There can be no doubt, that in tennis, 30-year-old Roger Federer is the greatest mover of all time. The entire tennis world has continually been dazzled by the effortless way he seems to float around the court.
But after watching him move on the slippery blue clay at the Madrid Open, the same surface that the top two male players in the world and a bevy of others adamantly expressed dissatisfaction with, for me, the term dazzling no longer captures the true essence of what Federer does.
His ability to swiftly yet gracefully move from one spot on a tennis court to a more remote one, while within the confines of the area in which he is working, is both awe-inspiring and stupefying. I think that second element, the stupefying part, is often why his opponents can’t react to his shots in time.
A player on the opposite side of the net from Federer is often caught admiring or at least disbelieving that Fed will get to their best shot, one directed as far away from him as possible and at insane mph’s.
In that millisecond of astonishment, “The Fed” gets to the ball and dispatches it to an area well out of reach of his mesmerized foe.
We have all heard one commentator or another mention how effortless Federer makes movement look, that it really is not as easy as it appears to be.
That’s true, it isn’t as easy as it appears, but I don’t think Federer is making it look easy.
I think it is easy for him.
Making it look easy would imply that within, he is in constant physical and mental turmoil, that he is engaged in a bizarre internal dialogue in which he is screaming, “Okay, run you fool, racket back idiot, lunge now, no, no…not that way, with your knees bent for Christ sake. But don’t sweat and you better not breathe hard or I’ll…!”
Clearly that’s not what’s going on. If it were, he’d now be somewhere in the beautiful mountains of Switzerland, locked away in a mental ward.
Either Federer has the ability to instantaneously dematerialize and then re materialize in a different location or he was born with the body of a human but a combined genetic makeup of both the cheetah and gazelle.
Of those scenarios, I think it’s the latter.
When moving to a ball, the first step is the most important. It must be decisive and explosive. Once in motion, steps must be coordinated, controlled and fluid.
Roger Federer is a master of all of those components, the ultimate expert.
There is no other feasible explanation for why he appeared to, no, not appeared to, but why he had no appreciable difficulty negotiating his way around on the dreaded blue clay.