It doesn’t happen with everybody; rare is this phenomenon. That every time I come across your name, a surge of hope washes me over is unique to you, for me; for I have loved very few people which such reverence, even fewer, for this long. It is almost ten years since I first came across you, as a young challenger to the apple-of-everyone’s-eyes, Roger Federer when you stamped your arrival with a stupendous run at Roland Garros, your debut at the tourney. While the sports world went berserk, understandably so, you were a picture of incredibly-plain-but-certainly-not-commonplace equanimity. An element so earthy, so unreal, for a guy, all of 19, to handle all the attention of the world with such disarming humility and effusive charm. What, of course, bound me to you for the succeeding 10 years (and another 10 years hence too) was not your astounding haul of 14 Grand Slam titles, 28 Master Titles and innumerable other mind-boggling records but your consistency – consistency at being the nervous boy who won his debut grand slam, consistency at being the industrious boy who attained global fame for the first time, consistency at being the hopeful boy who played on the international level for the first time, consistency at being the modest boy who took the sweet barrage of questions on his first big victory.

You haven’t changed and that is the singularly beautiful reason to love you. You have remained a fighter despite the odds. You have remained rooted despite the fame. You have preserved your smile despite the pain. You have extended your hand despite the distance.  You have deleted the word ‘quit’ from your dictionary. You have injected the serum ‘hope’ in your veins. There is so much to learn from you and yet you never stop learning.

So dear Rafa, I have told this many times…and I can say this a thousand times more: I Love You! I will be forever your fan, your admirer, your extended clan, your friend. As you add 365 days to your rich life, I wish all the goodness to multiply 365 times and come beseeching you like a calming shower on a summer evening. May you always have a reason to smile, wherever you are, in whatever you do. Stay blessed!

Feliz Cumpleaños! 🙂

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