Djokovic v Federer: Rod Laver Arena teaches a lesson in fandom

“Just married but willing to exchange for Federer” – read the sign. At the Rod Laver Arena when Novak Djokovic was pummeling Roger Federer, a young lady in the stands held up her message for the world number three.

The first semi-final of the 2016 Australian Open was a one-sided affair. The Serbian number one blasted away his forehands to ask questions that Roger Federer had no answers to. The Swiss maestro attacked from the word ‘go’ and brought the wrath of the Serbinator upon him. Djokovic tore Federer apart in all possible ways. So much so, that the Federer fans were put on their knees asking for mercy. A tweet read –

But the Djoker wasn’t in the mood for any mercy. He was on a mission. He was committed to destroying Federer, he wanted to decimate his following. During the first two sets, he didn’t only attack Federer’s back hand, he put his legacy on the ropes and smashed the wind out of his entire fandom. As the tweets of disbelief poured in, the unforced errors mounted and the always-in-control persona of Federer looked shaken, just a bit, but definitely shaken.

Shane Warne couldn’t believe it.

On the couch in Melbourne watching the tennis, but can’t believe what I’m seeing 6/1,6/2 Roger is down & in an hour, wow Djokovic on fire

— Shane Warne (@ShaneWarne) January 28, 2016

Neither could Steve Smith.

The Fed is on his way back. Come on Roger. #7tennis  #AustralianOpen pic.twitter.com/zGhMxIPX5M

— Steve Smith (@stevesmith49) January 28, 2016

VVS Laxman and Harsha Bhogle were on the edge of their seats.

C’mon @rogerfederer #australianopen

— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) January 28, 2016

However, they all had one thing in common — their support for Roger Federer.

6-1, 6-2 – Djokovic went Ivan Drago on Federer and it was almost done under an hour. But it wasn’t done. The maestro was hanging on by the skin of his teeth and his existence in the game was as minuscule as the hawk eye confirmations — 99% OUT, 1% IN. He was battered, knocked up and bleeding profusely. Even Mrs. Federer chose to look away.

Then, team Federer stepped in. If Djokovic showcased a unique display of strategy, power, and excellence on the court, the Federer fans took it upon themselves to paint their own masterpiece in the stands. As the players sat down after the second set, the Rod Laver Arena woke up. Chants of “Roger, Roger” deafened Melbourne and suddenly, the whipping backhand return sprung back to life. The deft touches lightened up the court and the fist started pumping after winning every point. The serve and volley were back on track and the drop shot was schooling the Serbian champ.

2016 Australian Open - Day 11
Roger v Djoker – One sided both on and off-the-court!

That’s the thing about fans. They’re illogical and emotional, hence mad and it is their madness that keeps their hero going. It binds their team together and pushes them towards greater glory.

But being a fan is the stupidest act in the world. The only thing that’s assured in fandom is hurt. If you’re a fan, you will be disappointed for most parts of your life because neither your hero or your team will win every time. In fact, they will mostly falter inflicting pain and expose you to bitter banter. Your team might be the champions today; tomorrow they would be fighting relegation. Your hero might be the number one in the world today; tomorrow, he will fall to the new world beater.

But that never deters a true fan because winning was never the important part of the equation. The biggest thing is the connect. Federer winning 17 slams isn’t the reason for his massive fan following. Sachin Tendulkar isn’t the most revered cricketer because he scored 100 tons. Arsenal’s fandom isn’t because of one ‘Invincible’ season and neither will the Red Devils give in because of the failing philosophy of a stubborn Dutchman. True fans will always weather the storm matching every step of their heroes because they know being a part of something that’s uncontrollable has its own beauty.

Roger Federer didn’t win the game but he punched back. He threw the kitchen sink at Djokovic in the third and the fourth set because his fans shook him out of his slumber. The #Nolefam on Twitter was hurt and complained about how the world is unfair towards the Serb. It was unfair on Djokovic but the Fed-fans can’t forget the decade of entertainment their hero has spread through the world. Neither can they deny the dreams Federer has fulfilled for them. The Fed-fans chose a side way back in the early 2000s and when their hero was falling in front of their eyes, they didn’t have any other option but to scream the loudest.

Yes, the first semi-final of the 2016 Australian Open was a one-sided affair, off-the-court as well.

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