Monday, June 8, 2009

14th for Federer

Federer holding French Open trophy Congratulations to Roger Federer for winning his fourteenth Grand Slam title and completing the career Grand Slam with his victory at the French Open over Sweden’s Robin Soderling. In professional tennis, there are tournaments held almost every week of the year, but four of them stand out as the most prestigious. Known as the Grand Slams, the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open are held annually and known as the toughest tournaments to win due to their best of five set format. Federer, with fourteen Grand Slam titles under his belt, now shares the record with former player Pete Sampras.

The French Open title didn’t come easy for Roger. Since the beginning of the 2004 season, he has dominated professional tennis, setting unprecedented records of excellence. He won Wimbledon five years in a row, the U.S. Open five years in a row, and the Australian Open three times. He appeared in a record ten consecutive Grand Slam finals, and twenty consecutive Grand Slam semifinals, a streak which is still active. However, the one titled that eluded him was the French Open. The only Grand Slam played on a clay court, Federer had lost to Rafael Nadal the last four years at the French Open, the last three years in the finals. To make matters worse, Nadal ended Federer’s streak of five consecutive Wimbledon titles last year in a thrilling final that many regard as the greatest match ever played. Nadal also took over the number one ranking which he still currently holds. At this year’s Australian Open in January, Nadal stopped Federer’s initial bid at fourteen Grand Slam titles by beating him in the final. Federer was so devastated that he was drawn to tears during the trophy presentation.

Federer after losing Australian Open final to Nadal The future didn’t look good for Federer, whom many considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest player to ever play. Many were wondering if he’d ever win another Grand Slam title. During this year’s clay court season, which consists of a series of smaller tournaments leading up to the French Open, Nadal dominated throughout, winning three titles. However, in Madrid, the last tournament right before the French Open, Federer surprised everyone by beating Nadal in the final. That made this year’s French Open all the more intriguing. As with the other Grand Slam events, the French Open is a single elimination tournament where a player is required to win seven consecutive rounds or matches to claim the title. At this year’s tournament, Federer struggled to get through the early rounds, surviving tough matches against lower ranked players. However, good fortune seemed to find him when Nadal lost in the fourth round to Robin Soderling. Nadal had won the previous four French Opens, so this opened the door for Federer to take the title. He would never get a better opportunity to win the one title that had eluded him. With a tremendous amount of pressure on his shoulders, Federer fought his way to the finals, digging himself out of two matches where it appeared he was headed for defeat.

For the final with Soderling, the crowd at Roland Garros Stadium, the main show court at the French Open, was completely behind Federer. They gave him a standing ovation when he walked on the court for the match. Generally tennis fans are very respectful to both players in a match, applauding good shots played by either player. This time however, they were solidly behind Federer. The most striking scene was when Roger served for the match at 5-4 in the third set. The crowd it seemed was pushing him across the finish line, cheering him on before every point. Such a sight is almost never seen in tennis. Towards the end of a one-sided match, tennis crowds almost always pull for the underdog, hoping that they will get to see more tennis. This was not the case on this occasion. After the match, the crowd erupted in a thunderous applause. They kept cheering for Federer, sharing their love for him.

Lord Rama This incident is reminiscent of the time when Lord Rama triumphantly returned to his kingdom of Ayodhya. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appeared on earth in human form as Lord Rama many thousands of years ago. Born as the eldest son of the king of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dashratha, Rama was loved and adored by all. He was completely devoted to the rules of dharma, or religiosity, and to the welfare of His fellow citizens. When the Lord reached the appropriate age, the citizens were eagerly anticipating His coronation as the new king. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, Rama was instead ordered by His father to leave the kingdom and spend fourteen years in the forest as an exile. His wife Sita and younger brother Lakshmana would accompany Him, and they would meet hard times in the forest. Sita would be kidnapped by the evil Rakshasa demon Ravana. Having lost His wife and kingdom, the Lord had plenty of reason for despair, but He persevered and eventually rescued His wife and killed Ravana. Once the fourteen years had expired, the Lord triumphantly returned to Ayodhya, where He was greeted with great pomp and celebration. The citizens loved Rama very much and they had tied their fortunes to Him. Their happiness only came from seeing Rama happy. Just as with Federer at the French Open, the people of Ayodhya derived great pleasure and bliss from cheering on their man.

Deep down, everyone has a soft spot in their heart. This is due to the living entity’s eternal relationship with the Krishna, or God. The spirit soul is part and parcel of God, but coming under the influence of the three qualities of material nature (goodness, passion, and ignorance), its judgment has been clouded. Everything in this material world is a perverted reflection of things that exist in the spiritual world. The pleasure we derive from praising others stems from the same feelings that exist in the spiritual world. We are all more comfortable rooting for someone and cheering them on, than being against someone and wishing them bad fortune. If it feels so good to praise our favorite athletes, family and friends, just imagine how great it would feel to praise God. This is actually the aim of life, our reason for being on this earth. This human form of life is meant for God realization, to elevate our consciousness to where we become devotees of the Lord. The devotees’ minds are always with Krishna, and He in turn, is always thinking of them, as declared by the Lord Himself in the Bhagavad-gita:

“For one who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me, I am never lost, nor is he ever lost to Me.” (Bg, 6.30)

“No one is envied by Me, neither am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all; yet whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me; and I am a Friend to him.” (Bg, 9.29)

Instead of spending all our time forgetting about God or thinking ourselves to be God, we simply need to show Him our love. This will give us true happiness.