Trying to catch Roger Federer match at GS tournament is similar to striking lottery – one has zero control on draw and scheduling. All you can do is pray for your good fortune and weather. Decidedly I bought tickets for both day and night session leaving to fate that I might be able to watch Roger on Sunday, August 31st.
Day before Sunday, I groaned to learn that Roger is scheduled to play 3rd match after 2 WTA matches. Knowing how long WTA matches can be, it doesn’t help when weather forecast indicate 61% chance of thunderstorm approximately 4pm. I arrived early at Flushing Meadows with hopes to catch Roger’s practice session at 1045am and 1115am. A big crowd was waiting patiently for Roger to appear for his practice session all with their cameras and phones ready. Other players – Serena, Venus and Berdych were going through their practice but crowd more interested in watching Roger. Come 1045am, no Roger in sight everyone started to get nervous. 20 minutes later there was a sudden cheer from the crowd then I knew he is finally here. Like a boss, he strolls into practice courts waving to the crowd. He was accompanied by his trainer, Edberg and Luthi. He went through his drills with Edberg looking relaxed. Then Stan the Man strolled to the next court for his practice session. 2 fellow Swiss side by side; I am melted into goo watching both men striking FHs, BHs, volleys and serves. What a way to start my day! After he completed his practice, he took time to sign autographs for his ‘adoring subjects’ – what a guy.
While waiting for Roger’s match, I walked around the grounds watching other matches and practice session. Thanks to fellow Roger fans, they advise me to get complimentary USO Radio; all I need to do was to produce my AMEX. Unlike other GS that I have attended, USO Radio offers podcast on results, interviews and commentary on match at Arthur Ashe. It’s a unique viewing/listening experience as though you are at the comforts of your home watching via TV. I enjoyed it very much.
As predicted Roger’s match could not begin without 2 long WTA matches – Errani vs Lucic-Baroni followed by Shrieka vs Wozniacki. Both matches went 3 sets with extended rallies, oh WTA. As Caro finishes her match, dark clouds starting to build over Flushing Meadows, weather forecast couldn’t be more accurate to predict thunderstorm bummer. I silently lament at USTA for dragging their feet to build roof at Arthur Ashe, should have started work 3 years but better late than never. Arthur Ashe will finally have a roof come 2017 almost same time as Roland Garros.
Under swirling winds and dark skies, Roger walked on court getting the loudest cheer. I was jumping out of my seat screaming loudly like a school girl with a huge crush. He is after all Roger Federer, how can one not cheer for him. My only grief, I was seated too high up and far away for my camera to zoom in. Nonetheless he is on court and that is all that matters. I made mental note to myself, if I am to catch Roger’s match again, I need to invest in good set of long distance lenses like paparazzi.
First set was weird, Roger looked like that he wasn’t keen to come on court. Granollers played aggressive imposing himself on Roger. Though a break down, I was awe in Roger’s shot motion and serves. During changeover at 5-2, tournament director walked towards both players and told them to pack them their bags. Within minutes, it was raining and thunders rolling sending people in the stadium scampering inside for safety. Everyone kept loitering along the corridor hoping for rain to stop and play to resume. Then suddenly announcement on scoreboard stating Day Session has been cancelled. Thank god for tweet feed and Jon’s chat room. Roger’s match resumed at 630pm pushing Dimitrov/Monfils match to Grandstand. Again I thank my lucky stars as I had tickets for night session at Arthur Ashe, better seats – closer to the court.
Play resumed with Roger holding at ease and he broke Granola Bar for 5-4. Half empty stadium is not something I would imagine for most of Roger’s matches; regardless there are tons of people shouting and rooting for Roger to level the score. His highness thought it was funny not able to hold serve at 5-4 and just like that Granola Bar took the 1st set. Honestly I was too busy admiring Roger in full flight especially first 10 minutes up close. I was switching between my mobile phone and camera taking pictures of Roger. Then I realized trying to take pictures of Roger playing will only ruin the entire experience of watching him with his magic Wilson wand. Tucking away my camera and phone, my eyes are glued to every stroke he plays, mouth forming O and squirming in my seat seeing how much high risk tennis he plays.
On to 2nd set, Roger upped his game and went full Godlike mode after saving 2 BPs. Watching him live is entirely different experience. Television does not do any justice to motion of his strokes and trajectory of his slices. They are inch perfect over the net and FH is like a liquid whip. He has such a relaxed serve motion; I seldom see anyone like him with that kind of serve except for maybe Pete Sampras. Just like that, Roger took 2nd set at 6-1. He remained godlike mode for the remaining 2 sets drawing a lot OOO from crowd with spectacular shots. One the best shot was insane get from Granola Bar drop volley. Only sad part, half empty stadium was present to witness that shot but nonetheless I was there to view LIVE.
I have watched him in EXHOs prior when he visited my country in 2007 and 2008, it’s a totally different when watching him in competition match especially in Grand Slam. No words can describe watching Roger live and playing godlike mode. I am just glad that I am able to watch him in this lifetime before he hangs up his racquet. I dread when that day comes, tennis will never be the same after his retirement. Roger has been great for tennis and sport. His matches almost guarantee sell-out tickets; he championed pay increase for early round losers. He takes time to talk to media, sign autograph for his fan what more can a tennis fan ask for. Through him, I made lot friends who share the same passion for Roger online and at USO. It’s a great privilege to call everyone at Perfect Tennis UK my friends and hope our friendship will continue to last.
As I write this final paragraph, Roger lost his semifinal match against Cilic. Though I am disappointed, I still have hope sometime in 2015 Roger will be able to get his 18th GS – BELI8VE.