The man lazily lumbered into the locker room. His ever thinning hairline and gruff beard, a far cry from the shock of oil black hair and clean shave he sported in his prime. Pistol… they called him then. Legend, is what he usually goes by these days. He stood in front of a declining king – his heir, his successor – whose head was drooped low in disappointment. If Pistol was a legend, this one… this one had truly been special. He went by many names: Maestro, Genius, The Greatest, Icon. They were all befitting. They had all been argued against. There was however one name that could not be argued against and it is the name we shall use in this story. THE FED.
Pistol: “What is your fascination with the number, 17?”
The Fed: “I don’t understand.”
Pistol: “17 grand slam titles… 17 years of consecutive grand slam appearances…”
The Fed: “Well technically we only just started the 17th year. If my back had held up till the U.S Open…”
Pistol: “Semantics. Semantics. Do you always have to be so accurate?”
The Fed shrugged and managed a wry smile. He always had a way of taming his emotions even when they threatened to ripple through the surface. It hadn’t always been that way. The boy before the man had been a firestorm. That boy eventually grew up. Many have accused that control as being a carefully built facade… a key pillar to the image he had built over the years. It indeed was a preposterous claim. How could it be a facade, when the decision to imbibe control came at a time when the Champion had not been born… came… after lessons were learned from a life changing event. The death of a mentor in South Africa.
The Fed: “I’m Swiss. I suppose it is innate.”
Pistol rubbed his scruffy beard and sat down beside his successor.
Pistol: “Is winning still innate?”
The Fed: “The mind wants to… but the body… the back…”
Pistol: “I had back issues too remember? 1999?”
The Fed: “I know. I just think I need time to recover.”
Pistol: “To recover, or to make that decision?”
The silence in the room was as deafening as that moment on Wimbledon Center Court right before both these greats served out a Championship Point. The Fed silently looked at his predecessor.
Pistol: “There it is… there’s the fire I was looking for.”
The Fed: “Like I said, ‘the mind wants to.'”
Pistol: “The body holds no opinion where the mind has truly made a decision… you know this. Your main rival… knows this.”
The Fed: “The Matador.”
Pistol: “Yes. How many times has he come back, willing broken body along until he finally caught up to me? Listen, if you walk away now nobody will blame you. Nobody will accuse you. Not after what you have given the sport. Not after 65 consecutive grand slam appearances. However, some will attempt to taint you… re-brand your legend. Broods and brigands, all of them. They will come after you and your loved ones. They came after my wife as the reason for my decline when all knew the truth. Time was slowly sapping me of my energy.”
The Fed: “What did you do then?”
The Pistol leaned in slowly, a small smirk on his face. It was a familiar smirk. In no way was it malicious, and in every way was it competitive. It was that slight upturn of the lips right before he delivered the scorching comets that earned him his timeless moniker. Those deliveries had always been statements of intent that sent primal fear running down the veins of lesser men and champions alike. It was clear he was about to make a statement now.
Pistol: “I defied time one last time.”
The Pistol looked The Fed directly in the eyes, before getting up and adjusting his suit.
Pistol: “Remind them of who you are. I’ll be watching.”
He walked noiselessly out of the locker room, the door closing behind him with a click as loud as a detonation. The hibernation had begun.