Life in the time of Federer and Tendulkar

September 18, 2013

In sports, the fear of loss does different things to different people. It spurs athletes to greater heights; for spectators, it often changes the topography of their nails. In some, it induces mild depression.

Its inevitability is creeping into the minds of even the most stoic spectators. Soon, they won’t have Roger Federer and Sachin Tendulkar around anymore. What will be the world like without Federer and Sachin? Surely, the sporting world will move on, for no athlete is bigger than the game. But will it be the same again? Maybe not. Federer brought to tennis a “complete game”, rarely seen before. What made it even surreal was the ease and elegance with which he wielded his racquet.

It had the precision of modern science. How could such a beautiful arc produce such a stinging down-the-line forehand? And those gorgeous volleys, with a flick of the wrist, were the stuff of legend. The only thing monotonous about Federer’s game was its accuracy: ball hitting the tape with metronomic regularity.

In cricket, Sachin exhibited batsmanship of rare brilliance. His batting combined the discipline of a monk and the patience of an angler. His innings evinced the calibrated aggression of a mercenary. If his square cut had feline ferocity, his straight drives had a delicate mix of timing and precision. And runs simply flowed from his willow — 34,273 in international cricket so far. Dancing down the wicket and hitting bowlers of Shoaib Akhtar and Dale Steyn’s stature and pace was considered a sacrilege. Sachin was often guilty of committing one.

The likes of Wasim Akram, Allan Donald, Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan had their moments against the maestro, but they were often mauled. Figures of 17 and 51 may not sound daunting, but when it gets attached to the number of major titles and test centuries, they stand for feats never achieved in the history of the two games. Winning the admiration of opponents requires a combination of genius and impeccable conduct. This came organically to Federer and Sachin.

Opponents didn’t mind losing to them; stretching them was considered an honour, and playing against them was regarded as a distinction to be shared with the grandchildren. What they created on the field was magical, leaving opponents and spectators gasping in disbelief. Domination was purely incidental. Now all that is threatening to come to an end. The fact that decline and endings are inevitable is hardly a solace to sports aficionados across the world.

However, having lived in the times of Federer and Sachin will be a good enough ally to live with for the rest of their lives. And in times of nostalgia, there’s always YouTube to relive those magical moments.

PHOTO: Indian cricket player Sachin Tendulkar (C) sits on Centre Court for the men’s semi-final tennis match between Roger Federer of Switzerland and Novak Djokovic of Serbia at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London July 6, 2012. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

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