What Zidane Tells Us About Federer

Ed_smith Ed Smith in The Liberal:

WHAT is the ultimate quality in a sportsman? Is it athleticism or       skill? Maybe it is courage, self-belief or the ability to seize the          moment? Perhaps there is something greater still that sets apart the very best: the ability to create the illusion of complicity. Great    players, at their peak, sometimes exert such a mastery over opponents that they appear complicit. They reduce usually aggressive competitors to seeming like mere accomplices; the great man is the puppet-master, the feisty opponent just a puppet. Simon Barnes, in his insightful new book The Meaning of Sport, calls this gift ‘Federer’, in honour of the elegant Swiss tennis genius.

For an intimate study of ‘Federer’ at work, watch the film Zidane – a 21st Century Portrait. I had approached the film with some trepidation as I didn’t expect to be much bothered about a real-time replay of the match between Real Madrid and Villarreal on 23rd April 2005.

How wrong I was. It is the best insight into the mind and movement of a great sportsman I have ever experienced in any medium. Seventeen synchronized cameras focused exclusively on Zidane throughout the match. The film, which follows the first kick to the last, takes us not only onto the pitch, but also into the imaginative world of a great player in the final chapter of his career.