Roger Federer -The Blind Spot


If you have any children and have watched them play sport, then you may be familiar with the miraculous phenomenon I am about to detail. Referred to in neuroscience circles as Scotoma, this peculiar trick of nature is more commonly known as the blind spot. There are many ways to demonstrate this effect with diagrams or illustrations, but for me all I need to do is switch on the television when Roger Federer plays tennis in a Grand Slam event. An even quicker method is to watch him square up to his great rival Rafael Nadal.

The Swiss native is a sportsperson of whom words do no justice, a member of a select group who can do things few others are capable of even conceiving in their chosen field. Arguably, at his peak, the combination of style and substance he regularly delivered on the highest stage represented the purest example of beauty in sport.  But events in Melbourne, Australia this past week have once again caused me great distress and seem to have affected my vision in a sadly all too familiar way.

In the past few years I have slowly resigned myself to the fact that the great man is no longer the considerable force he once was. In a sport where the physical requirements demanded of players are ever increasing, that he continues to play a part at the business end of Grand Slam events is a tremendous achievement in itself given his passing years. But I am still afflicted by this cursed visual obstruction each time he departs from a tournament without victory.

Logic would dictate that he had no chance against Rafael Nadal in last Friday’s semi-final. Statistics and recent results provided all the evidence that was needed to quell any thoughts of an upset, yet prior to the match I had convinced myself he would rattle the Spaniard. Much like an English football fan before a major tournament I had deluded myself into hope and belief, with no real foundation in reason. Thus the difficulty I had in watching him succumb to Nadal’s physical prowess and power in straight sets was all the more unbearable.

The quest for reasons as to why he lost to Nadal last Friday are easy to any neutral observer, but not I.  The child you send out to play becomes an extension of yourself. There is a strong emotional attachment to them so your bias is easily explained. My own delusion is hard to understand at the best of times, but is rooted in belief that sport can demonstrate human excellence as well as any work of art when elevated to levels achieved by Federer in the past. Every time I see him take to the court there is the hope of another canvas about to be coloured in the most glorious fashion. Alas, it is not always possible. Nadal has now beaten Federer in 23 of their 33 encounters, and there seems no possibility of that number balancing itself out anytime soon.

But the French Open in Roland Garros will begin on May 25th this year. Even though it is Nadal’s very own fortress, where he and he alone is king, somewhere within me some hope will stir and my eyes will look for Federer and I will think he can win. I will not see the old man, in tennis years , only capable of showing glimpses of his former glory. I will see the invincible champion who conquered all before him when he bestrode the court like a magisterial master. There will be the man who was the number one seed for 237 consecutive weeks. It should concern me that he is now ranked number eight in the world and is not even the number one in his own country- that honour lies with Stan Wawrinka, who incidentally won the Australian Open for 2014. But it won’t, I know it won’t. And I’m afraid to take a step back and clear my vision. There may be two players on a tennis court but when Roger Federer is playing, I can only see one.

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