I start off this blog knowing I run the risk of ranting and sounding perversely biased in favor of Roger Federer. But heck! Who cares? Does one care about acting foolish when in love? Federer isn’t just a tennis player, he is a feeling just like love is.

I have always fallen in love with the mercurial, with the underdog, with the person in pursuit of the throne, not a person who pretty much owns the throne. I am a crazy fan boy of the Pakistan cricket team; I started supporting Real Madrid after watching them lose 5-0 to Barcelona in the mid-90s; was an Ullrich fan when Armstrong was the king of cycling; wanted Hakkinen to dethrone Schumacher; loved Maradona because of his no holds barred approach and the list goes on. Federer doesn’t check any of my boxes. He is a serial winner, isn’t inconsistent or mercurial, is politically correct and for a long period of time was the undisputed numero uno of his sport.

So how did it happen? How did I end up admiring a sportsman that I was never supposed to? I guess the answer lies in the voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan . There are thousands of top quality vocalists in the world, who if given the task of singing the same line as Nusrat, can never create the same impact that he can on your soul. In his voice, a line as modest as “Aaj koi baat ho gai, woh na aye raat ho gayi” has such a complex impact on you that you dig deep into the feeling it gives to you. You start searching for a deeper meaning it might have.

Similarly many a tennis player has a single-handed backhand but Federer’s is poetic. It is as if the world comes to a standstill, time stops and no matter how deep he is behind the baseline, he makes it look so pleasing on the eye that you can’t help but gush about it. You want to understand the science behind it, you want to understand how this man can make the same shot played by many others look so much more attractive.

I will not get into Federer’s statistics. I presume even the casual tennis fan is familiar with his unparalleled achievements. I however will try to humanly explain the beauty of this alien being. In the Wimbledon final of 2008, Federer was on the verge of losing to his kryptonite Nadal. It was match point to the Spaniard in the 4th set tie-break and it appeared as if Federer had given all his body had to offer. Nadal pushed Federer behind the baseline and hurried towards the net. Federer ran to his left; even to reach the ball required a superhuman effort, to conjure a backhand passing winner out of it required magic unknown to mankind. And Federer somehow managed to do both. Amidst jaw dropping applause he wiped the sweat off his brow, he didn’t only save the match point but ended up winning the set.

Eventually Federer lost the final in 5 sets in one of the greatest Wimbledon finals of all time. That shot however is etched into my memory. That shot conceivably came out of desperation and things that happen out of desperation are not supposed to be beautiful. But this was. This was like Nusrat’s qawali “Tumhe dillagi bhool jaani pare gi”, just when you think it isn’t conceivable to dig deeper and deliver the same line with more intensity and with a greater bearing, he somehow does so. And you can’t help but be in complete awe of his wizardry.

I remember the first time I saw Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan , my father told me that this guy is the greatest singer ever. And I remember thinking he certainly doesn’t look the part. When I first saw Federer playing with his ponytail and hair crying out for a wash, I thought, this man must be another Safin: all power, all aggression but no finesse. However, as I found out the same day, looks can indeed be deceiving. I saw him play a rally in which first he hit a cracking forehand, then a backhand slice bringing his opponent to the net and then hit an otherworldly backhand winner, he didn’t look the part but he certainly was it. With time Federer’s hair, clothes and looks have begun to complement his tennis.

Those who were lucky enough to listen to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan perform live have every right to brag about it. Those who have witnesses Federer’s greatness will one day mention him in Troy-esque terms: “For they will say, I lived in the time of the great Roger Federer”. I know this very short piece doesn’t do justice to the Federer feeling but I suspect no amount of words can.

I didn’t choose to fall in love with Federer’s tennis. It happened because love is never a matter of choice or reason.