!

So fellow Fed fans, we survived a difficult 2016, 6 months straight of which was Roger-less. And do you know what?  The pain has been all worth it!  Look at the joy on his face in the above picture.  Seeing what he is capable of doing after giving his body and mind the rest it needed gives me great hope for what will hopefully be at least a couple more years of watching this amazing man continue to achieve his dreams and delight his fans.  And when eventually time does run out, we will have these completely incredible memories of this absolutely joyful experience and how much it means to him.

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