I am still grieving Roger Federer’s loss to Novak Djokovic in the men’s Wimbledon final yesterday. And sore over the fact that my local newspaper NEVER sees fit to put the Wimbledon winners as the lead story on the front page of the Sports section, every year, even in non-World Cup years. The story is always on the side margin; this year it’s at the very bottom, below a giant shot of the Los Angeles Cuban misfit Dodger Yasiel Puig (apologies, he’s a good player, but it’s true) and a story about the All-Star Game. If you watched the 5 set match, wherein 2 of the 5 sets were forced to tiebreaker, and the overwhelming percentage of games was won on service (that is, the serving player always won their service game so that the match was even EXCEPT when Roger came back from a 2-5 deficit in the 4th set and broke service 3 times to win that set . . . which is outrageously amazing), you would agree that it was a historic display of elite athletic talent. What’s more, both players are consummate sportsmen, gracious whether winning or losing. Why tennis doesn’t get the media love it deserves is beyond me. Then there’s Roger, who’s classy, stylish, handsome and in my opinion the greatest men’s tennis player of all time. Not fair not fair!!!
I may be partial due to the fact that I dedicated about half of my waking hours to playing competitive tennis from age 8 through college, but I’ve only been a rabid fan once before this, for Steffi Graf, who, similar to Roger in his dominating years, decimated her opponents with the most athletic and beastly forehand ever. She was a great, great champion. It used to be a very solemn time in our household when she was playing in a major final or semifinal . . . I was not keen to talking, listening, or doing anything but rooting for Steffi. And man did I get nervous, just like yesterday. For a while I noticed that when I stood up and talked really loudly at the TV, Roger won more points, and it alleviated my nerves. But as you may know, in the end Novak pulled his second Wimbledon title off and Roger went home denied of what would have been a historic 8th Wimbledon title (only Pete Sampras has as many Wimbledon trophies — 7).
The trophy presentation was so moving, with Novak first acknowledging Roger, then dedicating his trophy to his fiancé and their soon to be born baby; his team; his family; and, his recently deceased first coach. No dry eyes at Centre Court or in our TV room.
I have lots of good memories of tennis, but boy do I not miss the competing, the nerves, the grueling practices and training, the travel (actually, my Mom is the one who ought to be saying this, as she is the one who drove me all over California for tournaments every weekend), and the scarce social life until about age 17. My mom introduced me to tennis at age 8 and it was a perfect vehicle for a budding OCD perfectionist and bullheaded competitor with a bit of athletic capability. Maybe more on that, later.
So I dedicate this dish to Roger Federer. I made a potato Rösti that I served with braised kale, a sausage patty, and a duck egg. I’m including the recipe for just the Rösti, which you can also make with sweet potatoes if you don’t eat potato. I hope to see him in the finals at the US Open later this summer, and back at Wimbledon next year. Go Roger!
Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main course
1. Parboil the potatoes in salted water until just tender, but not soft. Allow to cool, and chill for at least a couple of hours.
2. Coarsely grate the potatoes and season. Heat half the fat in a small, heavy-based frying pan until sizzling, and then add the grated potato, allow to cook for a couple of minutes and then shape it into a flat cake, pressing down as lightly as possible. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes, then gently shake the pan to loosen the potato.
3. Continue to cook for about 10 minutes until golden and crisp, then place a plate on top of the pan and invert it so the cake sits, cooked-side up, on the plate.
4. Add the rest of the butter and goose fat to the pan and, when hot, slide the potato cake back into the pan the other way up. Cook for another 10 minutes, then serve.