Roger Federer is no numbers man. But upon racking up his 1,000th victory on professional tour — bracketing him alongside three other giants of the game — the Swiss admitted he couldn’t but feel the lustre of the particular number. “All those (milestone) numbers didn’t mean anything to me, but for some reason 1,000 means a lot because it’s such a huge number,” he was quoted as saying. This coming from a man who has a record 17 Grand Slam titles. To watch Federer in his elements in itself was an ethereal experience, those gliding legs, flowing arms, more like an extension of his body, the caress of the racquet and mellifluousness of strokes that cajoled than forced mistakes out of peers.
It’s his journey to 1000 that has to be cherished than the statistical triumph. Ranked number two, aged 33, and father of two sets of twins, the master doesn’t move as fluidly as he did. His aura of invincibility left him some time ago. He chases with the pack he once led indisputably. But he still has a sparkling array of shots and a remarkable tennis brain. He has honed what already was a forensic serve. He seeks to curtail the attrition with a serve-and-volley game that conjures images of an era past. He has a bigger racquet engendering more power and fewer errors.
It is his love for the game, not to mention his enormous self-confidence that sustains him. He is fit and appears to have shaken himself out of the slump that meant he was vulnerable enough to lose to Sergiy Stakhovsky in the second round of Wimbledon the year before. He did not want us to remember him like that, flailing against a serve-and-volley challenger. He wants to go out on a high and when he does leave us, it will be on his terms. That will be a sad day. But it is time to stop pushing him towards the exit door. The 1000th win was a gentle reminder.