Never to Be Seen Again

Roger Federer won his 7th Wimbledon title in typical Federer fashion.

Effortlessly.

The debate of whether Roger Federer is indeed the best tennis player to ever pick up a racquet will inevitably resume, most likely in Roger’s favour, in the coming days. Comparing players across generations often leads to great discussion but it’s a fruitless debate. No one can truly be right. Federer may be the greatest tennis player in the history of the game but we will never know.

What we do know though, or rather, should know, is that Roger Federer is the most unique tennis player anyone has ever witnessed and will ever witness.

His dominance is unique in itself but it’s more the way in which he achieves that very dominance.

Federer makes it look so simple. Too easy. He appears as effortless as you or I do on our couch, with a bag of potato chips watching TV. Sometimes it’s as if he isn’t trying. Roger Federer plays 4 sets in a championship final and doesn’t break a sweat. Heck, sometimes I even break into a sweat on my couch in the summer.

And here we are, 17 major victories later.

Federer dominates but he does it with such ease and fluidity. His movement has the grace of a gazelle yet his power parallels that of a pitcher throwing an effortless 95mph. He is the antithesis of his arch frenemy Rafael Nadal. While Nadal tramples the court to shreds over the course of a match, Federer leaves the ground virtually untouched. Nadal will wheeze like a dying animal at times while Federer stays quiet as a mouse.

Dominance and tennis go together like ice cream and apple pie. Roger Federer is by no means the first to rule the tennis world. However, he is the first and only to do it in such an undemanding manner. Pete Sampras dominated but he did it through the serve and volley. Roger Federer has grinded out points from the baseline for 14 years. Although, I guess his opponents do most of the grinding.

In his prime, pressure wasn’t a part of Federer’s vocabulary. Big serves and big shots during big moments were ho-hum. He responded to clutch situations in a way that might have made Michael Jordan jealous. It’s not just the robotic gracefulness that he brings to every point but it’s his ability to elevate his game when he needs it most and appearing to do it with that same robotic gracefulness. No additional external effort required. At least, it always seemed that way.

He doesn’t really have bad days. 33 straight quarter-finals will tell you that.

Injuries? Forget about it. If he hadn’t gotten mononucleosis that one time, you would probably think the guy is invincible.

It is possible that his effortless dominance is unprecedented across all sports. I mean, has anyone in the history of professional sports made winning look as easy Roger Federer has over his career?

Joe DiMaggio’s elegance earned him the nickname the ‘Yankee Clipper,’ in reference to the new Pan-American airliner in 1939. Canadians will never forget Bobby Orr and the way he seemingly floated across the ice.

Roger Federer, he more than deserves to mentioned in the same air as those effortless greats.

He reminded us all yesterday how good he was during his best days. You couldn’t beat him because he wouldn’t beat himself. 1 month away from his 31st birthday, Federer was in his “not make any unforced errors mode” against Andy Murray. In his prime, that was his default mode.

On the wrong side of 30, it would be, well, wrong of us to expect another major from Fed.

Even in his old(ish) age though, there is one thing that you can always expect from Roger Federer when he steps onto a tennis court. Something we may never see again in the history of the sport.

His unprecedented and unflappable effortlessness.

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts.

Agree? Disagree? You can also e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

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Put Your Tears Away

Apparently, it’s sad that Nicklas Lidstrom is retiring.

Sorry if you don’t see me balling my eyes out.

Lidstrom will go down as one of the greatest defenseman to ever play the game and rightfully so. He played 20 seasons , won 7 Norris Trophies, 4 Stanley Cups, 1 Conn Smythe and, for whatever it’s worth, has been voted to 12 all-star games. You don’t get named by The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated as the “NHL Player of the Decade” for nothing.

These aren’t gloomy days though. I mean, this isn’t Brett Favre retiring for the 1st time.

Fans love to buy into the narrative of the man commonly referred to as “Mr. Perfect.” That narrative is by no means wrong. However, this thought of a player who epitomizes what it means to be the captain and leader of a franchise seems to entice people more than the actual player himself. It’s almost as if loving Nicklas Lidstrom is proving yourself to be a true fan of the game because he is everything that a player is supposed to be.

If I were that Condescending Wonka on Twitter, I might tweet something along the lines of ‘Oh, you’re depressed because Nickas Lidstrom retired? You must be real hockey fan.’

Nicklas Lidstrom was a great player but, unless I’m a Detroit Red Wings fan, I could care less about his departure from the game of hockey.

The reason Nick Lidstrom is great is because you don’t notice him. He plays the way you would expect the best Swedish defenseman to. Nicklas Lidstrom doesn’t make mistakes. Nicklas Lidstrom just gets the job done. He is classic substance over style.

No one goes to see games because of Nicklas Lidstrom.

He plays the game the right way but it is not anything that we’re going to miss. What, you’re going to miss his unwavering emotionless expression? His outlet passes? His subtle decision-making? His politeness with the media?

There’s no doubt that you have to appreciate how well Lidstrom played the game. Hockey isn’t supposed to be as easy he made it look. Appreciate and love is a whole different matter though.

Unlike the way I imagine Bobby Orr, Paul Coffey, Denis Potvin and Larry Robinson could, Nicklas Lidstrom rarely put anyone on the edge of their seat. There was no physical presence, no coast-to-coast rushes and certainly no smack talking.

Remind me again, what are we going to wish we had back without Nicklas Lidstrom next season?

Whenever the Detroit Red Wings come to town, fans will still be marking it down on their calendars. The reasons why you watch you the team from the Motor City haven’t left. Pavel Datysuk is worth the price of admission alone. Nicklas Lidstrom? You might even forget that number 5 hasn’t stepped foot on the ice.

Coaches love class over flash but Nick Lidstrom is somewhat of an embodiment of what plagues the National Hockey League. The NHL struggles for ratings because of its severe lack of star power. The league won’t be hurt in the slightest bit without Lidstrom suiting up for 82 games.

The media generated hype surrounding Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement gives people this idea that they loved Nicklas Lidstrom. In reality, Nicklas Lidstrom is about as lovable as a slice of plain white bread.

Of course the “Perfect Human” didn’t shed a tear over his retirement.

Neither should you.

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts.

Agree? Disagree? You can also E-mail Chris at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

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