Roger Federer

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, January 30th, 2018 - 25 comments
Categories: sport - Tags: ,

Well, Roger Federer has been my favourite athlete for a while, let alone tennis player. Others can cover the Williams sisters; this one is all about Roger. He won a thrilling game against Cilic in the Australian Open on the weekend.

Why do we gasp with delight at the humming service ace in tennis, the battling Rugby try, or the smartly spiked volleyball? We are affected viscerally by these riveting achievements, and of course the aesthetic response is disproportional to the actual significance of the performance to victory or athletic excellence. That is especially the case with Roger Federer.

That is because his moves have what can only be described as a liquid grace. Grace means that the hardest things appear as easy as possible when you know full well they are really hard. He makes the impossible look easy – and the mistakes that cost him games are usually for seeking extraordinarily complex moves.

His moves are so efficient that they inhabit a kind of lyric space; that means they entail an economy of movement. This economy of movement is not primarily a form of laziness or self-preservation. Mostly it is a result of exceedingly high anticipation of where a ball is going to be, how to position the body to deliver the angle of the correct response, and how in turn to ensure that response delivers the narrowest possible options for the opponent such that the following move is as predictable as possible.

Yet that makes it sound like he’s so popular because he knows how to win. Mostly, however, it’s in how he moves. The effect of Roger Federer’s individual moves looks like Yoga on Crystal Meth: full stretch in a series of horizontal starfish formations, accelerated to maximum. You can count two maximum three foot movements one way, two maximum three the other to get back to the centre. Like watching a cat jumping off a high fence onto another fence, lyric space is lithe.

I have only seen something resembling his kinetic flow ricocheting the ball from angle to angle in men’s Hockey between the Netherlands and Australia. There, the collective knowledge of players of each other, of the angles that cascade from one to the other, their speed in doing so, the structures within the game that signify edges of domination and retreat in perpetual re-balance, is a beautiful thing no matter who wins. That is what it is like to watch Federer play tennis.

Federer doesn’t have a booming serve. He doesn’t have a fantastic front-court game. He can’t sprint and hunt with the intensity of Nadal or of younger and more compact players. He’s ageing.

But he has the surprise of exceedingly tricky moves pulled off when the intense pressure would mean 99.9% of us would react to the same shot with the safest possible response just to get the ball back. That means he combines grace with daring. We love it all the more because of his apparent calm.

Federer’s grace also extends to the way he approaches media conferences afterwards. He is always encouraging and generous in how he complements the opponent whether he wins or loses, reflects carefully on his own game, and rarely gets ruffled or resorts to complaining. That means we will to see him deliver even more, and somehow the winning means less and less.

It is simply a pure pleasure to see Roger Federer play.

25 comments on “Roger Federer”

  1. mauī 1

    Roger Federer may be great but he is also the embodiment of neoliberalism.

    – He uses a new tennis racket every hour or so, each wrapped in single use plastic – huge waste of resources.
    – A symbol of perfectionism that fits nicely within the neoliberal paradigm. In other words just work harder and you too will be special, as in “great”.
    – The winning is everything mentality.
    – A jetsetter burning through huge amounts of fuel so he can compete around the world. Not good for the climate.
    – An advertisement for branded clothing that uses labour from the poorest parts of the world.
    – He speaks multiple languages and reaches across cultures, a symbol of the globalist nature that is part of neoliberalism.
    – With huge earnings he is a member of the 1% or probably the 0.1%

    (*Coincidence just posted this in Open mic, have moved the comment here)

    • Bill 1.1

      I don’t watch or have any interest in sport maui. And yes, Federer and probably any other top ranking sports person/team is in that 5% of humanity who are living in ways that are hugely problematic. And we ought not to be celebrating them for their lifestyle, or in any way (by envy or otherwise) seeking to emulate their lifestyle.

      But all that and much else aside, it’s still legitimate to appreciate or even celebrate their physical and/or mental skills.

    • JohnSelway 1.2

      Wait, what?!

      Being multi-lingual is a sign of neo-liberal global hegemony (or something)?

    • Ad 1.3

      All highest sportspeople are symbols of perfection. They win at sport by definition.

      Most Swiss speak multiple languages: variants of French, German, Italian, and English.

      Whatever your beef with sportspeople, why do people love Roger Federer? That’s the phenomenon in question.

    • Planet Earth 1.4

      “He speaks multiple languages and reaches across cultures, a symbol of the globalist nature that is part of neoliberalism” – I think you’re the only one reaching here. By extension it’s a bad thing to speak both English and Te Reo (or NZ sign), or to be Pakeha and embrace Tikanga Maori.
      And as for the second phrase, you may as well say “a symbol of the globalist nature that is part of socialism”

      • mauī 1.4.1

        I see what you’re saying, a bilingual kiwi some would say reinforces kiwi culture. But I’m comparing his multi language skills to the ability neoliberalism has to tap into overseas markets and exploit cultures across borders or dilute them.

        Federer’s ability to speak fluent french means he can profit from french speaking countries.

        New Zealand companies can profit by making their products in China, Thailand or Vietnam instead of here.

        • JohnSelway 1.4.1.1

          Many people of the European lands would have a lot multi-ligustic abilities. Not because of no-liberalism but for ease of communication.

          If every Federal State of Australia spoke different langauges it would make easier for people to speak to each other in multiple languages.

          Are you saying that before neo-liberalism people of Europe didn’t speak the languagues of their neighbours?

        • Planet Earth 1.4.1.2

          you’ve really gone off on a tangent equating speaking a language with making a profit and with neoliberalism. Your ability to speak fluent English means you can profit from English-speaking countries – you are a bigger neoliberal than poor old French-speaking Roger.

          • mauī 1.4.1.2.1

            I thought it was clear from my original comment that I was talking about symbolism, I’m not making a literal comparison.

            I was also thinking about comparing Fed to the TPPA, by the looks of it, thank goodness I didn’t go there.

    • Richard McGrath 1.5

      So:
      1) It’s not OK to jet around the world burning up fossil fuel – except when you’re Al Gore of course
      2) Working harder isn’t a good thing, it’s neoliberal
      3) Being multilingual is neoliberal
      4) Federer’s a high earner, so is George Soros – does that make Soros neoliberal?

      Not sure if you’re taking the mickey, but you missed the fact that Federer resides in a municipality in Switzerland that only imposes a tax rate of about 11.6% on his earnings. Tax avoidance – very neoliberal.

  2. Ross 2

    The best athlete has to be Winx. And she doesn’t swear at umpires.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OG5SLi_DG2U

    • Rosemary McDonald 2.1

      Such a pity she has to be whipped to perform…or is she into that????

      • alwyn 2.1.1

        I just watched those races again. Thanks for the link Ross.
        I thought through almost the entire distance of the race that the jockey hadn’t used the whip at all. Then in the last 200 metres there were a couple of flicks of the whip.
        It does appear Rosemary that Winx IS into whipping. Just not much.

        • Rosemary McDonald 2.1.1.1

          “…that Winx IS into whipping. ”

          alwyn Doolittle I presume?

          • alwyn 2.1.1.1.1

            That comment has gone way, way above my head.
            I’m afraid I just don’t get it.

            • Sam 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Prince of Tennis only has a tangential relationship to the laws of physics. Federer might as well be telekinetic given some of the ridiculous shit he pulls off.

  3. Peroxide Blonde 3

    The Standard is pushing its luck by hosting sports stuff. Sports activity caused injuries and inane conversations.

    If TS allows any Cricket shit I’ll learn how to do a DOA attack. Be feart.

  4. adam 4

    The AFLW is launching today for a second season of the professional game.

    http://www.afl.com.au/news/2018-01-30/watch-it-live-aflw-2018-season-launch

    will kick off 1 pm nz time. Well looks like women’s rugby is dead as a professional idea, so women of NZ – think AFLW – its a career.

  5. red-blooded 5

    I think there are lots of reasons to admire Federer. Yes, he’s lovely to watch (and can be quite playful at times, too). Plus he’s got such a balanced game, and has been so smart with his self-care, that he doesn’t have the back, knee, hip, or shoulder problems that afflict so many players who rely on one part of their game. (I think he may have had knee surgery, but that’s pretty minor given how long he’s been on the circuit.) Another is that he’s stoical and determined. Some years ago he was quite ill for a season or more (glandular fever, undiagnosed for ages as it’s rare in adults) – he kept playing, didn’t whinge about it when he wasn’t winning, and came back from it. And he doesn’t blame others when he loses – in fact for ages he wasn’t comfortable challenging calls (and was almost comically bad at it).

    He’s a superb athlete and clearly has amazing levels of concentration and nerve, too. He’s quite different from Serena. I love having a muscular, strong woman showing her athleticism and staying power, too. One thing they have in common is that they each break the usual mould, though – traditionally, men rely on their serve and speed of their strongest shots, while women play with more finesse. These two have almost swapped.

  6. gsays 6

    Thanks ad for a beautiful bit of prose.

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