by Jackie Roe, TW Social Director
Evening, everyone. I want to start by wishing TW and Deuce Club vet Beth a very happy birthday. Hope you’re livin’ it up, Beth!
After much back and forth, I’ve decided not to make my way to Cincinnati this year. Long story. But I hope everyone who attends has a wonderful time—and that we’ll get to hear all about it! (If you’re going and would like to connect with other TWibers there, let me know and I’ll put you in contact with one another. I already have a few names.)
Speaking of TWibers attending tournaments, CL—our All About Me superstar last Friday—was in Montreal earlier this week and wrote up some terrific reports detailing her experiences there. She posted a couple of them in the CC thread, but lucky for us, she kept her favorite on hold ‘til now so that we could showcase it in the DC. And here it is:
Montreal: Roger and Me. And all those other people.
So after the Muzz match on Tuesday, which was over SO quickly, I left Mr. CL in the cozy confines of the lounge and went in search of what was to be my only Federer moment. The schedule had it that he would be practicing at an outer court at 4, so around 3:45 I headed out that way.
The first thing that happened was nearly being run over by a golf cart bearing la Monf's hair. I mean, I am sure the rest of Gael was there too, but honestly, as the cart nudged my foot as it whizzed past, mostly I just saw hair.
I found myself standing with some Federfans near court 8 as 4pm came and went. The crowd grew and grew in size. A couple of people I didn't recognize waited in the court. Looked like a coach and a youngish player.
4:30 came and went. The Fed fans were friendly and full of information . . . some of which turned out to be less than correct. I wondered if PA was in watching the Popsical/Chela match from whence Fed's opponent would spring.
Still the faithful Fed fans, including yours truly, waited. The mood of those waiting reminded me of nothing so much as fans who await a diva or famous conductor outside a stage door. Part celebrity seeking, part autograph hunting and part something harder to define. As if they think that by just getting close, they will somehow gain by osmosis what it is they most admire about their hero . . . or what it is they most NEED.
When the golf cart finally arrived and Roger and PA dismounted there was a HUGE cheer and lots of cries of, “We Love you Roger!” and "You're the Greatest Of All Time, Roger!" (Apparently they were unaware of my strict “no GOAT herding” rules.) They surged forward against the metal fencing that separated them from the court and the pathway.
Roger kept his head down and just gave a small smile, a brief wave and a “hi guys”—which seems to be his all-purpose greeting. This court, I should point out has, not just a fence around it, but mesh on top of that, so I wasn't sure how well I could see from where I was. By the time I had thought to go back to the alleyway where I had been able to see the court from the side, it was solid people and even someone as tall and pushy as I would have had an even worse view. So I stayed where I was and actually had a pretty good view despite the fencing.
Roger played at my end the whole time. He looks, dare I say it, surprisingly like a human being. Not a god or even a demi god. Just a medium tall, lithe, reasonably good looking, young, (yes, young!), man. The broad shoulders are quite striking of course, and though his A may not be as famous as that of others, it’s not too shabby either.
He and his mystery partner started out just rallying and despite the young woman near me who kept cooing, "He is TOTAL perfection," Roger managed to hit the first 5 balls or so directly into the net. Lol. Finally he got into the “swing” of things, as it were, and the exchanges became crisper and harder hit. They went through the usual warm up drills and I would say they were hitting at about 3/4 power for the most part. A couple of times, though, especially on his FH, Roger would open his shoulders and really crank one—probably still only at about 90%—but you could get an idea of the power and racquet head speed he generates. Those moments were truly jaw-dropping.
And, dammit, the man IS graceful. It’s not his “fault.” He can't help it. When they were exchanging volleys at the net and Roger had to stretch/leap for a high forehand volley his form would have made Balanchine applaud. The line of his body, the angle of his balance arm, the position of his head . . . that actually WAS perfect. And also, he IS quiet. I was very close and heard not a grunt or a foot fall, except on a couple of wide FHs gets, when his sneakers squeaked to a halt and turn. He does, however, definitely, positively, absolutely, sweat.
Every once in a while during this light work out, they would all stop and sit down for a bit. And here is where it got a little weird. Everyone in the crowd would just STARE at Roger as he sat there. Several times I watched them watch him and there was that sense of “need” again. They didn't talk to each other, they just continued to stare. As if they were waiting for him to do or say SOMETHING. What, I am sure none of them could say. And I'm sure he doesn't know either.
After about a half hour of just hitting, they played a few games, about 4. Then it started to spit a little rain and either because of that or just because they were done, they packed up. For a while, Roger just sat, staring at his racquet on the ground. What with the fence and all, it was impossible to see his expression, but his body language was that of a man about to head toward his last chore of the day and not feeling very enthusiastic about it. And it did occur to me that it may not just be 30 ans weighing Roger down, and not just expectations either (I am sure he continues to have high expectations for himself and is comfortable with fans' expectations as well). But that larger sense of his fans’ needs, that he cannot possibly fulfill, is perhaps, at this stage in his career, the most uncomfortable baggage of all. It is ridiculous to feel sorry for a man making a ton of money doing something he loves and who seems to have a loving and supportive family, but for a moment there I did feel a little sorry for him. He looked . . . not tired . . . but, somehow, weary.
Finally, he stood and gathered himself. He left the court and came over to the fence and started to sign autographs and say hi to people. He was VERY patient—signing caps and shirts and programs and tickets and all manner of stuff. People were breaking out into random, tuneless, unsynced versions of “Happy Birthday.” And everyone was yelling his praises: "We love you!" "You're the Best EVER!" "Thank you Roger!" "You are the greatest!" It was all getting a little too “sweet cream”-y for me, so just for the sake of some astringency, when there was a pause in the Federflove flow, I said, "Roger, you are not going to get very far in this game if you don't practice harder than that." I was rewarded with scowls from those nearby who heard me. Jeejee. And MAYBE with just a slightly raised eyebrow from Federer himself, who knows a wise acre when he hears one, even in English. Though it was hard to tell . . . I may just be imagining that last bit.
The crowd got more and more intense, pushing harder and harder, and at one point, Roger just disappeared into a forest of hands holding cameras and pens and things for him to sign and then he really did just disappear. He and his magic golf cart went *poof* and were gone.
I don't mean to make this report a downer. It was lovely too see him strike the ball, even through a fence darkly, and when he was signing autographs he did smile often and seem to enjoy connecting with people. And I, of course, was excited just to have seen him. But I did leave with this nagging counterintuitive feeling that being a multi-millionaire athlete superstar surrounded by adoring fans is not always a 100% positive experience.
But thanks Roger. Thanks for everything.
CL & Her Tens, Over and Out
Awesome write-up, CL! Totally felt like I was there. And great photos, as well. Thank you for sharing all of this with us!
TWibe, feel free to use this thread as your new CC. Have a nice weekend!