In a piece in this Sunday’s New York Times, Gerald Marzorati examined the “mob-loud and unruly” support Roger Federer enjoyed at the recent U.S. Open. To try to explain why the tennis star has such a passionate, devoted following among New Yorkers, Marzorati made a surprising comparison — Federer actually embodies the spirit of Frank O’Hara’s poetry:
Federer has been loved by New Yorkers for years, of course. Just ask Andy Roddick, who heard the cheers for Roger when, as America’s best tennis player, he faced him (and lost to him) in the Open final of 2006. Federer was urbane, and has grown only more so. During his stay in New York for the two weeks of this year’s Open, he ventured from his suite at the Carlyle to attend a performance of “Hamilton,” view “China: Through the Looking Glass” at the Met and eat sushi at Kappo Masa. His tennis self, too, has always been debonair and, just as crucial (and sophisticated), open to reinvention. With a racket in his right hand, Fed is the on-court embodiment of that free-verse epigram from Frank O’Hara, the ur-New York School poet of contemporary cultivation, etched for eternity on his East Hampton gravestone: “Grace/to be born and live as variously as possible.”
Marzorati casts Federer as something of a New York School poet himself — urbane, sophisticated, cosmopolitan, with a “tennis self” as protean as the ever-changeable selfhood O’Hara’s poetry presents.
I have to say, even though I’m a fan of both Federer and O’Hara, I didn’t see that one coming … but am definitely happy Marzorati made the connection.