Saturday, February 24, 2018

My enduring hook-up with Roger Federer

I am an unabashed Federer stan.  I have it so bad that I can't even pretend to be objective.  What I never expected was to have him be so long a part of my life.  When I first met Roger Federer -- in the 1990s at the US Open -- I initially mistook him for Carlos Moyá as he walked by me toward the practice courts. (Swear to God).  And then I saw him play and fell in love, and there has been no looking back.  I've rarely strayed.

I've loved other tennis players before of course.  But after five -- or ten years if I am lucky and they are uninjured -- I start looking around for the next newbies to whom I could offer my heart.  I'm thinking about players like Marat Safin and his sister whose name I now barely remember.  How long did our tennis affair last?  It felt like a blip, here intensely today, gone just like nothing tomorrow.  Sabine?  Something like that.  Not even worth looking up.  Perhaps not even worth any of the moments I invested in her emotionally.

Then again, that is a cynical and unfair statement.  I can't only invest in players for their longevity.  It's quite OK to have small flings, brief intense affairs that meet the needs of the moment with no promise of a future.  There is always room in a lifetime for such hook-ups.  Who am I to judge myself?

The problem I think is the not knowing.  In real life, when you swap right on Tinder, you know that you are going into a temporary hook-up.  There is no question of anything lasting.  It's wham, bam, thank you Ham.  But when your friends set you up with someone new that they know for sure you are so right for each other, your heart remains less buttressed, more willing to take that risk toward permanence.

In tennis, there are no such guidelines.  You enter these relationships not knowing at all if the player on the court is just going to be using you emotionally for the hours he needs to help him get through a match, or if he will stick around for a year or two, or for five or 15 years.  There is no way to tell.  You pays your money and you takes your risk.

Is Serena coming back?  Should I hold on and hold out, or should I start thinking of going back to Sloane Stephens?  And has Sloane learned a thing or two over the past year plus of injury that kept her away from the game, or is the arrogant narcissist whom we encountered in the pages of Elle still hanging around somewhere in there?  Or should I seriously start investing in Madison Keys, and should I worry that she seems to have no Black friends who can help her anchor her self-identity in a way that all women of color need to in this shitty era of Trump?

How to decide? My loins only have so much space you know?

There is a lovely anonymous poem about loving someone for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.  I sometimes give it to patients to help them navigate their world of friendships and betrayals, to help them realize that the intensity of the current friendship does not have to last, that it OK to move on and make other connections, and to let go of this one.  And I mean this advice in all sincerity.  It's important in life to know how to connect, and also when to shed.

And so it has been a literal blessing to have fallen in love with Roger Federer two decades ago, and here we are, still going strong.  And they said it wouldn't last.  He is the great tennis love of my lifetime.  My heart sang with joy as he held aloft the trophy for #20.  And here is my love, back to #1 in the world, playing smart tennis, using all of the technologies, adapting to the new game, smart, resilient, and fully deserving of the love of his fans the world over, solid in his position atop the field, confident in the endurance of our love.

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