As a teenager, I idolized Roger Federer, and still do.
I started playing tennis with my brother at a relatively young age, when I was in the 5th grade I believe, so around 10 or 11 years old. I definitely did not have the athleticism of my peers or the accuracy, but I had the passion and that was enough.
That passion came from the simple enjoyment of playing the game, of hitting the ball back and forth, having intense (well, intense is probably an exaggeration) volleys, and just trying different things. However, a huge part of it also came from watching the magician on court, doing things I wished I could do, but eventually realized I couldn’t (never give up but do know your limits!).
Federer was that magician. His smooth backhand, sweet drop shots, and the jaw-dropping between-the-legs shot captivated me. His excellence, especially at Wimbledon on the grass courts, was exciting to watch. I feel privileged and lucky to come into tennis early on to witness greatness in the form of Federer.
But the “Fed Express” was more than that.
His excellence off the court was also a lesson for everyone watching. A lesson in professionalism. He never showed signs of arrogance and always respected his opponent. Ever humble but equally competitive on the court.
He worked harder than anyone else, even if he was the reigning champion or held the most titles in the world. Always looking to improve with meticulous preparation, finding out the flaws in his opponents as well as in himself.
These things that I learned by watching him had a lasting effect on me. I will never be a professional tennis player or play competitively. When I do play tennis (for fun), my serves will still be way off, my forehand failing to land inside the court, my backhands not going over the net.
However, I know that whatever I decide to pursue, I will be a better person than I would have been thanks to Roger Federer and his exemplary attitude, being an inspiration to us all. That, I think, is his biggest contribution to tennis, even beyond being the greatest tennis player in the world.