It was July 11th, 2018. The football world cup had reached frenzied levels on Whatsapp groups. Everybody was betting on the semi-finals between England and Croatia. The inter webs were abuzz with senseless forwards about the 2 teams, numerology predictions, astrology and what not. Everybody suddenly turned into football critics. With all the football bruhaha most folks missed the sporting greatness at Wimbledon, with the greatest tennis player of all time playing his zillionth quarter finals at a Grand Slam. Roger Federer was reason enough for me to leave work early to watch him unleash his unmatchable skills on court.

Watching Federer is like being on a roller coaster ride. I so earnestly wanted him to win that every point won by him lifted me to the ceiling and every point lost brought me crashing back to my seat. I watched him play with effortless ease, gliding across the court, unleashing his viciously angled forehand shots, his beautiful backhand and top spins. The man fought an epic battle at the age of 36. He fought for 4.5 hours and then lost the match. And there I was, his ardent fan, clenching my fists, praying that he wins. I would switch off the match and come back to it in some absurd hope that it would bring him luck. And when he crashed out graciously, I felt defeated. The sense of loss was so high that I could not enjoy the World Cup football semi-finals which I had also been looking forward to. In fact, it took a heavy gym workout the next morning to shake off that melancholic feeling.

That got me thinking. Why do I love and idolize this player so much? Is it his 20 grand slam wins that make him so endearing? Not really. That’s only an awe inspiring number. It’s his most beautiful backhand. His elegance. Precision. Composure. Fitness. And most importantly it is his bottomless hunger for the game. All this makes him one of the most endearing players in tennis history. I realized that I am so focused on my own expectations of him, that I stopped seeing these qualities which made him my hero in the first place.

As in our daily lives. We are so focused on results that we stop looking at the process. As a marathon and Ultra marathon runner, I have collected a fair share of medals and trophies in a decade of competitive running. When I look at them today, all I can see is the dust that has settled on them. What instead remains etched in my mind is the fun and camaraderie I have enjoyed with my training group. The way we have supported each other and bonded beyond our running. How we have celebrated each other‘s triumphs. Stuck with each other through our losses. Those memories are priceless. No trophy on a shelf represents the invaluable lessons learnt along its journey.

Sports is a great leveller. It teaches you that you cannot always be at the top. Records will be broken. For every low that you encounter, there is a high around the corner. You grow with the losses, not the victories. What you leave behind is not your name on the records. It’s the triumphs and sacrifices, friendship and humility, fair play and hard work. And an everlasting effect on the ones who are near and dear to you.

So, hey Roger, thank you!

Chandra Gopalan


30 Jul, 2018



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