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THERE IS NOT, nor will there ever be, anyone greater than Roger Federer. His last performance for London’s 2022 Laver Cup is a caress for all the years of his incomparable career. Despite his already worn-out physical condition, with 41 years weighing like anvils on his knees, his majesty made it clear that talent has no expiration date. The most aesthetic winning shot was his, the short volleys at the net were best played by him; and although Rafa Nadal, his great duo, carted him around for some stretches of the match, his level was more than up to par in a match where the final result is what matters the least.
The defeat, in short, is anecdotal. What will go down in history is his final speech, which moved and struck us with emotion. With tears in his eyes, possibly while the memories of his career (the titles, defeats, injuries, duels with Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, the Olympic medals, and the glories at Wimbledon) went through his head, Sir Roger said goodbye to tennis, to his fans and to his best friend: the racquet.
A racquet that, before the start of the match, accompanied him in that touching moment just before the start of the match. Roger, seated with his head down, watched his friend, knowing that it would be his last exhibition as a professional. A heartbreaking image that reveals one of the few objective truths that we cannot escape: time does not slow down and passes for everyone, even for legends.
El último encuentro de Roger con su raqueta. Eso dolió 💔 pic.twitter.com/mJkHEYDlqc
— Pablo Giralt (@giraltpablo) September 23, 2022
Another beautiful image was signed by the entire Big Three, during a break when Roger and Rafa were in a spicy moment of the match. Djokovic approached his teammates to give them friendly advice on how to tackle Tiafoe; in a chat that, for context and moment, will go down in posterity. As if Robinson, Ali and Marciano were sitting in the corner of the ring. Or Messi, Maradona and Pelé in the technical area.
I cannot avoid the subject because it is obnoxiously pertinent: in these times of statistical tyranny -where data in the sports world are taken as irrefutable truth (sometimes ignoring the context), there are those who argue that an athlete can be greater than another only because of his or her track record or quantifiable achievements.
A respectable opinion that I do not share, because if it were true, how many athletes -of unquestionable talent, recognition and transcendence- would be unfairly relegated in the historical valuation of their disciplines?
In the case of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer something like that happens. They want to define the best, the most important or the greatest of these three on the basis of who wins the most Opens. An unfair trifle for such a complex sports debate that measures the greatest talents in tennis.
Although here the heart plays its role, there is a consensus in this discussion: Federer’s transcendence is greater than that of Nadal and Djokovic (who are both outstanding and will leave an equally enormous legacy); not so much for being the best tennis player on grass -the most beautiful aesthetic surface of this sport- but for being the athlete who changed tennis forever and put it on another level of relevance.
Perhaps there are those who value more the physique, trophies or winning mentality, where Djokovic and Nadal differ somewhat from Federer, but in terms of talent, beauty and quality, there is no one like the Swiss, undoubtedly the most transcendental tennis player of this century.
Although it may seem far away, it is possible that there are tennis players of great talent and physique that reach or surpass Nole, Rafa and Roger in titles; but there will never be someone who plays like his majesty, whose tennis flame, unrepeatable, has just been extinguished in London, in the last performance that concludes the book on his legend.
It is a painfully bittersweet day, where it is impossible not to be saddened by Roger Federer’s farewell, but we must not fail to feel grateful, because we witnessed an unprecedented genius. A legend in sports’ great history.
Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.
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