King of the Court

Roger Federer won the Australian Open men’s singles tennis title a week ago in an epic match against arch-rival Rafael Nadal. This five-set match was one for the ages, and marked the 18th Tennis Majors title for Federer, adding to his record setting majors trophy haul.

When Roger Federer broke on the tennis scene well over a decade ago, most sensed excellence and some sensed greatness. But one person saw the truly astonishing excellence we witnessed last Sunday.

David Foster Wallace, recognized as one of the greatest novelists of his generation, was also an avid tennis fan and an admirer of Roger Federer. In 2006, he captured Federer’s greatness in a sublime article in The New York Times Magazine entitled, “Roger Federer as Religious Experience.” Here is part of what he said:

“Almost 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.”

“This present article is more about a spectator’s experience of Federer, and its context. The specific thesis here is that if you’ve never seen the young man play live, and then do, in person, on the sacred grass of Wimbledon, through the literally withering heat and then wind and rain of the ’06 fortnight, then you are apt to have what one of the tournament’s press bus drivers describes as a “bloody near-religious experience.” It may be tempting, at first, to hear a phrase like this as just one more of the overheated tropes that people resort to to describe the feeling of Federer Moments. But the driver’s phrase turns out to be true — literally, for an instant ecstatically — though it takes some time and serious watching to see this truth emerge.”

Want more? You can read the full article here.