Such is fandom, though, and the perils of hero worship, that while you rationally do not expect your tennis hero to win the French Open at the start of the tournament, you irrationally hope that he would anyway. When his biggest obstacle to the title was inexplicably taken out in Round 4, that hope became less of a hope and began to feel more and more like it could actually happen. Finally, rationality and hope didn't have to be at odds with each other; because for once, it was entirely rational and logical that he would win the French Open - finally win the French Open.
To be honest, when I sat down to watch the final last Sunday, I wasn't even that worried. I was nervous to be sure, but it was nowhere near the level of anxiety that I experienced during the Australian Open final and the Madrid final. I wasn't pleased that the second set had to be pushed into a tie-break, but when he served those consecutive aces, and donated one point to Soderling, I knew he had the match in his bag. I knew the match was his to lose.
He was nervous closing it out. Soderling probably blew what was potentially the biggest opportunity of his career when he missed a forehand on break point when Roger was serving for the match. But Soderling never stood a chance. The enormity of the occasion was against him; but more importantly, it was Roger Federer at the other side of the net. No one stands in the way of Roger Federer and his Grand Slam, his spot in tennis history, except Roger Federer himself. He lost the Australian Open final, but he wasn't going to lose this one. He played an "unplayable" game, hit a trusty, reliable big first serve on championship point, and when Soderling's return, overpowered by the sheer force - of physical speed, and of will - of Roger's serve, found the net, Roger collapsed to his knees, hands covering his face, overcome with joy that he'd finally, finally won the French Open.
During the awards ceremony, when the Swiss national anthem was played, Roger couldn't contain his tears. And it's this human side of him - the human side to genius, to a great, great champion - that makes him so appealing, so easy to root for, so worthy of devotion and idolatry. He is the biggest earning tennis player in tennis history; he can retire today and be set for life. But he doesn't play for the money, for the fame and fortune; he plays for the passion for the sport, all the while carrying in his heart the great respect he has for the history of his sport.
He is amazing. Truly, utterly amazing.
Beauty in Action
Beauty in Reaction
The Elusive Trophy
His Human, Human Tears
Mirka and Roger's Camp
Greatest Players of All-Time: Agassi and McEnroe
Arc de Triomphe
Sigh. I love him. So much. Seeing him at the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe makes me even happier and brings back wonderful memories of when Mag and I were there, same time last year. Roger and Paris is a really great combination!