Essential Winter Warmer: Hot Moments from Roger Federer and Co. Melt the Ice
Winter has closed in.
The snow, the ice, and minus centigrade readings have taken hold. For the British Isles, it looks like being that rare thing: a white Christmas.
Will the roads be passable? Will the larder be filled? Will those long-ago-ordered presents arrive?
More important still, will the end-of-year deadlines be met? Will the family make it home for the holidays? And will we all reach Christmas Day in one piece?
Time to take a break, sit back, warm up, and let the chilly worries melt away.
Delve down into some fabulous memories that will bring a healthy glow to the cheeks and a healthy perspective to the seasonal worries.
Glowing Roman Candle
A solitary, frightening journey to a foreign land, and a foreign language.
One ambition: to see tennis on clay.
The reward: a glowing city, radiant terracotta courts, hot skies.
The auburn surface radiates the sun’s heat back at the crowds.
Roger Federer, in rain-cloud blue with a hint of turquoise sky, opens his account in an explosion of shot-making.
Electric Blue Packs A Punch
He meets Federer in Rome’s semis.
He skitters and slides. He rushes forward, he leaps high. He dropps his head, then throws it back in laughter.
Novak Djokovic is complex, charismatic, and controversial.
In 2009, he sported the bluest tennis shoes ever seen. A perfect choice against the complementary orange of Europe’s clay. His feet shimmered.
He misses out to Nadal in Rome, but he takes his revenge in Paris.
And by November his shoes have outdone even the blue, with outrageous scarlet.
A Shot Of Acid Sunshine
Rafa: a rapacious, roaring Roman gladiator.
Rafa: dazzling, drenched in hot yellow and coral-reef blue. A holiday in the Seychelles made flesh.
Andrea Seppi, Fernando Verdasco, and Robin Soderling are put to the sword without losing a set. Fernando Gonzalez challenges yet is vanquished.
Djokovic is left reeling in straight sets. Rome anoints Rafa as its hero.
Queens Serves Up A Storm
Grass at last, and tennis just an hour from home.
The big serving men, the volleying men, the fast-surface men are in their element.
Andy Roddick says it is the best grass in the world.
Energy and effort personified, he blasts away opponents with hot serving: two tie breaks against Lleyton Hewitt, two tie breaks against Ivo Karlovic.
Then a twisted ankle and retirement against James Blake.
But the power and the glory forewarned aspiring Wimbledon opponents of his serious intent. Roddick was fanning the flames.
The Warmest Smile
Rafa misses Queens, but at last arrives in a quiet little London suburb.
Pure white is the order of the day in this upper-crust environment, but his knees are without their white bands.
So Rafa, pared down to the simplest of attire, flickers bright in the highest of high noon sunshine.
It is his day of reckoning. It is a day he finds difficult to complete. It is a day when he tries to shorten rallies, to bend less deeply, to swivel less often.
It is the day he withdraws from Wimbledon.
He remains generous to a fault, speaks with the usual grace, and melts the heart with his warm smile.
The Emerald And White Of Midsummer
It vibrates with heat, the green grass of Wimbledon.
It absorbs the heat, the dark green of courtside, seats, and backdrops.
It gives a subtle regal overtone, the deep purple of the iconic logo, the lettering, the towels.
And white attire, reflecting the dazzle of light, is the essence for the players.
Federer carries it off like no other, loves it like no other. Crisp from top to toe, no unnecessary color, because gold is all that is required.
A fine golden line, a small golden swoosh, a small personalised logo on white shoes.
Cool even in the heat of play.
Lighting Up The Crowds
An outside court is surrounded by crowds, jostling, reaching, edging towards the low surrounding rail.
The tall, energetic, popular Tommy Haas is playing a third round match, and people cannot believe their luck. The cheapest ground tickets offer a white-hot display from a white-hot player having his best season in years.
Baking sun turns his back almost blue with heat, his cap snow bright under the noon sun.
He is glowing brown, shining with the effort in temperatures of over 30 degrees C.
Wimbledon at its summer best.
Crowds In A Hot Faint
Another outside court. Another row of seats bulging with on-lookers desperate for a peak.
Lest passers-by don’t recognise the normally bandana-ed head, the white torso proclaims—in gold initials—that this is the most famous player in the tournament.
Federer calmly practises amidst the bedlam that surrounds him. Cameras motor, and text messages are hastily sent and received, spreading the news.
Children are pushed forward to catch a glimpse, and Security goes into overdrive as benches and chairs are sent flying.
Perhaps, Roger, a lower profile is required in close-up moments like this. The sweep of the arms alone proclaims the identity with no help from typography.
Flushing Cheeks, Hot Colors, New York Pizzazz
If Wimbledon glitters like a diamond in London’s sun, New York erupts with the heat of volcano.
Flushing Meadows: the most apt name in tennis.
It’s a place for colorful expression. It’s a place where foreheads, and necks, and cheeks glow.
The players respond with the tints of summer. Fernando Verdasco, swathed in the orange of his country’s flag, as good as shouts “Viva Espana!”
Chestnut skin, black hair, court-burning pace, hot property.
A quarterfinal tussle with Djokovic is the end of the Verdasco campaign in New York. But the intensity remains etched on the retina for a little longer.
An Iced Drink By The Pool
The Flushing courts are like a swimming pool, their fresh blue a welcome oasis in the desert.
Their cool appearance belies the ambient heat.
Andy Murray stays with the theme. Like ice in a glass of chilled water, he looks set to quench the flame of his opponents’ tennis.
Blue and white, crisp and cool, reminiscent of a Scottish February morning.
His promise of a New York triumph melts away in the face of Marin Cilic.
A Simmering Volcano
The red of holly berries. The red of a log fire. The red of a robin’s breast.
This, though, is the red of danger, the red of Ferrari, the red of a volcano.
Lava appears to ripple across the shoulders, setting the court alight.
Federer’s 2009 red is deeper and more vibrant than the coral red of 2008. But he is unable to burn quite as hot for quite as long. The man from Argentina snuffs out the flame at the last moment.
The start here was the red of winter berries. The end is the red of summer fire.
It is the perfect preparation as tennis prepares for the soaring temperatures of Doha, Chennai, and Melbourne.
Another hot season of tennis is just around the corner.