Growing Up with My Hero – Win or Lose

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This article has been submitted by Aashna Dev for the CLATGyan Blog Post Writing Competition. If you think it’s a good read, ‘Like’ the article on Facebook (the button is at the bottom of this piece) or post a comment using the ‘Comments’ section below.

It was on a thrilling evening in 2005 that  I remember asking my grandmother, who was almost in tears, “Who is that elegant player?”

My grandmother – a diehard Roger Federer fan, who was  too engrossed in the game to reply, was terribly disappointed that evening. But it was not ‘The Swiss Meastro” who caught my eye. It was the tan, muscular man beside him. He was very young, and I admit was not elegant, but there was something about him that made me choose him. They called him ‘The king of clay’. Yes, you guessed right.  He is Rafeal Nadal.

I started following tennis in 2005. What started out as entertainment, slowly turned into something else. And that was how I started loving the game. Tennis to me is like what Sachin Tendulkar is to every Indian, what bread is to butter, what a student is to a teacher. But this sport, not many of us like it sadly. It may be because there isn’t  a ‘Sachin tendulkar’ but then don’t we all follow the FIFA world cup?

There was something about this game that set it apart from the rest. Every time I saw a player fall down and shake the injury off, it gave me inspiration beyond words. The very manner in which it is played is so subtle, yet so elegant. As this love for the game grew, I did more homework, and watched Bjorn Bourg and Pete Sampras matches. Many a time I missed class to watch ‘The Final’ and oh no, the semi-final could not be missed, as that is what led up to the final, I would tell my parents.

In the beginning, just the thrill of staying up late made me feel good. But what was merely what I call a coincidence, two of the biggest tennis lovers lived in my own house. My grandmother – almost  80 and my older sister. It was the beginning of what I now call ‘A Tennis War’.

It all began one night when we were sitting and watching a Federer-Nadal match. It was two against one. The one being my grandmother, who was a Fedex fan. I remember my granny smile and say when Federer had match point, “Now that, kids, is a legend in action.”

My sister, too upset to watch, ran out of the room. I looked on in anger. It was when Rafa turned the match point to deuce that a spark of hope filled me. I ran out to tell my sister, only to find her in the pooja room, eyes closed, hands to her chest, praying in all faith. Let me tell you, the look on my granny’s face when Rafa won the match was priceless. But every match taught  us a lesson. We at home, gave up hope, when that man, Rafael Nadal who was standing in front of a million people did not. He looked straight, jerked his shoulder and tried again. Tried again until he reached the top. To me that match meant the world. Not because Rafa won, but because I understood the true meaning of the sport. During the closing ceremony, both the players are asked to speak. As I watched Federer, microphone in hand, break down and cry in front of a million people, tears filled my eyes.

Rafa put his arms around him and spoke, “You are looking at one of the greatest player’s of all time. And that will never change.”

For him to say that after 5 gruesome hours of play, for him to look into his opponent’s eyes and say that, truly inspired me.

 I think more than learning to lose, it is to lose with such passion and honour that makes Federer a legend. And indeed Rafa too had his share of disappointments. But come what may, he stood up and fought. He taught me that life is filled with challenges. But he taught me to never give up. To try everytime. If I ever meet him,I  will tell him how he filled my world with colours of love and determination.

My sister moved to a hostel but  nothing changed. My granny would text her every move of the game. They would write to each to each other and I would narrate the entire match with intricate detail. We would argue like kids for hours and finally have a good laugh.

Its still the three of us.  Two Rafans and one Fedex. We have never seen a live match. It is my grandmother’s dying wish and hopefully one day the three of us will go to Arthur ash and watch one. My hero doesn’t even know I exist, but to me we share a deep connection. It has been an honour to be a part of his game and thus his life. He has provided me with a childhood filled with lessons and memories that last a life. I have grown up with him and his powerful fore hand, and will be there till the end. I will wait and pray for him to beat Federer’s record. But if anyone asks me who my second favourite player is I will proudly say Roger Federer’s name. Today as I check my phone, I see a message from my granny. “Rafa’s not playing in the US open. Keep waiting. Federer’s 18th title is about to be written down in history. “

I immediately forward it to my sister.

The war continues.

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