By Sunil Gavaskar
Roger Federer’s 16th major title win is not only a truly amazing achievement but it will also silence all those who thought that he was finished. He was playing in his 22nd major final which in itself is a wonder for there wouldn’t be anybody who would have come near that and if he had not lost to Del Porto in the US Open finals last year then he would have had a 'Federer Slam' like Tiger Woods did when he won all the four majors consecutively but not in the same year. That achievement in Golf was referred to as 'The Tiger Slam' and no doubt this would have been referred to as the 'Federer Slam'. He still has a chance of doing the Grand Slam since he has won the first major of the year which brings us to the subject of why tennis players and followers refer to a win in the major as a slam. As far as US old timers are concerned, the Grand Slam is where all four majors in the same year are won by the same person. So it is really strange to hear a win in a major as being called a win in a Slam.
Andy Murray who has improved out of sight would have fancied his chances since he had a pretty good win loss record against Federer but those wins were invariably in a best of three sets matches and of course as any top player will tell you, the focus and concentration levels for a major and for an ATP event will be totally different. The preparation will be less intense in a ATP event than in a major. Federer by his own admission is now solely focussed on the majors though he will of course play in the ATP events to keep up with those chasing him and because he realises that he owes it to those events that have made him what he is today. Murray despite being younger and seemingly fitter than Federer looked so out of breath by the end of the three set finals that it is doubtful he would have had any energy left if the match had gone into five sets. Federer on the other hand looked fresh and there was hardly any sweat showing on his face when he went to receive the trophy. Even after long rallies in the match he hardly seemed to be breathing while Murray seemed to be gasping to take in air. It really would be interseting to find out Federer’s training methods and it proves once again, if ever proof was needed that each individual is different and so will have different ways of keeping himself match fit be it any sport that the champion plays in. Unfortunately too many believe that the same regimen should be followed by everybody in a team sport and therein sometimes a problem is created where really none should exist. The great players know excatly what they need to do to stay match fit and should be allowed to follow their own routine that has seen them successful for so many years.
Just like Federer was written off last year so also was Sachin Tendulkar especially after India’s early exit in the 2007 ICC World Cup in the West Indies. There were so many who were advising 'the master' to retire and give up that it must have taken some doing on the part of those close to him to actually stop him doing so. He of course has loads of self-belief and he knew that he was not going to go quietly like that. He took a break for a while then priorotised his cricket needs and played some tournaments and opted out of others and has thus kept himself eager for the big battles. He has one on his hand now with the South Africans and this time he will be under a teeny bit less pressure if that is ever possible since the focus of the Proteas will be more on how to stop Sehwag than 'the master'. It might actually work to his advantage but he knows that the Indian public still expects him to score and so will be fully charged up for the series.
What Tendulkar and Federer’s success has shown is that writing off great players is a tricky business and those doing so run the danger of looking silly as so many have over the last year or so. Many a renowned person be it former players or administartors have been made to look that by these great players and hopefully they will have learnt from that by now. It is better to let the greats decide the time they want to quit since they invariably want to do so when they know they are still good enough and not when they are hopeless. Yes, there have been instances of some who have lost form so badly and so suddenly that there has been no alternative but to cast them away but the really sensible ones will always leave at their own choosing and not be shoved out of the door.
There also has to be some respect shown to those who have served the sport nobly and give them the chance to leave when the claps are louder than the boos. This is more true of a team sport than an individual one like tennis or golf and the farewell given to Steve Waugh is a prime example. Here was a skipper who had set many records and looked good for a couple of more years at the Test level but the selectors felt that it was time to move on and so gave him the option of going on his own terms. That was the least that the men in authority could do and let’s hope that when it’s time for ‘the master’ to lay his bat down for the last time he will ride into the sunset in a blazing manner.