Roger Federer, Wimbledon 2011
Seeing you float, suspended, weightless, just
above this patch of South West London turf
for what might well be one last time, I bring to mind
past champions: names from my childhood – Laver,
Emerson, and Hoad; contemporaries
of mine – Borg, Connors, McEnroe; then those
who followed them – Sampras, Agassi, Becker;
careers long over now. And as I think of them,
I watch you, young enough to be my son,
retreat as if on rails, and rip a forehand
you never would have missed three years ago
a millimetre wide . . .
You win. Without the ease you would have then.
And as you leave the court, I wonder how,
when we look back on this, you will be rated,
not just as a player of games, but a maker of beauty.
Not, of course, with Shakespeare, Rembrandt, Bach.
But Larkin? Hockney? Baryshnikov? Who,
in the accountancy of the sublime,
will we reckon more in credit, calculate
to have astounded us more often with
the capacity of our kind, given
us more cause to stretch our eyes,
and laugh in disbelief?
Impossible to say. But this I know:
that if I should be here in 20 years,
I’ll still see, as clearly as I have today,
your feet flicker above a scuffed white line,
your soft racket snake around your body,
your annihilating flow.