If: A Poem for Roger Federer as Wimbledon 2010 Approaches

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If: A Poem for Roger Federer as Wimbledon 2010 Approaches
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

"The Wimbledon Championships will have an official poet in residence for the first time in 2010, capturing the tournament’s every 'triumph and disaster.'"

See Wimbledon.org

If you can toss the ball high with a swift fluid motion,
Reach skyward from shoulder to tapering fingers,
Can pause, and discard all signs of emotion,
And drop your arm back like a sling ‘til it lingers;
If you can whip it, dart-straight, through a near perfect arc
And shoot at the target with deadly intent,
And paint the far line leaving barely a mark
Except one grassy tint as it skids its descent:

If you dance and you leap like a Nureyev prince,
And strike ball through the court like a bullet just fired,
And plunge towards net with the swiftest of sprints
To caress the ball back as a magician inspired;
If you stretch every sinew yet drift like a mist,
Tempt your victim towards you for one coup de grace,
And draw blood with a slice like a kiss with a twist,
Then pierce the defence with a whip backhand pass:

If you’ve pounded the tarmac and conquered the hills
And pushed yourself through all the punishing weights,
If you’ve sweated it out through the mind-numbing drills
And banished the pain that such labour creates;
If you’ve cast out regrets at disheartening lost chances,
And seized the fresh fruit that hangs ripening ahead,
Have shored up your hopes to make fresh-honed advances
And banished the doubts that can ambush the head:

If you can come to your kingdom of purple and green
And marshall these gifts into one white-hot moment,
And can sprint, spin, and shimmer towards prize seventeen,
And draw on your triumph like a fine-woven garment;
If you can smile at the doubters and relish the minute,
Then melt like the snow from both critic and fan,
Yours is the earth and everything that's in it,
And—which is more—you'll be a champion, my man.


Two lines from If, by Rudyard Kipling, are written above the entrance to Wimbledon’s Centre Court:

“If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same...”

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