“You have to wonder if it’s from the same planet.”
Over the past 20 years, it wasn’t just Novak Djokovic who wondered if Roger Federer had been crafted by the tennis gods and fell on center court.
The big ones stand out in sports.
Federer announced he will retire this monthshe was also among the few who could attract and capture his heart while seemingly reaching perfection.
Others may now have won more titles – let’s leave the ‘GOODBYE’ debate for another day – but for many, the sport of youth strop was at its best.
With a graceful swing of the forehand, a precise serve or a gentle wave to the crowd, the Swiss legend won over fans like no one before him.
The 41-year-old’s skills were learned on the courts of the Swiss National Tennis Center in Basel.
As a teenager he was very talented, but known for his temper. He was reportedly sentenced to clean toilets at the age of 16 after an expensive racketeering kick.
It may be a distant memory now, but Federer’s penchant for petulance continued into his early years on the professional tour.
“It took me two years to find that fire and ice,” he said in 2018. “The fire to win but the ice coldness to absorb losses and bad mistakes. Then my career went through the roof.”
The truth is that when Federer found himself in that situation his game didn’t just go through the roof, it continued into another stratosphere.
Beating Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001 at the age of 19 and a year after his first influential coach died in a car crash, Federer won the first of eight men’s SW19 titles in 2003 – and shouted Sue Barker in his post-match interview to a nation to fall in love
He won 11 of the 16 Grand Slams available over the next four years in a heyday the sport rarely saw.
A swagger displayed in the gold-trimmed cardigans worn on the court was fully justified.
Eight more Slams would be found over the next 11 years, but Federer’s story and his reputation have been shaped by lesser ones.
The first was in 2008 when he defeated Rafael Nadal in the darkness of Center Court in the Wimbledon final – a five-set epic that is considered one of the greatest tennis contests of all time.
Six months later, when the Spaniard denied him again at the Australian Open, the Swiss broke down in tears.
“God, this is killing me,” she said.
A great man was forced to bare his soul.
But in June 2009, Federer was defeated again – this time in tears of joy – after his previous loss to win his first long-awaited French Open title.
That ended the career Grand Slam, a feat previously achieved by only five men, although Nadal and Djokovic have since tied it.
Three more victories followed in quick succession, including a 2012 Wimbledon victory over a shocking Andy Murray, but five years later it looked as if Federer’s Grand Slam tally would end at 17 as the first signs of serious injury began to creep into his career. .
What was to come, however, was a second golden spell for Federer – shorter but no less remarkable.
Now 35, and after six months out with a knee injury, he won the 2017 Australian Open – Nadal, of course, in another five-set thriller.
After a winning forehand Federer screamed in disbelief as the world cherished another meeting between great rivals turned friends. His eighth win at the All England Club, and his sixth in Australia in the next 12 months.
Federer’s legacy will, of course, be intertwined with that of Nadal and Djokovic, who crashed the Swiss’s singles party at the top of the men’s game and turned it into a three-way event.
Federer set the benchmark for 20 Grand Slams but, as he struggles to regain fitness over the past three seasons, first the Spaniard and then the Serbian surpassed his landmark tally.
However, Federer has been for fans and sponsors as well.
He sits alongside Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James and Tom Brady on a list of the world’s richest athletes.
Federer and another tennis great, Serena Williams, who announced her retirement last month, have not excelled in the sport. They have passed.
Everywhere he went, Federer was cheered by the crowd, who received the wildest reception this year among a group of legends than at Wimbledon. Center Court centenary celebrations.
Such is his longevity, two generations do not remember a sports landscape without him.
There have been emotional tributes to Federer after his retirement They come from Nadal and further, the usual theme “Tennis will never be the same again”.
Federer, and Nadal and Djokovic, who are still set to play for a while, have left the next generation with a task akin to following The Beatles at Glastonbury.
The Swiss will once again appear on the professional tour, at the Ryder Cup-style Laver Cup – the tournament he helped create – later this month. Given that it has been more than a year since he last played, it is unclear what level he will reach.
Tennis fans will descend on London, however, if only to say one thing;
“Thanks Roger for the memories.”