“Genius is not replicable. Inspiration, though, is contagious, and multiform — and even just to see, close up, power and aggression made vulnerable to beauty is to feel inspired and (in a fleeting, mortal way) reconciled.”
- David Foster Wallace
In 2006, author David Foster Wallace wrote an essay in the New York Times where he said watching Roger Federer play tennis was a religious experience. As a Federer fan and a Wallace fan, this essay always comes to mind when I see Fed play. But, watching him try to regain his No. 1 ranking and win a seventh Wimbledon title this week, I realized the unique way in which Federer inspires me.
As a writer, I hope to be like Federer.
“But you can’t help but see some of the details, even with an untrained eye: the way his feet move precisely from one return to the next; the way he always seems to be playing half as hard and accomplishing twice as much as his opponent; the way he takes the allotted quarter-second of reaction time and turns it into premeditated art.” – Tim Keown
Federer puts in all the hard work it takes to be great, and he wins with efficiency. He trains his body and his mind in order to outlast opponents. Behind the scenes, he hones his strengths and attends to the details to ensure he performs at his best. He remains focused on what it takes to dominate.
“Federer’s forehand is a great liquid whip, his backhand a one-hander that he can drive flat, load with topspin, or slice — the slice with such snap that the ball turns shapes in the air and skids on the grass to maybe ankle height.” – David Foster Wallace
But Federer’s execution of his skills, his style — that’s art. His performance is graceful and beautiful and epic. He transformes the sport into an art form, and that’s what I aim to do as writer. I try to take the painstaking work of writing—the researching, the interviewing, the editing, the rewriting, the editing, the rewriting—and turn into art. Federer perfects the little details to play with precision. I want to perfect my arsenal of writing tools to do the same, such as using precise words or slipping in a line so clever it takes the reader by surprise, the same way Federer can slice a ball at such an angle the crowd watches in astonishment.
“Federer wondered if that shot was somehow divine punishment from the tennis gods for all he’d achieved. ‘Maybe you’ve already won so much that it evens it out a bit sometimes,’ he said at the time. Now, at Wimbledon, Federer has a chance to atone for those disasters.” – Geoffrey Gray
As Federer ages and younger players rise up, both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal surpassing him as the No. 1 and No. 2 players, he still honors his art, refusing to give up. The 30-year-old tennis legend beat Djokovic in the semifinals of Wimbledon yesterday. Tomorrow, he fights for his seventh Wimbledon title, his 17th major title and a record for most weeks in the top spot. He fights to regain the No. 1 spot. Even if he never wins another major title, he achieved legend status as a tennis player, an athlete and an artist. And he inspired me. If he wins, he makes history. Again.
“Federer moves like a whisper and executes like a wrecking ball. It is simply impossible to explain how he does what he does.” – Nick Bollettieri