We Are All Better Off for the Fed Story

Posted on September 10 2018

It’s easy to become philosophical when something beautiful comes to an end. Should one embrace the end of an era, or cling on to the moment that bit longer? When we talk about beauty in sport, there are surely few more breathtaking sights than Roger Federer on the tennis court, but unlike the beauty of a painting or a song, this portrait of perfection cannot live on forever.

“Life’s like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending.” (Jim Henson)

Federer’s loss to John Millman at the US Open may have followed on from a disappointing loss to Kevin Anderson at Wimbledon, but the 37 year old has still managed to add to his Grand Slam trophy cabinet this year. How many people would have advised Federer to retire 5 years ago, or 4 years ago, or 3 years ago, when he went the best part of 4 years without a Grand Slam title? The list would have been long, and very distinguished. Instead, Federer kept believing, and kept writing his own story. Boy what a chapter he has added. Since his 35th birthday, Federer has added a further 3 Grand Slam titles to his collection, and torn up the rule book for how long a male tennis player can compete at the top. Of all the chapters of Federer’s
career, this last one must have been one of the sweetest.

“If you want a happy ending, that depends of course, on where you stop your story” (Orson Welles)

The question of when to retire has always been a very difficult one in sports. You have dedicated your whole life to something, been the very best at what you do, but because of the rules of ageing, you have to retire at a relatively young age. It’s commonly said that it’s best to go out on top, but logically, if you’re on top, why not go for one more? Since he turned 30, Federer has had 4 opportunities to leave the sport on a high with a Grand Slam victory, but there has never been any indication that he would take that opportunity. That he gets the chance again seems quite unlikely, John Millman and Kevin Anderson have never been the kind of players to cause Federer any discomfort when he’s playing his best tennis. So what would be the best ending available for Federer?

“I left the ending ambiguous, because that’s the way life is” (Bernardo Bertolucci)

We don’t know how the Federer story will end, we can just say one thing categorically; every tennis fan is better for having read it. Perhaps that is the greatest thing about an ambiguous ending, we all take from it what we want. Had he had the ‘perfect’ ending of retiring after winning the 2012 Wimbledon, he could have left the sport on the top, probably as the greatest of all time. But, by not agreeing to a predetermined ending, Federer has given us even more. The magic of the story is that it has achieved so much more than we could have expected at every turn, why would we want to turn the next page and know what was going to happen?

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