The thing with Federer is that he’s Mozart and Metallica at the same time, and the harmony’s somehow exquisite.
☛ The New York Times: “Federer as Religious Experience” by David Foster Wallace, Note 17, August 20, 2006
This text has recently been called the “definitive story on Roger Federer”. I don’t know if it’s definitive¹, but it’s really a very interesting piece to read. It’s an enthusiastic and detailed account of the game Roger Federer played against Raphael Nadal during the 2006 Wimbledon Championship:
This Wimbledon final’s got the revenge narrative, the king-versus-regicide dynamic, the stark character contrasts. It’s the passionate machismo of southern Europe versus the intricate clinical artistry of the north. Apollo and Dionysus. Scalpel and cleaver. Righty and southpaw. Nos. 1 and 2 in the world. Nadal, the man who’s taken the modern power-baseline game just as far as it goes, versus a man who’s transfigured that modern game, whose precision and variety are as big a deal as his pace and foot-speed, but who may be peculiarly vulnerable to, or psyched out by, that first man. A British sportswriter, exulting with his mates in the press section, says, twice, “It’s going to be a war.”
I especially liked what he wrote about watching tennis on TV (I myself never watched a live match):
— and the truth is that TV tennis is to live tennis pretty much as video porn is to the felt reality of human love.
That’s not the only text David Foster Wallace wrote about tennis. Here are three more, all available online, in chronological order of publication:
- Harler’s Magazine: “Tennis, trigonometry, tornadoes: A Midwestern boyhood”, December 1991, pp. 68-78. PDF.
- Esquire: “The String Theory”, July 1996 issue.
- The New York Times: “Democracy and Commerce at the US Open”, August 25, 1996, p. UO16. PDF. [UPDATE–Sept. 13, 2012] See also at Cultural Compass: “Editor recounts working with David Foster Wallace on 1996 U.S. Open piece”, by Jennifer Tisdale, August 27, 2012.
¹ It’s not definitive in the sense that Federer’s career isn’t over yet. Just last Saturday, Federer lost his semifinal match to Djokovic. Nick Paumgarten offers an analysis of this particular defeat on The Sporting Scene, The New Yorker‘s blog dedicated to sports. ↪