Take physic, pomp

Roger Federer is the best tennis player ever

Sport as art.

UPDATE: IKN reminds readers of David Foster Wallace on Roger, the peerless sport essay. Here’s how it starts:

anyone who loves tennis and follows the men’s tour on television has,
over the last few years, had what might be termed Federer Moments. These
are times, as you watch the young Swiss play, when the jaw drops and
eyes protrude and sounds are made that bring spouses in from other rooms
to see if you’re O.K.
Moments are more intense if you’ve played enough tennis to understand
the impossibility of what you just saw him do. We’ve all got our
examples. Here is one. It’s the finals of the 2005 U.S. Open, Federer
serving to Andre Agassi early in the fourth set. There’s a medium-long
exchange of groundstrokes, one with the distinctive butterfly shape of
today’s power-baseline game, Federer and Agassi yanking each other from
side to side, each trying to set up the baseline winner…until suddenly
Agassi hits a hard heavy cross-court backhand that pulls Federer way
out wide to his ad (=left) side, and Federer gets to it but slices the
stretch backhand short, a couple feet past the service line, which of
course is the sort of thing Agassi dines out on, and as Federer’s
scrambling to reverse and get back to center, Agassi’s moving in to take
the short ball on the rise, and he smacks it hard right back into the
same ad corner, trying to wrong-foot Federer, which in fact he does —
Federer’s still near the corner but running toward the centerline, and
the ball’s heading to a point behind him now, where he just was, and
there’s no time to turn his body around, and Agassi’s following the shot
in to the net at an angle from the backhand side…and what Federer now
does is somehow instantly reverse thrust and sort of skip backward
three or four steps, impossibly fast, to hit a forehand out of his
backhand corner, all his weight moving backward, and the forehand is a
topspin screamer down the line past Agassi at net, who lunges for it but
the ball’s past him, and it flies straight down the sideline and lands
exactly in the deuce corner of Agassi’s side, a winner — Federer’s still
dancing backward as it lands. And there’s that familiar little second
of shocked silence from the New York crowd before it erupts, and John
McEnroe with his color man’s headset on TV says (mostly to himself, it
sounds like), “How do you hit a winner from that position?” And he’s
right: given Agassi’s position and world-class quickness, Federer had to
send that ball down a two-inch pipe of space in order to pass him,
which he did, moving backwards, with no setup time and none of his
weight behind the shot. It was impossible. It was like something out of
“The Matrix.” I don’t know what-all sounds were involved, but my spouse
says she hurried in and there was popcorn all over the couch and I was
down on one knee and my eyeballs looked like novelty-shop eyeballs.
that’s one example of a Federer Moment, and that was merely on TV — and
the truth is that TV tennis is to live tennis pretty much as video porn
is to the felt reality of human love.

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