I am a big fan of tennis. Some of my earliest memories of my childhood are watching Davis Cup matches involving India in the late 80s and early 90s. In fact, I think at that point, India was among the elite nations in the Davis Cup and I particularly remember watching Ramesh Krishnan and later Leander Paes make a mockery of the ATP rankings.
Later I started watching Grand Slam tennis as and when I was able to (Doordarshan would only telecast the finals of Grand Slam events). Nowadays I watch almost all Grand Slam tournaments and Masters Series events. Especially when Roger Federer is playing.
Federer just won his 12th Grand Slam title (in 14 finals, which is an insane conversion rate for tennis) at the 2007 US Open. Even though everybody expected him to win it, he did have to beat some tough competition to get there.
I love to watch Federer dominate men’s tennis like no one has ever done before. In the quarterfinal match against Roddick, he had gotten his nose just ahead by going 6-5 up in the first set tiebreak after having barely held serve to get to the tiebreak in the first place. Roddick was playing brilliant tennis, serving like a maniac and the crowd was vociferously behind him. All eyes were on Federer and conspicuously so. And what did Federer do? Fire a 125 mph ace down the line to seal the set. The story was to repeat again in the final (as it has on numerous occasions in the past), when he saved 7 set points in the first 2 sets to beat Novak Djokovic in straight sets.
The fact that he is able to do this, especially now when he is under immense pressure, is the mark of genius. And I absolutely love to watch genius. To me, there is nothing more fun than watching people like Federer (and Woods; and Nadal at the French Open; and until recently, Tendulkar and Anand) come up with the goods under ever increasing expectations and pressure.
However, that is most certainly not the prevalent opinion on the web. The one thing that I see mentioned over and over is (to paraphrase):
I am sick/bored of seeing Federer dominate tennis. I am not interested in following tennis any more. Wake me up when he starts losing – that is what will make things interesting.
I find this attitude very strange. If you follow that logic, it means that people want to see different people win each time. Dig deeper, and you will see that it is really the certainty, the inevitability of the final result, that is associated with Federer that these people hate.
Life is inherently uncertain (all the way down to the Heisenberg principle and quantum physics). You don’t need to look for uncertainty in a tennis match – just look at yourself (unless you are Federer :)).
The great thing about Federer is the fact that he has conquered every one of the amazing number of things that make life uncertain in order to effect that certainty at the end. And if that is not interesting to watch, I don’t know what else is.