And no tennis player is faster, or produces such a deceptive impression of being without effort, that Roger Federer
'Tennis as a religious experience', David Foster Wallace
In 2006, David Foster Wallace signed the best portrait ever written about Roger Federer.
That's what the experts say.
Then, Federer reigned in the ATP. He had been the leader of the circuit for a few years, maybe five years.
And every time they asked the question Rafael Nadal, his persecutor then, the Balearic always answered:
-Federer is one point above all others.
And there, in the concept of all the others, he included himself.
Then came 2008 and several things happened. Foster Wallace committed suicide in California. And Nadal shattered Federer.
He did it in his garden, in Wimbledon, and that is something that Federer has never been able to return to him. Federer has never managed to defeat Nadal in Roland Garros.
That legendary game of 2008 was resolved in the evening twilight: nobody wanted it to end
The chronicler remembers that encounter, that end of 2008. It was dusk in Wimbledon, and the organizers looked at each other, out of the corner of their eyes.
-If this goes on, what do we do? They would say to each other.
Because that meeting had lasted until 4h48m. And we were in the fifth set and nobody gave up. And then there was no tie-break: we were in the last heat and nobody gave up the serve. We were at 8-7 for Nadal, and the organizers, communicating through the walkie talkies, said:
-If this game is won by Federer, we have to stop.
There was hardly any light on the center court. And it was cool. And it threatened rain. And not a soul moved. Nobody wanted that to end. And the chief editors, from their tables, asked the special envoys:
– Will they finish today?
You had to fill four pages. You can not fill in four pages writing about an incomplete match …
Then Nadal won, already in the evening twilight, and then we saw Federer sunk. He cried on the track, while handing over his garden to Nadal. And he cried later, in the press room, before the journalists. And he continued crying a month later, already at the Beijing Games, while watching how the Balearic, his successor, was snatching everything.
Including the leadership of the ATP.
The chroniclers then asked us:
– Is Federer finished?
And most agreed (we must correct it: we agreed …):
CHANGE OF THIRD?
The chroniclers wondered if that was the end of Federer; many nodded
Eleven years have passed, we still enjoy the literature of the late Foster Wallace and the dinosaur (Federer) is still there. On track 7, at Wimbledon, Nadal smiles at the crowd as he rambles on the grass.
It's noon. Simona Halep is sweeping Svitolina and the sun shines. Nadal returns volleys the long blows that Tomeu Salvá sends, his usual sparring. And then subtract the services that James Davis, an English youngster who barely appears among the 1,300 best players in the world, but that measures almost two meters and pulls like a demon.
– Thank you, "Nadal says when the training ends.
And the kids, hunters of memory, throw themselves on top of Nadal, who serves them as always.
With infinite patience, Nadal signs and poses.
In a corner, far from the corridors, Francis Roig, his coach in London, serves us.
– Remember that final, the one of 2008? -He asks.
-Not much. I was already part of Nadal's team, but I saw her at home, on television (at that time, who was traveling with Nadal was her uncle, Toni Nadal).
-And what has changed from then to now?
-Nadal gets better, better subtraction, has a more varied backhand. Although it does not move as before.
– Is the best Nadal he has ever seen in grass?
-Definitely it is. It is the most complete. That does not mean that this Nadal can win the 2008 Nadal. But he needed a change and he has done it.
-In what sense?
– It is no longer based on the rival's wear, or on its power of intimidation. He knows how to do more things and solve the points with fewer hits.