Many people have written about Roger Federer's Australian 2009 defeat to Rafael Nadal and his subsequent tears. I thought it would be a neat idea to write a fantasy piece to explain those tears through a story that never happened but...could have:
As his limo drove on through the Australian summer rain, he got lost in his thoughts gazing at the down-pour. Upcoming nuptials, the pregnancy of his wife, and the Australian grand slam looming all swirled around in his head.
He had promised this visit somewhere in the back of his mind. Whether it was through his agent or some promotional director, he was to visit this particular patient in a hospital in Melbourne.
Roger toyed with the idea to cancel the day before so that he get in more practice but there was a tiny voice somewhere that said he should honor this commitment.
This engagement should last 30 minutes, he thought and then he proceed to the tennis courts.
He was quietly ushered in the back way and was surprised that he was taken to a quieter wing in the hospital known as the palliative care section. He was used to visiting the children's ward.
The serene silence of the ward was a little unnerving at first but he welcomed it as opposed to the consistent rush of faces so desperate to seek him out and even touch him.
In the middle of the pristine shiny-floored hallway, he was ushered into a small room. There was a couchful of family keeping their young 16-year-old member company.
She had blond hair and her youthful appearance had somewhat been drained from her fight with the brain tumor that they had discovered. Her months of chemo had not completely got rid of it and its location meant that it could not be operated on.
Roger respectfully greeted the family. Their utmost shock and disbelief temporarily erased the grief-stricken and worrisome lines on their faces.
He was informed that this was Sonia and that she consistently talked about Roger's tennis and personality non-stop even during the darkest stages of chemotherapy.
Roger: Hi Sonia. My name is Roger Federer.
Sonia: Roger is that really you. I must be dreaming. I cannot believe you are here.
Roger: It is really me. They tell me you are quite the fighter.
Sonia: Well, I have watched you for so many years. You are my favorite tennis player of all time. You inspired me to fight and to win.
Roger: Thanks, I am really honored.
Sonia: No. the honor is mine. The way you play tennis is something special. Even if I never met you, I would still fight to live so that I could watch you play. (Over to the rest of the family) Could you please give me a few minutes with Roger?
The family files out of the room to wait outside.
Roger: I am really sorry that you have been going through this.
Sonia: Don't be sorry Roger. I sometimes dream of being a great tennis player. I would have great dreams of how I would hoist the cup and wave to the crowd like you do.
Roger: Sometimes, I think it is all a dream myself. How about I live that dream for you.
Sonia: What do you mean?
Roger: Well at the Australian Open, I am going to try my best to win the tournament. I really hope to win it but what if I give you a sign only meant to be for you. It would then be your dream as well and you could share in it.
Sonia: Wow...that is beautiful. I and millions of others already share in your victories.
Roger: Yes, but this would be just solely for you.
Sonia: What would the sign be?
Roger: I don't know...it might be a gesture or maybe something in a speech if I win or make the finals.
Sonia: I don't know if I could hold on that long. I mean, I want to live so much but I get tired all of the time.
Roger: You have done so amazing so far. Just do your best and I will do mine.
Sonia: I will but I just don't know if it will be enough. Thank you, Roger.
Roger: You don't need to thank me. I wish I could have done more.
Sonia: You have. You have made me so happy. I can face whatever lies ahead.
The nurse comes in and informs Roger that Sonia needs her rest.
Roger: Before I go, Sonia, I want you to know that as much as you are a fan of mine, I am a big fan of yours. I will play my heart out for you.
Sonia: Roger, before you go, can I have...a....a...kiss?
The room lighting was subdued as Roger leaned forward and planted a soft kiss on Sonia's forehead. As if on cue, her eyes closed and she went into a deep sleep.
A few weeks later, Roger was informed that Sonia had passed away the day before. He tried to keep it out of his mind and concentrate for the upcoming match with Nadal but this was difficult to do.
The day of the final came and before he left his hotel to go prepare for the big match, his agent came in with an envelope. "This came in for you, Roger," was all he said.
Roger opened the sealed envelope and was surprised to find out that it had been written by Sonia:
I wanted to thank you once again for visiting me. There are so many sick and ill people out there who never get the real treat of having a visit from someone like you. I am so weak now and my mom is writing this out for me.
You told me to do my best and I have. I just want you to do your best and if it is allowed, somewhere I might look and find your sign.
Sincerely with love
Your biggest fan
Roger was resolved win this match at all costs for Sonia. After four and a half hours of scratching, clawing and fighting, Roger lost to Rafael Nadal. His constant strong mental efforts to keep that written letter out of his mind now came back and flooded his mind.
Awash with tears, Roger seemed to be looking up in the distance as if to transmit his message to Sonia. The loss had hurt and he had felt that he had let her down. As his tears came out, he thought he had heard a voice. "Just do your best," was all it had said.
Roger knew that he had more of his best inside him and that there would be more days to fight on. The photos had all caught his teary-eyed face and as those tears were coming down, he looked up and mouthed inaudibly his thoughts.
"Thank you, Sonia."