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Greats should decide when to quit the game

sports Updated: Feb 06, 2010 22:49 IST

Roger Federer’s 16th major title win is not only amazing, it will also silence those who thought he was finished. He was playing in his 22nd major final, which in itself is a wonder for there wouldn’t be anybody who would have come near that.

Had he had not lost to Del Potro in the US Open final last year, he would have had a ‘Federer Slam’ like Tiger Woods, who won four consecutive golf majors but not in the same year. Woods’ achievement is now referred to as ‘Tiger Slam’.

Federer still has a chance of doing that as he has won the first major of the year. This brings us to the subject of why tennis players and followers refer to a win in the major as a Slam?

As far as US old-timers are concerned, a Grand Slam is one where the same person wins all four majors in the same year. So, it’s strange to hear a win in a major being called a win in a Slam.

Andy Murray, who has improved a lot, would have fancied his chances since he had a pretty good win-loss record against Federer. But those wins were invariably in a best-of-three set matches, and, as any top player will tell you, the focus and concentration levels for a major and for an ATP event are different.

The preparation is less intense for an ATP event than a major. Federer, by his own admission, is now solely focussed on the majors, though he will play in the ATP events to keep up with those chasing him.

Murray, despite being younger and seemingly fitter than Federer, looked so out of breath by the end of the three-set final that it is doubtful he would have had the energy to last five sets.

Federer, on the other hand, looked fresh when he went to receive the trophy. It would be interesting to learn about the Swiss champion’s training methods although it must be said that each individual is different and has a different way of keeping match fit, be it any sport.

Unfortunately, many believe that, in a team sport, everyone should follow the same regimen, thus creating a problem where none should exist. Great players know what they need to do to stay match-fit and should be allowed to follow their own routine.

Like Federer was written off last year, so also was Sachin Tendulkar, especially after India’s early exit in the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies. Many advised ‘the master’ to retire, but Tendulkar knew he was not going to quit like that. He took a break, prioritised his cricket needs, played some tournaments and opted out of others, thus keeping himself eager for the big battles.

He has one on his hand against South Africa. But this time around, he will be under a little bit less pressure — if that is ever possible — as the focus of the Proteas will be more on Sehwag. It might work to his advantage, but he knows that the Indian public still expects him to score and so he will be charged up for the series.

What Tendulkar’s and Federer’s success has shown is that writing off great players is tricky business and those doing so run the danger of looking silly.

It’s better to let the greats decide the time they want to quit.