Dear Roger Federer, thank you for everything

Federer retired from professional tennis in September 2022. || Imago

Dear Roger Federer, thank you for everything

Joba Ogunwale 12:56 - 19.02.2024

My letter to the Swiss maestro as he plays his last professional match on the tennis tour tonight.

Growing up as a child in the city of Ibadan, Oyo state, Nigeria, tennis was never my cup of tea. Do not get me wrong, I have always been a sports fanatic right from my childhood, but football and wrestling were the sports I followed.

And for those two games, which were mostly highlights, I only watched them on national and state tv as Cable TV was not a thing then.

But when cable tv started to grow, I got access to more live games, although I still had to go to the viewing centre to watch these matches, as we could not afford to pay for it.

It was during this time I watched my first game of tennis. Although before then I had seen highlights of the Williams sisters, I never got interested.

However, it all changed when I watched Roger Federer's Australian Open final against Marat Safin in 2004.

On that Sunday morning, I followed my mom to church, but as the sports fanatic I was, I had to sneak out of the children's church to a viewing centre that day.

And as luck would have it, Federer's match against Safin was on the TV that morning. Before then, I had no interest in tennis, but it all changed after I finished watching the encounter.

Federer won in straight sets that day, 7–6(7–3), 6–4, 6–2, but the result was not even the most impressive for me. It was Federer's style that stuck with me.

While I had no interest in the sport before that match, I knew tennis was a difficult sport.

However, Federer made it look effortlessly easy. His shot selections and movement were a thing of art. It was just like watching Pablo Picasso's art or a ballerina dancing.

After his victory, I became an instant tennis fan, but more importantly, I became a Roger Federer addict.

Even though I still had no access to cable tv at home, I found a way to monitor and watch Federer's matches.

Every Federer's win was a joy for me, and I also cried with him every time he lost. I remembered how devastating it was for me after he lost that epic Wimbledon final to Rafael Nadal in 2008. As a sports fan, I've admired many sports stars, especially football players.

From Austin Jay-Jay Okocha to Andrea Pirlo to Kaka and Steven Gerrard, I've always liked them. But there is no one that compares to Federer. I am not a fan who goes crazy over sports stars, but with Federer, it was different.

I followed him passionately and religiously. There were losses I could not comprehend, such as the 2011 US Open semi-final loss to Djokovic.

I also found it hard to get over the 2019 Wimbledon final loss to the Serbian. I was invested in his game, which eventually made me fall in love with tennis. He had an aura that was impossible to ignore, yet he was also classy.

Federer took tennis to an unprecedented level. He changed the face of the game and made it a global sport.

Don't get me wrong, the Williams sisters did a lot for the sport too, but Federer took the game to a global level. He ushered in the golden era of tennis, which included Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray.

Their rivalry was a delight to watch, which increased the game's popularity worldwide. But without Federer, it would not have happened.

At his peak, there was no one close to him. His style of game is equal to none and will probably never be seen again. But despite his dominance and status as the biggest star the game has ever seen, Federer was also classy and respectful.

In my opinion, he is the first global star who ticks all the boxes of what it means to be a celebrity. He had a flawless game and was on top for so many years. His fashion style was always on point, and he could pass as a model or Hollywood star.

Above all, he was also a proper family man with his wife Mirka and their four kids.

Personally, it is sad to see him leave because of what he means to me, but I will also say it has been a privilege to watch the man who took tennis to a global level.

To Roger, it has been an absolute honour to watch you play. As a child growing up in Bashorun, I became a tennis fan because of you, so I say thank you.

I wish you all the best in retirement.

  • NB: This article was first published on September 23, 2022.