Roger Federer: An Obsession

By | January 13, 2019

I remember the day I became a fan of Roger Federer. It was the 3rd of July, 2005 and Federer was playing Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon final. I did not follow tennis back then, and my knowledge of the game was limited to collecting and memorising random facts for quizzes. I was aware that Sampras and Agassi shared a great rivalry, and that Roddick was one of the fastest servers ever. As an amateur, unaware of the intricacies of the game, I felt Federer would be no match to Roddick’s thunderous serve on the grass court.

But what transpired in the game took me by complete surprise. Roddick was serving alright, often in upwards of 225 kmph, but Federer controlled them with effortless grace. While Roddick moved heavily, panting and grunting, Federer glided across the court, pulling off incredible winners from impossible angles. I was stunned not so much by Federer’s victory, but the manner in which he toyed with his opponent.

I started to follow tennis closely, and as the intricacies of the game became clearer, I could truly appreciate the supreme mastery of Federer’s craft. The more I watched him play, the more I was taken in by awe, wonder and sheer joy.

Thus, what began as an earnest admiration soon turned into an inexplicable obsession. His wallpapers started to adorn my computer; his posters were plastered all over my room. I invested endless hours watching his Rolex adverts, match highlights, obscure interviews and repeat telecasts. No matter how many times I watched them, not for one moment did I feel bored of them.

This strange obsession transcended the game and began to intrude into my personal life. His victories filled me with joy; his losses were personal tragedies. In conduct and demeanor, he became the man I aspired to be (though often failing miserably). And when I had to confront difficulties, he was my reference point in helping me hold my nerve, the way he does it during crunch moments.

Sometimes I used to ask myself: How did it come to be that I am so emotionally invested in one player’s success? I’ve never met this person and in all likelihood, nor will I ever. Why does this fealty seem so deep and personal? And it wasn’t just me. Observe the Centre Court crowd when Federer plays. Human psychology suggests that an impartial crowd usually tend to support the underdog. Not with Federer. They cheer him when he plays against an underdog; they cheer him when he is the underdog. It almost feels unfair to the other player that at a supposedly neutral venue, the support is so skewed towards this man. Opponents playing against Federer know that they have to overcome not just him, but the 15000 strong fans cheering him at the top of their voice. What explains this unbounded devotion?

Federer’s forehand is the second most beautiful thing in the world. The first is his backhand.

Back in 2006, David Foster Wallace penned a remarkable essay in which he coined the phrase “Federer moments.”

“There are times,” wrote Wallace, “as you watch the young Swiss play, when the jaw drops and eyes protrude and sounds are made that bring spouses in from other rooms to see if you’re O.K.”

In the semifinal against Berdych, there was such moment of glory. In the second set, with scores levelled at 4-4 (30-15), Federer sent in a kick serve. Berdych picked it up well and hit an incredible return deep into Federer’s court. The ball landed awkwardly, so close to Federer’s body that he could only manage a weak forehand, while getting thrown out of position in the process. Pouncing on the opportunity, Berdych hit a thundering stroke far wide into Federer’s backhand, almost wrong-footing him. The shot was executed so well that even against the top players it would be a winner. But because this is Federer, he did something spectacular.

He quickly shifted his body-weight onto his left foot, extended his arm and with a mere flick of the wrist sent a passing shot down the line. The crowd gasped for a brief moment, to comprehend what had just happened, before erupting into a roaring applause. Berdych stared down helplessly, almost shaking in disbelief. The shot was both absurd and elegant, sublime and beautiful. “No. No. Please stop it”, remarked the commentator. “That’s one of those ones that really only Federer plays.”

This moment. This 7-second passage of play explains why the Federer phenomenon inspires so much devotion from millions of fans world over. Ask any Federer fan why they love him. The answer will not be about the number of grand slam titles he had won, or the number of weeks he had stayed at the top. It will always be about recounting such Federer moments and how he made them feel. Watching him provided an escape from the banal, tedious reality of life. Watching him made one appreciate what it is like to be touched by beauty and perfection.

But over the past few years, when Federer consistently came up short against the top players, failing to win a grand slam since 2012, that dream seemed to have been fading. In professional sport, champions come to terms with their decline long before their fans do. Somehow the mere thought that their idol is no more an invincible feels unbearable. So they live in self-denial. “He’s just having an off day,” you tell yourself, but deep down you know he’s not the same player anymore.

To me, ignorance was the most plausible form of denial. So I grew distant from his game, lest his frailties became too apparent. Truth be told, he still produced magic, he still competed at the highest level. But when you saw him constantly struggling, you watched his games not with delight, but with dread— the dread of feeling inadequate, the dread of another disappointing loss, and the dread of being reminded that he is not the Federer you grew up watching. Last year, when he snapped his season midway due to a knee injury, you knew that Federer’s best years were behind him. Or so everyone thought.  

After being away from the game for six months, he stages a comeback and how. He is playing not as someone who is in the twilight of his career, but as a player in his pomp. The serves are precise, the liquid-whip backhand incredibly slick and the movement as balletic as ever. When other players are getting retired with injuries, this man, at 36, wins the Wimbledon without dropping a set. Right now, watching him evokes memories of the flawless Federer I first saw in 2005 and with that, reminds me of my own journey as his compulsive, obsessive fan.

28 thoughts on “Roger Federer: An Obsession

  1. Nandanithakur

    Unbelievably article……Thank you sir.👍

    Truthfully we do not know our idol so close.We are just happy with their victory … don’t want to learn from their defeat.

    Reply
  2. Utkarsh

    NBA’s Kobe Bryant had a very similar story. Stayed on top of the game for 17 long years, then tore his Achilles tendon at 34 years of age. It seemed over for sure but he eventually made a comeback, proving all his critics wrong. Though he was back but the explosiveness in his game was gone for good. Watching him play the next 3 years, battling his own mind and body was an ordeal. But here is the best part, he finished with a 60 point game!

    Anyways, it is good to see you write more here! Please continue 🙂

    Reply
  3. Shalini Dey

    Your articles are mesmerizing sir.☺
    So much to learn from you…your vocabulary your writings…slowly becoming an obsessive fan of yours..
    Your interview’s and writing’s keeps motivating me..no matter how many times I watch, am never bored..
    Currently am waiting for your book than articles..😇😇

    Reply
  4. subashini

    Mr.ROGER FEDERER,Mr.ANUDEEP DURISHETTY =AGE DOES NOT MATTER FOR SUCCESS…Sir ,one suggestion publish one book on your upsc journey much needed and helpful one for all..hope u will do we are waiting….

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    Seems like it’s from your personal experience you have been inspired to write something on obsession. Since you too have so many obsessed fans!!

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    I agree with your thought process about obsession with some one as it’s the human nature that we human being has a tendency to get emotionally attach with a person or thing which we admire most and slowly slowly it start affecting our own life also…and when this happens it changes into an obsession..I think to be obsessed towards something should not be considered as negative bcoz obsession is not always for bad it is for good also..so it solemly depends on us how we treat our obsession in our life so that it will effect our life in positive way not in negative..

    Reply
  7. Anonymous

    Well written anudeep…as freeflowing as fedrer’s foreha d…….

    Reply
  8. Udit Narayan Pradhan

    Now I became a die hard fan of your. I am very much appreciate of yours concise anprecise writing skill.#obsessive fan

    Reply
  9. Anonymous

    And will it be right to say that I’m deeply inspired by you??? Or call it obsessed… I can’t get enough of ur interviews and your articles sir… Thank you so much for this inspiration.

    Reply
  10. Asha Deepthi

    The style you pick to write has been the cynosure of all your articles, Anudeep..! A well balanced expository,narrative, creative,descriptive n persuasive blend. Precisely furnished expression characterised by clear n refined thought.
    I always get amazed at the peculiar set of interests you own.
    A bibliophile, writer, nature enthusiast, sports fanatic, animal lover, gallivanter n a bureaucrat too!😄☺
    Keep going young man…warm regards from your sister state..!

    Reply
  11. Christopher H.Haokip

    NICE Article…. Your indept Knowledge & Admiration towards Him @Federer is Appreciable. I believe a good Sportsmanship is inevitable, not only for Sport Person but for every walks of life from Young age to Old aged, to maintain one’s health & life style.

    Sir, you INSPIRE Me to WALK an EXTRA MILE in my Life Long Endeavour & gave me a Thought to write, One Day, about my Sports ICONS too, viz: Cristiano RONALDO, David Beckham, Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova & many more.

    ##GREAT Days’ Ahead!

    Reply
  12. Anonymous

    Dear sir,
    Every person will do hard work to achieve his success.its fine.please write a article to inspire every student to develop how they should develop their own country.we have every facility but why there is illegal acts like corruption,child labour ,etc.
    example situaution:-
    in telangana now village elections are going on ,how people are choosing there sarpanch based on nominee contribution to the people but not on there leadership.skills so every things in village are constant there is no development who will responsible to take care of it.so there should some rules and eligibility for sarpanch like degree holder should nominate so atleast he should know how to write a letter to collector about complaints.
    so i apologize if i said anything wrong.so i think a youth should responsible for their own country to mitigate things like this.seeing this things i am very hopeless to live in india please when you are in duty ,my request is first take immediate action on people who are in corruption next develop hospitals in poor villages ,so many people leads to death because of no hospitals.please respond to things like this so your inspirers will follow you atleast it will give life to some people.\

    Regards,
    Vaishnavi

    Reply
  13. janr

    Anudeep, this is such an amazing write up. I’ve been prepping for civils too and Roger Federer is literally The Only Man who can get me going when it all seems lost. Like you, I had liked Federer since 2003 but became a fan circa 2005-06. When playing Nalbandian at the TMC in the finals, he was on one leg. He’d been out for nearly two months due to an injury but played TMC because many top players had withdrawn. On being asked why he did not quit during the match, his answer was, “Roger Federer doesn’t quit, or else he doesn’t step on the court”. Still sends an ice block down my spine. The man hasn’t retired from a single match in his career. So much to learn from him and you. Thanks again. Such posts always lift me up.

    Reply
  14. Smriti niveditha

    An amazing rightup
    Beautifully penned

    The words of Roger Federer that always strike me
    ” I ALWAYS QUESTION MYSELF IN THE BEST OF TIMES , EVEN WHEN I WAS WORLD NUMBER ONE , FOR MANY MANY WEEKS AND MONTH IN A ROW , AT CERTAIN TIMES DURING THE YEAR I SAID , WHAT CAN I IMPROVE ?
    WHAT DO I NEED TO CHANGE ? BECAUSE IF YOU DONT DO ANYTHING NEW OR JUST DO THE SAME OVER AND OVER, YOU STAY THE SAME. ”
    Sir , a request , try to write an article on failure , how did you cope at that time , how hard or easy was it for you to still have that spirit in you , what exactly did you learn from it .
    Concluding –
    Your my role model sir , i have nothing to do with upsc still i watched all of your interviews and videos , your truly a gem sir , a lot to learn from you , overall you
    Helped me a lot to become a better person , thank you so much . ☺

    Reply
  15. Kp bhardwaj

    I m also a huge huge fan of fedrer.. No sachin no kohli no messy no ronaldo only fedrer and the match between ferder and nadal..ultimate feeling

    Reply
  16. Parva

    Literally got tears when you were mentioning how he was not the same Federer you saw may be because I am also in one such situation but I know I too can come back the way he did to win and win it Big.
    Thanks for taking us into a whole new world while you write
    Keep inspiring

    Reply
  17. Aravind A

    Hi Sir,
    What I understood was Federer is an Emotion to you. That Emotion which drived you to see the problems in the UPSC phase in different angle. May be your questions/problems were answered by this emotion.Correct me if I am wrong

    Reply

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