It was late night on the first day of February 2009. Rafael Nadal had proved for the first time in his rising career that he was now a complete player and that he could win on all surfaces. Nadal, who was on a quest to wipe the stigma that he was a clay court specialist had come a full round as his efforts had finally borne fruition.
Until some moments back, Roger Federer was still on the cusp of making new history. Alas, he has ended as a runner-up and having to reconcile to the harsh reality of the moment. It was a moment of shock and disappointment for the Swiss Master had an enviable pile of eight Slams on hard courts.
In the ceremony that quickly followed, the runner-up Fed was asked to speak a few words. Unfortunately for the champ, there was no chance to hide in the convenient cover of the locker room and vent out his feelings in privacy.
Roger started to speak and his lips began to quiver. In the few moments of silence that followed, the champ must have struggled to hide his emotions.
The Swiss chocolate had begun to melt in the heat of the moment. Roger’s emotions got the better of him and the human side of Roger was out there for a full view.
The jam packed Rod Laver Arena was up on its feet. The Australian crowd simply loved Roger. The crowd gave a standing ovation to the Swiss master who was a three time Australian Open champion and had come so close to his fourth Australian Open title.
Roger didn’t have to speak anything. It was all understood. His sobs and tears spoke tons. The silence and solitude of the moment was full of meaning and possibly more than well stated words could have said.
I am sure many of Roger’s fans who were glued to TV sets went through the same emotional pangs and had tears in their eyes in those moments. After all, the guy was no politician or an actor but a genuine sportsman and a suave ambassador of tennis.
It was a testimony that the Swiss champ had won the “Goodwill Slam” bestowed upon him by tennis community - including his countless admirers and fans - at large. The fan votes in ATP and Stefan Edberg sportsman awards are but icings on the cake.
Who does not love the Swiss Master?
I won't be surprised if Rafael Nadal will count himself amongst those. Nadal does not hide words when it comes to admiring Roger. He has watched Roger at close quarters in the thick of action than possibly anyone else could lay claim to.