Jesus Aparicio, a Spanish Roger Federer fan who recently came out of an 11-year-long coma, was rather shocked to find that his favourite tennis player had racked up 17 Grand Slam titles, was ranked number two in the world and was still in the hunt to add to his tally of majors.
On December 12, 2004, Aparicio was out celebrating his 18th birthday when a car accident left him in a coma, which he emerged from on August 27. Over the next few weeks, his speech slowly came back to him. Aparicio asked about family, friends, and eventually his idol Federer.
“It came like a flash to my mind and I asked about Roger,” Aparicio said, according to an article in tennisworldusa.org.
“I thought he had retired. When I knew that at 34 years old, he is still playing and is number two in the world, I thought they were kidding me. I could not believe it.”
“When I heard that he reached 17 slam titles, I put my hands on my face.”
“I knew Federer was very good but I never thought he could win all he has won.”
At the time of Aparicio’s accident, Federer was already number one in the world. He’d won his first major about 18 months ago, at Wimbledon in 2003. He went on to claim the number one ranking at the start of 2004 by beating Marat Safin in the final of the Australian Open, which was his first hard-court major.
He went on to win his second Wimbledon title, beating American Andy Roddick in the final, and capped off his season by winning the US Open for the first time, defeating Australian Lleyton Hewitt in the final. The Swiss ended 2004 as number one for the first time in his career.
Four-time major winner at the time, Federer’s best was yet to come, however. The Swiss reached 10 of the next 12 Grand Slam finals and won eight of them on his way to the record tally of 17. Since December 2004, Federer has reached 23 Grand Slam finals, winning 13 of them.
Eight of the players who occupied the Top-10 spots in 2004 have retired since, with Australian veteran Hewitt due to retire after next year’s Australian Open. Such is Federer’s longevity. Not only that, he is still as agile as the Federer of 2004.
Aparicio saw Federer play for the first time Since coming out of the coma in the recent US Open final, where the Swiss lost to world number one Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic may be one of the most recognisable athletes in the world now, but the Serb is still a stranger to Aparicio. After all, the Serb ended 2004 ranked 186 in the world and had yet to make his Grand Slam debut.
“I was astonished to see him [Federer] play well. It’s really amazing,” Aparicio said. “It was a shame he could not win but that Djokovic, he plays very well.”
Aparicio, a Sevilla native, had been saving up to visit the 2005 edition of the Wimbledon Championships and watch Federer play when tragedy struck. Now, his hopes have been renewed.
“I want to see his match before he retires, perhaps his 18th slam,” Aparicio said. “It would be the dream of my life.”
Aparicio may have missed Federer’s peak season of 2006 as David Foster Wallace put it.