August 02, 2013
GSTAAD—This is a tale of two men. One possesses youth, talent, fame, and even beauty; the other none of the above except arrogance, physical repulsiveness, and a sexual impudence that fits perfectly into our porno-centric culture. Both, however, need to quit their respective professions; the former in order to preserve his great legacy, the latter to save the city of New York from one more repellent politician-pervert.
I’ll start with the good guy.
Roger Federer is among the greatest champions ever, if not the greatest of all time. If one goes by the record—17 grand slams—he has the top spot by a mile. He’s been (sorry for the cliché) a credit to the game, a great sportsman whose only mistake in my not-so-humble opinion is to keep competing. Just before this year’s Wimbledon I wrote in these pages that he was no longer a threat.
Alas, I was proved right. Roger lost in an early round to a player ranked 116. He followed it up by losing in Hamburg to a player ranked 114, and now here in Gstaad, his own backyard, to a German ranked 55 in the second round. (Mind you, one of the greatest Greek tennis players of all time, Taki, was proud to pass one round in the Swiss Open back in 1956. He continued playing for another ten years, but Greek tennis was not renowned back then and never will be. Taki resembled Roger in the fact we are both males and that’s where the resemblance ends.) The lower ranks continue to take their toll on Federer, and that’s why I’d like to see him get off the circuit and enjoy a relaxed retirement.
The trouble is he’s only 31, can still hit the ball like very few can, and knows no other way of life except that of a touring pro. To know when one’s no longer a top banana is very, very hard. Losing the killer instinct in sports is as subtle as the aging process: By the time one sees the light, it’s too late. And who am I, among the most obscure players ever, to give advice to a great champion? Well, as Oscar said, old men teach, young men do, or words to that effect. I just don’t like to have people remember him losing to lesser players, as we tend to do, but rather in his glory days, winning effortlessly and elegantly. My only wish is that I’m wrong, but as an ancient Greek, that happens almost never, septuagenarian conceit or not.