"Roger” is how my mother referred to him, like a neighbor, or a co-worker she met for coffee every day at the hospital cafeteria. This Roger, though, was less than half my mother’s age, didn’t have to work another day in his life, and was drinking coffee made from the finest beans—brewed in a sleek machine he was being paid to endorse.
Nevertheless, as I headed out for two weeks of writing, working and watching tennis at the US Open, my mother left me with these words: “You’ve got to ask Roger for a picture!”
The fact that Roger was already a household name in upstate New York was no small feat for a tennis player from Switzerland. But by the 2007 US Open, where Roger would be trying to win his 11th major title in four years, there were few more recognizable first names in all of sports.
It was a significant event for me as well. This was the first tournament I would be credentialed for, and not just as a writer. That would be my day job; at night, I would preside over the media section of Arthur Ashe Stadium as a seat marshal, kicking trespassers out of the choice courtside seats.
The hours were long: in by 9:30 a.m., out by 10:30 p.m., at the earliest. I was working harder than I did at my real job as an insurance underwriter. But I savored the opportunity. In particular, I loved watching Roger up close. I’d been a fan of his for years, but had never seen his opulent game in person.
It was worth the wait: there, one evening, was Roger, walking onto the court in jet black from headband to toe guard, with John Williams’ Star Wars theme pulsing through the stadium. If Roger was Darth Vader, Paul Capdeville, his second-round opponent, was no more than a Rebel Trooper.
The climactic battle scene came three rounds later: Roger, the top seed, against Andy Roddick, the top American. The two leads elicited the best from each other, and constant cheer from the fans. For two sets, it was Peak Roddick—which only meant that it was answered by Peak Roger. As with most of his matches in 2007, Roger won in straight sets.