BENGALURU: Bengaluru-based wealth manager and former tennis player Deeraj Shetty, who went to the United Kingdom just to watch Roger Federer play live for the last time at the Laver Cup this year, shares his experience with TNIE.
A page in the big book of tennis history has been turned with the retirement of Serena Williams and Roger Federer. The 41-year-old Swiss player said goodbye to the sport that gave him most of the good things in his life on September 24 after he played his final match, a doubles match with his longtime rival and friend, Rafael Nadal. The match was held as part of the Laver Cup in the 02 Arena, London.
Of his millions of fans, only a few managed to witness Federer lace up his boots and swing his racket on a professional tennis court for the last time. City-based wealth manager and former tennis player Deeraj Shetty were one of those few. “Watching Federer for the last time was probably the best memory of my life. Something I’m going to cherish for the rest of my days. Watching him in action was nothing short of incredible. The environment in the 02 Arena was electrifying.
There was not a single seat in the entire arena available, and everybody had RF hats on,” says Shetty, who adds that there were more than 2.5 lakh RF hats (Roger Federer) sold over three day sat the 02 Arena itself. Shetty, who had moved to the US to pursue tennis, quit the sport in 2002 due to a knee injury, a year before Federer won his maiden slam. He feels watching Federer play as a fan, and as a former player has been somewhat of a bittersweet experience. “As a former tennis player, watching him makes you a little upset because you realise that that amount of talent in one person is a very rare occurrence. Obviously, with that talent also came a lot of dedication and discipline. But watching him as a fan has been incredible because he has everything you would want out of an athlete,” says Shetty.
The Fedal Relationship
The Nadal-Federer rivalry has become somewhat of a love story to tennis fans. Nadal came into the limelight in 2005 after he won the Roland Garros as an 18-yearold. At the time, Federer was already the world no 1 and Nadal became the only player who was able to beat him consecutively, an unforeseen feat back then. Their contrasting styles, also dubbed ‘fire and ice’ by some, gave spectators a lot of joy to watch. Over many years, the intense rivalry turned into a friendship.
“The Nadal and Federer relationship, we all know, is one of respect. We all know that there exists a lot of camaraderie between the two. But watching them and their entire families together that day and watching those two hold hands, would give you an idea of what Federer means to Nadal’s family and what he means to Nadal’s tennis,” says Shetty, who also believes it is ironic how Federer was Nadal’s closest friend on tour and also his greatest rival. Shetty has a lot of memories of watching Federer play.
“From watching him play Tommy Haas in 1999 at the IMG Academy (Nick Bollettieri tennis academy) to watching him play the US open three separate times. The last great moment for me was when he beat Nadal in the 2017 Australian Open final,” shares Shetty. Shetty believes that Federer’s leaving has dug a deep hole in the tennis world, which will take a while to fill up. While there are a lot of talented young players on tour, there is currently nobody among the new generation of tennis players to take charge as Federer did. “I know many who will stop watching tennis now that Federer’s gone. Tennis is going to have to work very hard to come out of the Federer shadow,” concludes Shetty.