Roger Federer Saved My Life

Discussion in 'General Pro Player Discussion' started by irishbanger, May 15, 2006.

  1. irishbanger

    irishbanger Rookie

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    Four years ago (January 2002), I was carrying 40 extra pounds and supporting a 2 pack a day Marlboro habit. My only exercise was walking to the back yard to smoke (my wife wouldn’t allow it in the house) and to the refrigerator for an extra piece of pie. Sleep came only with great difficulty, and acid reflux was a constant companion. I felt horrible, and knew I would not make my life expectancy as set by the actuarial tables. I hadn’t always been such a physical wreck---as a kid I played all the team sports in their season, and was a pretty good athlete---but I allowed life, a wife, and three kids to beat me down and turn me into a couch potato.
    One sleepless night I was channel-surfing and happened upon a tennis match. I don’t know what prompted me to watch---I hadn’t been interested in tennis since my college days back in the late 1970’s. But I sat up and took notice as two identically dressed players (shiny red shirts, black pants, black headbands) were absolutely crushing the ball at each other. This was not the type of tennis I remembered! I became enthralled as the match went to a fifth set tie-breaker and was eventually won 8-6 by a big German kid named Tommy Haas. It was his opponent, however, that held me rapt. This kid seemed to just float around the court with the grace of a ballerina, and he just crushed the ball with the power of a lumberjack. And he just looked so . . . cool. I later learned that this kid, Roger Federer from Switzerland (who the heck even knew they played tennis in
    Switzerland?), had ended Pete Sampras’ Wimbledon domination the summer before, and I decided to keep an eye on him.
    I continued to watch the tournament (the Australian Open), and then did something totally out of character---I got my old tennis racket out of the garage, dusted it off, and decided (at my wife’s prodding) to inquire about tennis lessons. My research showed that one of the finest public facilities in the nation was near my house, and I inquired about lessons at the front desk. I was told that before a player could take lessons they needed to be “rated”, given a number between 1-5 in half point increments based upon their ability, in order to take lessons with people of similar ability. The rating session consisted of a ten minute practice with a club pro who checked your forehand, backhand, serve, volley, and overhead. I fully expected to receive a “1”, the rating of a rank beginner, but I had retained enough athletic ability over the decades to warrant a “2.5”. I was thrilled!
    Following the session, the club pro asked how long it had been since I last played---20 years? I asked him how he knew and he replied that my old wooden Wilson Advantage racket was a dead giveaway. He suggested investing in some new equipment, that the new rackets were more powerful and forgiving than the old woodie. My head spun as I looked at the multitude of racket choices at the local sporting goods store. The pimple-faced kid working the section recommended a pretty yellow stick that happened to be on sale, so I ended up buying a heavy players racket that was probably no better suited for my game than the old woodie was. Fortunately I finally learned about the full service tennis shops in the area and was outfitted with a racquet more suited to my ability.
    My lessons did not begin for a couple of weeks, so I decided to practice my serve at a park near my house. There was another young guy doing the same on the adjacent court, and eventually asked if I would like to hit some balls with him. It did not take long to see that I was totally outclassed, and the sadistic young creep took a perverse pleasure in running me all over the court. My lung burned and I quickly became winded between balls. Watching my young protagonist laugh at me across the net as I stood with my hands on my knees gasping for air made me that much more determined to get into shape. I learned a valuable lesson---you get in shape to play better tennis, not play tennis to get into shape.
    My group lessons began, and our instructor’s patience was matched by his ability to make the lessons enjoyable. I could not wait for my lesson to begin each week! To help get into shape faster, I ran everywhere on court---to get a drink, to pick up errant balls---everywhere (a word of advice---get in shape to play better tennis, don’t play tennis to get in better shape). I made fast progress, both in my tennis skills and in dropping weight. But then, halfway through my session, I suffered an injury. Warming up before class, I stretched out with my leg to get a drop shot and heard a loud “slapping” sound. My calf was in enormous pain as I fell to the ground. My first thought was that I had been shot, but the absence of blood gave lie to that assumption. A visit to the Emergency Room revealed a torn calf muscle and many weeks of rehabilitation.
    During my rehab, I continued to absorb all I could of my new passion. If I could not play, at least I could read every book I could get my hands on and watch every match on television. I even took the exam and became a tennis umpire (the test is much harder than I imagined it would be.) I also continued to monitor the progress of Roger Federer. A big breakthrough occurred when he won the Tennis Masters Series event in Hamburg over Marat Safin, the talented and personable Russian. The win on clay demonstrated his potential to win on all surfaces. But the victory was followed by a funk, as a loss in the first round at Roland Garros to Hicham Arazi will attest. A few weeks later at Wimbledon, Roger was again knocked out in the first round, this time by Mario Ancic in straight sets. I was disappointed because everyone was saying that grass should be Federer’s best surface, and I had anticipated seeing him often on television.
    Fortunately, my success, although at a much lower level, came quickly following rehab. My development of a serviceable service and workable backhand pushed me into the 3.0 level. Consistency, a slice backhand and service variety helped me climb the ladder to the 3.5 level. During the course of my journey, I’ve learned some things about myself---some of which I like, some I don’t. I don’t like the fact that I just don’t enjoy singles. Having played team sports all my life, I don’t have the competitive juices to play individually. A gregarious person by nature, having to suppress a yell after a particularly good shot proves difficult, and my joy at winning was tempered by feeling bad for the guy I just beat. And of course, everyone hates to lose. Doubles is a different story. I took a doubles strategy course and became hooked. I enjoy the constant chatting between partners, the encouraging words and support, the strategy, and the team aspect of the game. I had found my niche and hit my stride.
    The same could not be said of Roger Federer. The remainder of the 2002 season was lackluster, and a loss to Lleyton Hewitt in the semi’s of the Masters Cup in Shanghai demonstrated his only true weakness---mental toughness. Everyone knew he had the talent, but it just shows the fine line between those who make it big and those who never rise above a journeyman---the mental edge. In March of 2003, Tennis magazine featured Roger on the cover with the headline, ---“Roger Federer: He’s supposed to be the next great player. So what’s he waiting for?” We didn’t have to wait long for an answer. Despite a horrible showing at the 2003 French Open (a straight sets loss to---Louis Horna?), Roger began to gear up for Wimbledon. He won the tune up event, the Gerry Weber Open, by destroying the man who beat him in the championship the previous year, Nicolas Kiefer, 6-1, 6-3. At Wimbledon, Roger tore through the field giving up only one set to Mardy Fish before his showdown with Andy Roddick in the semi-finals. The tennis world was eager to see how this match between the huge hitting American and the flashy Swiss would turn out. I pushed patriotism aside and watched enthralled as Roger put on an exhibition of tennis that many people had never seen before on the biggest stage in the sport. His crushing topspin forehands from no-man’s land made even Roddick grin in disbelief. The final against Mark Philippoussis was a foregone conclusion.
    Often times a great player will need a big victory to convince themselves they are the best in the business and the floodgates open for more victories. The Wimbledon victory was not it for Roger. Sure it was his first major, but it was followed by more lackluster performances. The rest of the season was somewhat of a disappointment, and as the top eight players gathered again in Shanghai for the Tennis Masters Cup, the odds makers favorite going in were Andy Roddick (8-5), followed by Juan Carlos Ferrero (3-1). The sentimental favorite was Andre Agassi. But Federer plowed through the field losing only a single set in his first match with Andre Agassi, then redeemed himself with a straight set victory over Andre in the final, even throwing in a rare bagel against Andre in the second set. Roger’s dominance became apparent with the victory, and as 2004 began, everyone expected great things from the Swiss. He didn’t disappoint, finishing with a 70-4 record and all the slams save Roland Garros. The rest, as they say, is history. Roger’s bandwagon grew and he was no longer “my” discovery.
    Life is full of pivotal moments, most of which are discovered only retrospectively. I often wonder how things would be had I not been channel-surfing that night, had I not seen Roger Federer demonstrate the beauty of the modern game of tennis. I can only assume that I would be a middle-aged, overweight, chain-smoking couch potato---not the reigning 3.5 round robin doubles champion of Scottsdale Ranch Park.
     
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  2. RiosTheGenius

    RiosTheGenius Hall of Fame

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    very touching man.... got tissues ?? :sad:
     
    #2
  3. sunrise

    sunrise Rookie

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    what an inspiring story. I found him too just before you did and knew that he had some magical aura with his game. Usually, I am always for the underdogs and perhaps I fall in love with his game when he was an underdog. I stll root for the underdogs, unless Roger is on the side of the net.

    I am glad to hear that he somehow inspired. you and changed your lifestyle for the better. On a lighter note, you should try writing short stories, your writing style is really captivating.
     
    #3
  4. tennisadict

    tennisadict Semi-Pro

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    welcome to the game
     
    #4
  5. edberg505

    edberg505 Legend

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    This is quite possibly the best post I have ever read here on this forum. Thanks for sharing. I actually had decided not to return to this forum do to certain things said about one of my post and a post that I've read that somewhat upset me; but I thought to myself let me just stop by the forum just for a look and a I see a person put up a very good and sagacious post and I just had to respond. It's just too bad there aren't more people like this posting. So, in closing I'm glad things worked out for you and hope you continue to increase your rating. This will be my last post for quite some time. Thanks for the read. I enjoyed it. Good Luck. Ciao
     
    #5
  6. sandiegotennisboy

    sandiegotennisboy Banned

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    nice story dude. they dont lie when they say that his game is inspiring. his game is beautiful.
     
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  7. jamauss

    jamauss Hall of Fame

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    Now this is what I joined the forum for. Thanks for that post.
     
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  8. raftermania

    raftermania Banned

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    My goodness, most heart-warming, humanistic post I've ever read. This is what dreams are made of? Good on you irishbanger.

    Keep it up man, you are capable of more than you may believe.
     
    #8
  9. Ivanišević

    Ivanišević Rookie

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    "who the heck even knew they played tennis in
    Switzerland?"
    oh god...
     
    #9
  10. DX_Psycho

    DX_Psycho Semi-Pro

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    that was a good read. i think ti would have been easier if you put a few more indents, but it ried to read it all.
     
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  11. ShooterMcMarco

    ShooterMcMarco Hall of Fame

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    Thats a great story, thanks for sharing.
     
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  12. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

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    Great story!! Glad to hear you're enjoying the game! I hope you've also been able to stop smoking as well? Good luck and continue to enjoy the game!

    (BTW, one small correction, the 2003 Master's Cup was held in Houston, not Shanghai.)
     
    #12
  13. BLiND

    BLiND Hall of Fame

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    Great post, appart from the fact I am 28, I had a similar experience, though it was just with Tennis in general, not just one player.

    Would love to hear how your comming along more?
     
    #13
  14. Breaker

    Breaker Legend

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    *Claps* that story was beautiful, tears are welling up right now.
     
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  15. superman1

    superman1 Legend

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    Great story. Also nice to hear Federer's rise from being a talented kid who couldn't fill his potential to being, well, Federer.
     
    #15
  16. juu

    juu New User

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    Excellent story. Reminded me slighty of "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson.
     
    #16
  17. whistleway

    whistleway Semi-Pro

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    you tell a great story, irishbanger. thanks for sharing and good on ya !!
     
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  18. diegaa

    diegaa Hall of Fame

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    Very touchy post irish. Nice, a total non-wasted time.
     
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  19. MR. 81

    MR. 81 Rookie

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    Good story ;)

    Now do yourself another favor and try to give up smoking, that would be huge. Anyway, congrats
     
    #19
  20. simi

    simi Hall of Fame

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    Nice story, irishbanger. Thanks for taking the time to write it up. As another doubles "lover", I would be honored to have the chance to play as your partner some day.
     
    #20
  21. Skppr05

    Skppr05 Semi-Pro

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    wow, coool story, glad you pulled yourself out of the wreck!
     
    #21
  22. TW Staff

    TW Staff Administrator

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    Thanks for the inspiring story, irishbanger. This is a keeper! Don/Tennis Warehouse
     
    #22
  23. akj27

    akj27 Banned

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    Why did 90% of the posts get deleted?
     
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  24. Grigollif1

    Grigollif1 Semi-Pro

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    Great Job TW Moderator.. Really apropriate to keep those kinds of Trainwrecks that have nothing to do with the thread out of here..
     
    #24
  25. TennisWooh

    TennisWooh Rookie

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    Great read... thanks for posting it. =)
    Perfect story to read just before I head out to the tennis courts to play. Thanks.
     
    #25
  26. ibemadskillzz

    ibemadskillzz Semi-Pro

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    this should be in the hall of fame of posts. now I am inspired to do more, i will become better than before.
     
    #26
  27. Jonnyf

    Jonnyf Legend

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    Great inspiring story man
     
    #27
  28. Fee

    Fee Legend

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    Irishbanger, thank you for sharing your story, it is very touching and inspiring.

    I hope nobody minds if I share mine, which is similar, but it features a player that some of you hate with a passion. I'll keep it brief as I can...

    I have been a 'casual' tennis fans for years, mostly managing to only find Wimbledon and the USOpen on TV during the summer. I have vague memories of Borg and Mac on grass, Tracy Austin in her pink dress in New York and a few Martina-Chrissy battles of the past. I played on my high school team for a year (JV only) but gave it up because I couldn't afford private lessons. I watched Pete win his first USO on TV and tried to follow him as best as I could (he looked a lot like my oldest brother), but due to life and other interests my attention faded in and out over the decade and my racquet collected dust. Around 1996 I started watching again, and the internet helped me to keep track throughout the year, but I was mainly interested in watching Pete (if he wasn't playing, I didn't watch. I missed a lot of good tennis).

    I graduated from college in 1998, got a full time job, and proceeded to gain weight (all those lunches in the office cafeteria). I was still watching tennis, especially Pete, who made it look like a form of art in my eyes. Until one day in 2001 when he got beat by this kid from Florida at the Miami Masters. Who is this brat that dared to beat Pete? Two months later that same kid was on my TV again, falling all over the place on red clay, looking like Pigpen from the Peanuts comic strip. He beat Michael Chang! Wow, he has no respect for these legends, does he? Two days later, he was rolling around again, trying to play a match against Hewitt despite being in obvious pain, with his coach waving frantically for him to get off the court... Fast forward to early 2002, the Aus Open, and I am avidly following this kid, looking for his matches, his stats, any info about him. I thought he was exciting, he played tennis like a train wreck, emotions all over the place. And he was rolling around on court again, but this time he twisted his ankle and had to pull out of another match. I found his official website and discovered that he would be playing in San Jose, which isn't too far away. I went to the tournament website to buy tickets, but clicked on the volunteer link instead. My first tournament ever, not only would I see some professional tennis, but I have the opportunity to meet some players and tennis people. Cool.

    I drove that kid after he lost his semi-final match to Andre Agassi. He said he should send Andre a check for the tutoring session because he sure taught him a lesson in that match. He was nice enough to talk to his driver during that short trip, make a few jokes, etc. Seemed like a good kid, raised well by his parents. Complete contrast to the other player I met at that tournament (an older American player, rude jerk from New Jersey). Pete Sampras made tennis look like an art form that us mere mortals could never achieve. Andy Roddick made tennis look like a crazy, fun, physical workout that just about anyone could throw their body into. A few weeks later when the weather was nice, I dug my racquet out of the closet and headed up to our community courts to check out the club and take lessons. I met really cool tennis players in my city, I met cool tennis fans on various internet message boards, and I lost weight. I went to more tournaments and met more players and more fans, many of whom have become friends (including that one player from New Jersey who has matured and changed from the rude guy I met in 2002).

    So, thank you Andy Roddick. Now get your head together, and stop standing nine feet behind the baseline please. :)
     
    #28
  29. Rickson

    Rickson G.O.A.T.

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    IB, good read. I'm glad you quit the smokes and you play much better now. You did quit the smokes for good, didn't you?
     
    #29
  30. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

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    So Fee, does Justin know what you used to think of him? ;)
     
    #30
  31. irishbanger

    irishbanger Rookie

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    Thanks to everyone for their kind posts! It's always "iffy" to bear your soul in public, but like the great sport we love, tennis is full of outstanding individuals. Just an addendum: Yes, I quit smoking! I became a "racket head" the more I got into the sport, and I really wanted the new Prince racket that was currently being hyped. At $200 a pop, the wife OK'd the purchase of a couple so long as I quit smoking. The day the UPS man delivered my rackets from Tennis Warehouse I stubbed my last cigarette out on my garage floor and never looked back. Quitting was easy because I was motivated.
    Alas, I still carry a 3.5 rating (on my headstone I want etched "HERE LIES A 3.5"). Now that I'm pushing 50, I've accepted the fact that there is only so much improvement to be accomplished, but thankfully I have reached a point in my life where I just enjoy the game. Besides, the guys I watch play at my club at the higher levels don't seem to have as much fun as we "bottom-feeders". Nagging injuries that force you off the court for short periods don't help either.
    Reading other folks "testimonies" on the thread proves that tennis can and has done so much for people. I'm sure there is not a person on this forum that can't give examples of how the sport has benefitted their lives. How one can drive past a city park and see empty tennis courts, especially with obesity so prevelant in our society, is one of life's great mysteries.
     
    #31
  32. Rickson

    Rickson G.O.A.T.

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    Excellent! I'm on day 31 right now and although tennis wasn't my sole inspiration for quitting, it's definitely a part of it. People like quitters in this case.
     
    #32
  33. sinoslav

    sinoslav Rookie

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    what a great story!!! Thank you for sharing it with us.
     
    #33
  34. VolklVenom

    VolklVenom Semi-Pro

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    i had a similar experience, whereby the Safin v Hewitt AO final inspired me to take up tennis.
    This was one of the greatest matches i've ever seen, and definitely a pivotal point.
     
    #34
  35. Cyclops

    Cyclops New User

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    Congrats

    Good for you Irishbanger. :p
    Long may it last.
     
    #35
  36. BabolatFan

    BabolatFan Semi-Pro

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    This is very fantastic. Thank you for sharing your touching story.
     
    #36
  37. Davai

    Davai Semi-Pro

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    I don't if these has been said before but that was a very easy story to read, no mistakes. Are you perhaps in the writing profession?
     
    #37
  38. Defcon

    Defcon Hall of Fame

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    This post should be made a sticky. Thank you for your inspiring words.

    We all like to post about our favorite players, do a little gloating and trash-talking, argue at length about the smallest of details concerning a players clothes, behaviour or quotes, but we shouldn't forget we are all fans of the sport. Your story serves as a perfect reminder why.
     
    #38
  39. TENNIS_IS_FUN

    TENNIS_IS_FUN Professional

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    STICKY! STICKY ! STICKY! nice story....although i read the same line about 3 times...
     
    #39
  40. jhhachamp

    jhhachamp Hall of Fame

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    Wow, great story, and extremely well written! You should write a book on Roger Federer when all is said and done, I bet you could easily sell it to publishers. I would definitely buy it!
     
    #40
  41. goober

    goober Legend

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    Did you ever play 3.5 singles IrishBanger? I may have played you. I had to play and win two leagues of 3.5 two years ago before they would let me move up.
     
    #41
  42. baseliner

    baseliner Professional

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    Great read. Now I need to watch TTC and get inspired to give up ice cream, lose weight... Enjoyed mightily!
     
    #42
  43. ksbh

    ksbh Banned

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    How sweet. Next, we'll hear how Fed & Nadal helped people enjoy better sex lives.

    Get over it! There's barely a day when there's no new thread about either of these players.
     
    #43
  44. omktid

    omktid New User

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    One of the best posts I have read at tt

    You should seriously consider submitting it to tennis week, tennis magazine
    or the USTA mag so that others can enjoy it. A very good read indeed.
     
    #44
  45. textbook strokes

    textbook strokes Semi-Pro

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    irish: i was considering golf after a really bad and illogical loss yesterday, but u reminded me my early passion, so i'm going to train harder and get fun.
    I'll get some action too.
     
    #45
  46. shroom

    shroom New User

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    Thanks for a great post - I really enjoyed it, irishbanger. Great parallel-ing of your personal journey with Federer's career. And bravo for stopping smoking. Fee's post was great-reading too. I'd love to read more personal posts like these.
     
    #46
  47. Frodo Baggins

    Frodo Baggins Semi-Pro

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    Srry for bring this up>. but Irishbanger I wanna tell you this> somthing important..send me an e-mail plzz Then we'll talk.
     
    #47
  48. nn

    nn Hall of Fame

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    Tennis is winner
     
    #48
  49. Fee

    Fee Legend

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    Yep. We actually talked about again while he was in Estoril recently. Funny how close we are now considering how I felt about him for the first year I knew him, but one day he looked me in the eye and apologized for being so rude the previous year and we've been friends ever since (redemption baby!) :)

    Irishbanger, to me this is the most touching and important part of your story. It's like a good swift kick of common sense. I've been thinking about your story and this thread since my last post here, and I just wanted to come back and thank you again for sharing it with us. You really should send it on to Federer (via his website or his agent at IMG), to Jon Wertheim perhaps, or to the USTA. It's good to be reminded that we don't always play tennis to be like Roger, we play to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. :)

    Or in my case, to hit something defenseless as hard as possible and not get in trouble for it... ;)

    TW, please sticky this thread for a little while.
     
    #49

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