quinta-feira, março 17, 2016

The One Who Drifts Along Through the Air: "Roger Federer"

I’m a great tennis fan. I play it as a player, and I also love love to watch it, but not all tennis is pleasing to the eye. I predict my interest in men's tennis will fade when the game gets too muscly. There’s been an increase in alpha males slamming and screaming the ball over the net. Not that there's anything wrong with powerful tennis but if it isn't accompanied by the well-rounded game and versatility Roger Federer has, in my humble opinion, it stops being tennis. Brute force doesn't thrill me unless it's a freak shot for the fun of it. I grew up watching Borg, McEnroe, Sampras, Gerulatis, and back then, men's tennis was more about skill, tactics and alignment, than wrestling.

Over more than a decade I've tuned in to Roger Federer’s matches, and there's always something to take out of his games even when he loses because he's so graceful. He brings an otherworldliness to the court and I honestly think this is a major point of focus that a lot of other players overlook. I don't like seeing 'more powerful' muscle-tennis players beat him purely because they have faster legs and bigger serves (Raonic comes to mind). As much as he can rise to those challenges (and has done many times) a true winner is the player who stays connected to the inner game of tennis with grace and superior tactics.

Intelligence on the tennis court is a very powerful thing and when it gets brutalised by opponents who slog hard in a standard fashion, to me there's something amiss and it would be a shame for future generations of players to adopt that style over everything Roger has brought to the game. I say that with all due respect to every professional player. I'm fully aware of the dedication required on every level to become pro, so this isn't a stab at individuals per se, more of an observation of the direction tennis can take when the point is missed. No pun intended.

Everyone knows Roger Federer makes it look easy but I wonder if they ever asked themselves how? Maybe it's personal. I can assure what he does on the court he’s anything but easy. Maybe it's a reflection of who he is. Maybe there's another side to tennis that hasn't been explored by coaches. Maybe it's the inner life of the game that he brings to the court, and if it's discovered and tapped into on an individual level by coaches and players alike, it might be safe to make the assumption that muscle-tennis only represents the very coarse outer layer of tennis itself, no matter the fitness or the tactics. There could be a whole other world to this game that everyone can benefit from.

Maybe the mental game of tennis needs adjusting so everyone involved won't miss the opportunity to learn what Roger Federer possibly came to teach, whether he's aware of it or not. He's incredibly balanced in every respect and highly intuitive. Could be a good place to start for anyone wondering why their shots are slamming but they can't get ahead, or they beat the more graceful players on brute force alone. When the desire to win takes precedent over playing quality, connected tennis, well that's just corporate tennis, for want of a better term.

And so ended another Aussie Open. I was looking forward to watching Roger Federer play in it for all the reasons mentioned above. I still believe he has another Gland Slam in him. Hopefully everyone will learn from him no matter what happens on the courts.

It can't be that hard to pay attention.

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