This year, the defending champion of the Australian Open was defeated by a 20-year-old Greek, Stefanos Tsitsipas, courtesy of 55 unforced errors from the G.O.A.T.
Roger Federer won the US Open 5 consecutive times from 2004 to 2008. In the next 9 editions he participated in, he reached the finals just twice and lost both times.
In the semi-finals, Rafael Nadal destroyed Tsitsipas only to be decimated by Novak Djokovic in the finals in straight sets.
Nadal, in his 15-year-long career, has been injured 11 times and he has made a staggering comeback after each of those times; a testament to the very adjective that describes him: Adamant.
Federer, on the other hand, has sailed smoothly; more or less through a span of 20 grand slams; the first 15 of which came as easily as a flawless victory in the Mortal Kombat games.
I will not dwell in the past of these great men. Their legacies need no introduction. However, their declines do. The last time the duo played against each other in a grand slam final was in the Australian Open of 2017.
Sure, they sweated it out for 5 sets giving us glimpses of their former glory as they cancelled each other out till the Spaniard bowed down to the greatness of the Swiss. As someone who idolised both growing up, it was a surreal experience.
A blast from the past, if you will. But the glimpses of their genius were like fading memories that often appear to us as patchy flashbacks. There was a good ace from Federer every now and then. And every now and then Nadal would shock the former with his sheer stamina.
After his defeat in the first grand slam of that year, Nadal went on to the clay courts of Rolland Garros, that had once proudly declared him king. His forehands hit the bullseye at 4,900 revolutions per spin as he bulldozed his way to a record 10th grand slam win at the same Major.
Nobody rivals Nadal when it comes to the ability to bounce back. Not even Federer. And yet, we must be prepared for the possibility that 2019 might be the year the great Spaniard finally hangs his boots. The Lord knows those ankles deserve the rest.
As far as Federer is concerned, he is still the G.O.A.T. There is no denying that. But he is not the same man that he was a decade ago. Age has caught up with him.
He is not the rock that withstood the crashing waves anymore. But there is beauty in the bravery of a fragile fighter. And for as long as he lasts, we intend to enjoy witnessing his greatness.
All that was once great must fall, for time is the ultimate foe. And we most likely will witness them bow down to time. But don’t be sad in their demise, for they will forever roam in the stories we tell our children.
We are honoured to have lived in a time when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal played and we will be honoured to watch them walk into the sunset, whenever the time comes.