Roger Federer means a lot of things to many. Some call him their idol, some the reason they watch the sport of tennis and most argue he is the greatest of all time (GOAT).
Former Indian tennis star Somdev Devvarman is all of them at once.
Somdev, who was once India No.1, even posted a video recalling the time he played Federer, after the Swiss great called time on his career. In the quirky video, he narrated, albeit cheekily, the story of his first match against Federer at the 2011 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Speaking to the media ahead of the Laver Cup, Federer’s last bow as a player, Somdev expounded on his viral post.
— Somdev Devvarman (@SomdevD) September 16, 2022
“That was in 2011, the year in which I was probably playing the best tennis of my life. Myself, Sania (Mirza), Rohan (Bopanna) were attending Mahesh Bhupathi’s wedding when I got this sudden wild-card entry for the ATP tournament in Dubai. And while I reached Dubai airport came the news I’m drawn against Federer.
“It was unexpected, but I was super excited about the opportunity to play my idol. My experience with Federer has been unbelievable. He’s someone who’s interested in a variety of subjects. I’ve learned a lot from him during practice sessions as well as being around him on Tours so many times.
“He’s one guy whom you would like to see round all the time. Federer is one of those rare players whom you can happily meet as an idol and nobody is going to be disappointed. He has had an incredible career. He has given us so much to watch. The world of tennis will miss him for sure," Somdev said.
FEDERER is GOAT?
Asked to weigh in on the GOAT debate, Somdev, setting aside his biases, said: “I do see him as GOAT. Greatness can’t be measured in numbers, there are a lot of intangibles - the fan following he had, how he was on and off the court, how he changed the game."
“Do we consider Margret Court as GOAT or someone like Serena (Williams) or Martina (Navratilova)? It is not fair we are comparing generations. Between (Rafael) Nadal and (Novak) Djokovic best tennis players may be out there. But the greatest are the people who influence the game and Roger was the first to play this kind of passionate tennis. Nobody did it like Roger, to have an all-court game and pretty much on any surface," he said.
“Federer is more than titles, it’s the way he played and how he made it look effortless, the shots he could pull off… all of us who are tennis fans, we only imagined tennis could be played like this. All champions were subject to some sort of scrutiny but Roger was Roger, he always tried his hardest and pushed agendas like equal prize money and others to make our sports better.
There is a certain serenity in how he played while putting that kind of intensity. Watching him play is an emotion," Devvarman added.
Tennis after Federer, Serena
And it was not only Federer who retired, Serena Williams too brought down the curtains on her career.
Somdev feels even though the fans will surely miss them, both Federer and Serena will be around the sport.
“It’ll be different without these two greats who’ve taken the sport to new heights. Both Federer and Serena have been among the best in the two decades. It’s really a sad feeling when you go to the next Grand Slam without Federer or Serena being the favourites. Remember, they’re the fan favourites as well," he said.
“I’m sure both of them will remain hooked to the sport. I do expect them to be involved in tennis in one form or the other. Both these legends have a large influence in taking the sport forward. Based on how much impact these two have had in the sport over the years, I do expect them to be engaged with it. Federer has already mentioned about it," he added.