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Opinion – Régis Andaku: Federer’s elegance on and off the court will be missed in the era of sealing


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Roger Federer still young at 26, but already the undisputed number one in the world. Ten Grand Slams at that time and tens of millions of dollars in the account. Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt retired. Rafael Nadal with “only” two Grand Slams, and Novak Djokovic, three unimpressive titles. Federer reigned supreme.

Who dared to challenge Federer? “There’s nothing to be done,” said Andy Roddick, who had lost the number one ranking to the Swiss four years ago. “I did what I could,” said the good James Black, after losing his sixth straight game to number one – he would lose another four in the years to come.

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But that Tuesday in Miami, everything challenged the Swiss: on the other side of the court, Argentine Guillhermo Cañas, one of the toughest players on the circuit, a talented tennis player who suffered injuries and surgeries throughout his career. Outside, thousands of Argentines (and Latinos in general), euphoric, noisy, on the edge of (dis)respect.

While Federer struggled and missed chances to break the serve of an inspired and indefatigable Cañas, in the stands there were shouts and provocations that in no way resembled a tennis court. Cañas had managed to win the first set by very little, Federer had taken the second easily, and the third was heading for the tie-break, after almost three hours of “hell” for the Swiss.

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But this story is not about game change, nerves, race or overcoming the Swiss. Federer lost that game, even. It’s about Federer having simply “played tennis”: served, hit, hit, volleyed and silently been eliminated from the tournament, one of the most important on the world circuit, still in the round of 16.

In that match, perhaps the most hostile situation he faced on the court in his entire long career, Federer didn’t address anyone: he didn’t complain to the referee, he didn’t provoke the fans back, he didn’t stop the game, he didn’t throw his racket to the ground, used any excuse to disrupt the opponent’s game.

More: right after the game, in conversation with journalists, including this then tennis columnist for Sheet, said he understood that this was the “South Americans” tournament, and that it was only fair that they manifested. “This is their tournament [sul-americanos]. They don’t have a Masters Series there, so they travel here and assume this is their tournament, and that’s how it is.”

But didn’t the environment influence the outcome of the game, insisted the journalists? “No. It’s normal for them to [torcedores latinos] support their players. He [Cañas] clearly improved his serve a lot and also his backhand. when they play [tenistas em geral] against me, I think they think they have less to lose and play better. Unfortunately today I lost.”

In tennis (and a sports world) that is increasingly moving towards “lacration”, towards scandalous complaints, towards piti and the use of the most deplorable tricks (like inventing trips to the bathroom in the middle of the game to hinder the opponent), with athletes looking for instant fame or just a cheap little video for social media, we’ll miss not only Roger Federer’s elegant punches and historic victories, but those few defeats as well.

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