Federer turns back the clock, evokes nostalgia


Nostalgia is a powerful drug. We hold the bygone days close to our hearts, time and again applying colourful layers of memories which may or may not have been real; a dash of gaiety, a dollop of contentment, and thus, even the imperfect memories become palatable when presented in the nostalgic platter.

So far, 2017 has a retro appeal in terms of tennis, the year Roger Federer won his 18th Major at the Australian Open, defeating arch-rival Rafael Nadal. Set on the premise of bygone era, the final clash between the erstwhile giants of tennis — which was also a repeat of the 2008 Wimbledon finals — reminded us all of our good ol’ days. In a perfect end to that nostalgic note, Federer ended his almost five years of Grand Slam drought, defeating none other than Nadal, a player against whom he has not won a Grand Slam final in 10 years.

At the age of 35, Roger Federer keeps rewriting history. On Sunday, he won the Indian Wells title for the fifth time, toppling compatriot Stan Wawrinka, 6-4, 7-5, thereby becoming the oldest man to win a Masters title. Even more impressing is the fact that he has managed to do so without forfeiting a set, despite a tough draw, where he had to face Nadal in R16, for the second time this year.   

Federer’s renewal of form comes after his absence from the circuit for six months; the Swiss maestro had to miss half of the 2016 season because of an injured knee, planting doubt in the minds of fans of an impending retirement. Yet Federer surprised everyone by becoming the unexpected winner at the Australian Open, seeded No: 17.

Federer’s return is a good for tennis, and things would be even merrier if there be more Federer-Nadal face-offs in the future, for their rivalry acts like a powerful drug that can evoke positive memories in the hearts of a hardcore tennis aficionado and a casual viewer of the game, alike. This could explain why the retro final at the Australian Open this year pulled in massive viewers all over the world.

The said final has been added to the list of the one of the most memorable finals ever played, all for the comeback of the two former top players, who share 32 Majors between them. No one had predicted Federer and Nadal, currently ranked No: 10 and No: 6 respectively, to reach the finals of a Grand Slam final, considering how they fared during the previous season.

Besides, it has been a long wait for Federer ever since his 2012 Wimbledon triumph, with many a slip between the cup and the lip — Wimbledon (2014, 2015); US Open (2015) — all of them against Novak Djokovic, who had been unstoppable the last two years.

Back in 2000, ATP launched the campaign — “New Balls Please”, with an objective to promote the young players and keep the audience entertained as Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were approaching the sunset of their careers. Soon Federer happened, followed by Nadal, and tennis witnessed the greatest rivalry ever in its history with those two young men at its helm.

A decade later, their appeal hasn’t lost its value, and they can still pull more crowd than any other player. Fans would rather see Federer and Nadal play for a few more years than cheer for a fresh face. When it comes to Federer and Nadal, nostalgia trumps novelty.

Federer has dismissed all talks concerning retirement, amidst assumptions that signing off with a Slam would be a perfect swansong. He would stay on the scene for some more time, and as long as he can win titles, why should he call it quits? Besides, the nostalgia feels good.