Jun 11, 2008

A Poet Is Cornered

There was a baker named Roger
They said he baked by magic
He served up golden bagels
And many a brown breadstick

He thought they were quite sweet
His customers begged to differ
"Your produce is beautiful", they said
"But God! it tastes so bitter"

"Moo!" said Roger
in his white jacket
"I score great music here"
"not an infernal racket"

And then came Paris where
Some Muscles from Mallorca
Dished out his own dough
It was called A Special Rafa

"'The bagel's acerbic", said Roger
"The breadstick too, I'll pass"
"My medicine doesn't taste too well"
"Should I try eating some grass?"

Roger Federer, ATP artist, can still write better on-court poetry than I can with words. But of late, the symphonies have been unfinished and the notes have jarred. Now, I don't think this is the beginning of some long-term decline, for we're still talking about a World No. 1 who made the finals of the last three most important tournaments on his least favourite surface. But it's the manner of the approach (literally) that should send a twitter down some Swiss shoulders.

Nadal's come back strongly from injury; Djokovic's been tracking the top two with the intensity of a Serbian Defensive Dog - these you would expect. What you wouldn't expect is how certain aspects of Federer's game have become entangled with the mind, which at times, just seems to be milking Alpine cows.

The mind as mental barrier
In Fredric Brown's short story "Arena", the central character (Carson) finds himself fighting an alien being - one who wins will guarantee victory of his species. But neither can get to each other: they are separated by am invisible barrier that turns out to be purely a mental creation, one that the conscious mind cannot get through. It's an apt metaphor for Roger Federer's problems at the tennis net.

At the more visible barrier, he's fumbled. He's smashed and caressed balls into the wires. He approaches the tape with all the enthusiasm of a lamb to the slaughter. Even against the likes of the lowly Monfils, he was visibly reluctant to surge ahead. Cerberus guarding the doors of hell would have been easier to get by.

At any rate, this presents a challenge worthy of a champion. If and how Federer does tame these devils will be worth watching. Like Carson, it'll involve both sweat and creativity. Surely, the memory of that bitter breadstick and bagel at this year's Roland Garros final should keep him piqued.


Harish Kumar said...

It may have been special 'made-for-clay' advice by the new coach which changed his net-play. Hopefully he will listen to himself in London.

Abhishek said...

Firstly, ROTF thanks to bhupendra.kahar.

Secondly, I've always believed that genius has nothing to do with longevity. RF has proven already that he is one. Now, with dogged determination and steel (for that will be required when the superpowers start to fail) he will etch his name as a "master" or a "champion".

Case in point, Giggs. But truth be told, we dont watch these people to see them win 10 grand slams. We watch them for that one moment of jaw dropping genius. And as with Giggs, it is with RF. These days will pass soon, even though success may or may not elude him.

Unknown said...

Harish: dunno. IIRC, signs of net-age began last year.

Abhishek: Not sure about Giggs' ambitions, but RF has always seemed like one going for the records, genius level or not. But the magic still reminds itself from time to time.

B.K: deleted your post. Get yourself a spellchecker and we'll talk.

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Paresh said...

Gr8 writing. But Federer is waning.

daemon said...

Tendulkar already?? I switched off the TV..exasperated.

Samrat said...

Amazing creativity JR :)
I have been among the legion of ardent admirers of Federer, and I still believe he will become the greatest ever.
But Rafa was "in-the-zone" , he played so well. For Rafa the intensity he puts in each point is incredible, almost like a matchpoint. He deserved the title. Federer shouldn't over-analyze it. Just put his head down and work harder next year.

and what is this BK comment post ? i would like to see that

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hirak said...

I was very impressed with Nadal's all court dominance and near perfect returns. His backhand shots were unbelievable. The folks at NBC broadcast the Wimbledon final from 2007, since this year's French Open final got over so soon. I was struck at how close Nadal was to winning on grass. I am really waiting to see this year's Wimbledon. If RF loses it to Nadal, then it will be beginning of the end.