Michael Jordan, after leading the Chicago Bulls to NBA titles from 1991 to 1993, stopped playing basketball and pressed the pause button. When he returned, MJ scored another three-peat from 1996 to 1998.
Roger Federer, a fellow Nike endorser (they jointly-designed the Zoom Vapor Air Jordan shoes), followed a similar pattern. After winning a record 17 majors from 2003 to 2012, he stopped winning the Grand Slam trophies. More than four years passed before he won again (last year’s Australian Open). And now, in a span of 12 months, he has collected 3 of the 5 Grand Slam singles titles.
Calm, relaxed and collected all throughout his seven matches in Melbourne, his emotions burst open during the awarding when tears of happiness flowed. As inhuman as he is with that Wilson racket, he’s human. He cries. He laughs like a little kid while being interviewed by Jim Courier. In the history of all sports, he ranks as one of the classiest and most respected of gentlemen. To the list that include Pele, Muhammad Ali, Jack Nicklaus and Michael Jordan, add the name “Roger Federer.”
FRITZ STROLZ. I requested a dear friend to write about his fellow countryman. Dr. Fritz Strolz was born and raised in Switzerland. While there, he met a Cebuana (Pearle) and they settled and lived in the same land as Mr. Federer.
In a piece he entitled, “We Cried Tears of Joy,” here’s the commentary of Dr. Strolz:
“It is a privilege to follow the extraordinary career of a Swiss sportsman. He is an athlete and a man whose story that could not be better invented in the dream factory Hollywood.
“Last Sunday, we sat in front of the TV with our mouths open and with watery eyes. Pearle suffered with Roger; she tigered around like in a cage and at every point she cried out.
“We are desperately looking for superlatives for Roger. If you don’t have the words, music often helps. Then you can at least hum along in your mind. ‘You’re Simply The Best,’ by Tina Turner would be a variant. Or ‘You are the champion,’ the adapted version of Freddie Mercury.
“Roger is a star who, with his infinite ease, his unique suppleness, his incredible talent and his flair for tennis, is once again fascinating the world. The phenomenal successes are one thing. For him, winning is never a matter of course. Tears never lie. His emotions leave no one untouched.
“Roger embodies typical Swiss characteristics: Humility, respect, modesty and devotion. He is down-to-earth and yet worldly. Modest and yet self-confident. Cosmopolitan yet thoroughly Swiss.
“For someone who does such extraordinary things, he leads an astonishingly ordinary life. He resists being held hostage to his popularity. For example, he takes the children to the zoo by tram. He stands in the swimming pool for an ice-cream shake.
“The injury to his left knee showed his own finiteness. Since then, he has enjoyed every second he is allowed to stand on the world stages. When asked what drives him, the answer is always the same, perhaps banal: He loves tennis.”