Even as India was on its march to an improbable victory over an invincible Australian cricket team at Perth, there was another man in Australia who was demonstrating what invincibility is all about.
We had seen Laxman, the previous day, giving rest to his artistic wrists and slugging it out with hard work and patience to place India in a position of strength. Now, it was the turn of the other sports-artist, Federer, to do some hard work. And how he did it!
Nirmal Shekar, writing in The Hindu, summed it up beautifully : “It was one of those days — a day when you suddenly found yourself having to throw away the much-used Roger Federer lexicon, so handy when it comes to authoring one Festschrift (German term for celebration writing) after another, and, instead, employ words unheard of vis-À-vis Federer’s performances — words such as strife and struggle and fallibility and weakness.”
Federer never looked like winning. His game was awfully off the mark. Except a strong serve, everything else had strangely deserted him. Anybody watching Federer for the first time would have refused to believe he is a great player. But he won, against an opponent who was refusing to lose. People always doubted if Federer has the mental resilence required for a great champion. They should watch this match. They will realise that he never could demonstrate his resilence before as he never allowed his resilence to be tested.
The only reason, I believe, why Federer won today was because he simply could not come to terms with the fact that he was losing, so early in a major. And then, the fact changed.
When asked in the post match interview, he admitted that the probability of defeat crossed his mind sometimes. I doubt it. I think he was just being polite and diplomatic before a large crowd. If ever he thought he could lose, he would have lost. He knew, all along, he can’t lose. He just had to play differently and ‘demonstrate his resilence’.