Hey guys, those of you who enjoy reading Federer Fan Stories will be pleased to know just a couple of weeks after posting Alex's experience at Roland Garros I have another one 🙂 . This one comes from Ruchi who spent 4 days watching the GOAT in Halle. No more needed from me, take it away Ruchi…
“I've left a little bit of my heart there”
That's what Roger said in his interview after the Final at Halle. And that could very well express what I'm feeling right now. After spending 4 full days at Gerry Weber Open 2014, seeing 6 matches with Roger in it, seeing him lift the trophy, after meeting and talking to him… I'm in a serious state of withdrawal!!
Hello everybody! I'm Ruchi and I've been following Jonathan's fabulous blog for a few years now. Though I haven't commented or written before, believe me, you guys have supported me through Roger's ups and downs. Thanks a lot 🙂 .
I've been an avid fan of Roger for many years. I love his game, admire him tremendously as a person and as a role model. And I just love him for his extremely cute dorkiness!! It's been a dream of mine to see him play. I especially wanted to try in these last few years of his career, because there isn't so much time left. But you have to be lucky too. I missed him narrowly at US Open 2011. In 2012, the day before I was going to Rotterdam to see Roger play the semis, he lost in the quarters. At the 2013 Mutua Madrid Open, I managed to catch Roger's match with Nishikori, but he lost that too. So after reading Jonathan's post about his visit to the Halle tournament last year, I decided that I'm going to try my luck this year.
Driving down from Belgium, we reached the stadium on Thursday just in time to see Roger walk out for his match with Sousa. So that was pretty peRFect 🙂 . It was Roger's first match of the tournament on Centre Court, the crowd was just super-excited and happy to see him. In fact, that's one of the joys of seeing Roger play. The support for him is so palpable, and it's such a thrill to be able to add your voice to that roar which goes up in the stadium when he walks out!
Q: Were you nervous at the beginning considering that was one of the first finals in that atmosphere in this stadium or was it more of a motivation?
FALLA: What I see when I play Roger is how people love him when he walks on the court. It's just amazing how the crowd makes him feel. So, you feel that a little bit but when you start warming up…
I won't comment too much on the technical aspects of the game, Jonathan has already done that so well. But naturally, after my past attempts at Rotterdam & Madrid, seeing him losing the first set in the match with Sousa got me pretty worried. But I reckoned he was still getting used to the grass and the most important thing was that his body language was positive, you could see that he was ready to keep working at it. Sousa played a good match, considering that he was playing Roger Federer in Halle, but Roger was simply the better player. What I enjoyed a lot was seeing Roger hammer the overhead smashes – watching live, it's really great to see the power, speed and aggressiveness with which he attacks the ball! His serve in this game was also impeccable. Most of his service games were simply over before they began, which is always a pleasure for a (slightly nervous) RF fan! At the same time there were a lot of weak netted returns which made one cringe but in the end, he got the job done!
Next we rushed to Court 1 to get good seats for Roger's doubles match with Marco Chiudinelli. It's free seating there. So we positioned ourselves right in the front row, close to the entrance from which Roger was supposed to enter and leave (the best place to get an autograph!), thinking “Oh, we're so lucky”.. then they announced that the doubles would be played in Centre Court after all. Hah!
The doubles match was fun to watch, great rapport between Roger and Marco. Apparently, they've known each other since they were eight years old and that kind of shows in their relationship on court. I've watched his doubles with Stan as well on TV and the communication is definitely better between Roger and Marco.
And Marco Chiudinelli is certainly easy on the eye as well, heh heh! There was an autograph session with him on the grounds on Friday and I was just passing by. There weren't a lot of people there, so I kind of felt sorry for him and decided to ask him for an autograph 🙂 . Really friendly guy, I gave him a tennis ball to sign which we play with at home. So he asks “Did you get this from the court?” I said no, we're sitting too far to get anything and he says “Next time, shout louder, I might throw one to you.”..haha! I told him I planned to get a signature from Roger on the same ball, to which he laughed and said “That might be a bit trickier, but you should try after his match.” (After the final on Sunday, I did manage to get Roger's autograph on that same ball 🙂 . Now it's probably one of the very few balls out there with both their signatures on it!?!)
On Thursday evening, Dustin Brown's match with Nadal was certainly one of the highlights of the tournament. The crowd was really into it, roaring with approval with each flashy drop shot, lob and winner from Brown. Nadal looked totally out of sorts. Most of the points were over before he'd even moved. For a Federer fan, what better sight could there be? 🙂 Brown is great fun to watch, a real crowd-pleaser playing high-risk tennis, so I'm hoping he will do well at Wimbledon.
What a fabulous Thursday that was!! Next day, Roger got a walkover for his quarters match but to make his fans happy, played a short practice session with Christopher Kras. This was on Court 1 and it was full house! Roger in his bright yellow shorts was really relaxed and just having some fun. It was more of an exhibition than a serious practice. It was also Kras' birthday so the crowd sang for him. Afterwards, I think Roger spent as much time signing autographs as he spent playing!
I was a bit nervous about the match with Nishikori, after my experience in Madrid. But it was a quick and painless job in the end, thankfully! Roger always kept fighting and never really looked like he would lose this one. Of course, the funniest part was at the end. The crowd is on its feet, most people holding camera's aimed to capture the moment of victory, but Roger just walks back to the baseline! I remember watching his face during that point. He was waiting to see if the ball made it over the net, it didn't, he fist-pumped but kept on his game-face, he didn't look happy or anything. So I was kind of surprised because surely he should have raised his hands to celebrate at that point 🙂 . Just shows how focused and concentrated he is during each point! Well, it was nice to see Mirka actually laughing out loud at something.. she had such a grim poker face during the rest of the match.
After the added pleasure of watching the Fedinelli doubles victory over Brown/Struff, we went back on Sunday feeling really optimistic and looking forward to another day filled with more Fedtastic tennis! At least, he won the important match of the day 😀 . It was a tight match. Falla played so consistently throughout, it was just at the tiebreaks that Roger suddenly upped his game and his serve held up so well. He was moving really well and fast, looks like physically he's feeling good. But his game needs to be way better than it is now for him to get far at Wimbledon. Sunday felt a bit like a Swiss Davis Cup event with lots of Swiss flags and supporters there to see two of their players. The German crowd was all for Roger of course (they can't get enough of him in Halle!), so the atmosphere was great. The twins came out for the prize ceremony, but were looking rather sleepy and not very excited. Till Daddy looked their way and then they got pretty animated, showing him some drawings they seemed to have made for him . What a huge trophy that is, at one point Roger was massaging his arm jokingly after putting it down.
Some nice words from Falla:
Q: Before you joined Roger on the bench. What was the topic of the discussion?
FALLA: He was asking me, what I was going to play next. I told him I will drive to s'Hertogenbosch tonight and play there. He asked me who I play there and I told him I'll play Melzer in the first round. He was telling me he's going to Wimbledon, he's going to get some practice. He's just a very nice guy, he's an amazing player, he's an inspiration for every tennis player and not just for the tennis but for the kind of person he is.
And now for the thing that impressed me most about Roger: his amazing kindness, patience and obliging behaviour towards his fans! Every single day, he would finish his match (or matches), finish his press commitments and then come out and meet his fans. Every day, there would be a horde of people waiting patiently for him to come out. And it wasn't even as if it was just kids or young people. Once I was standing in about the third row and there was this couple in front of me who were probably in their seventies. Almost all the fans had something for Roger to sign or had their phones out for pictures, but this couple were just standing there and looking at him with this adoring expression on their faces, like they just wanted to see their favourite son 🙂 .
Roger would spend at least half an hour, signing all the caps, balls, pictures, shoes, shirts, posters, etc. etc. He would take a selfie with every fan who asked for it, sometimes even taking the picture himself or asking the security guard to take it if someone had a camera instead of a phone, always with a smile on his face. It was pretty amazing to be part of it. There were so many people chanting his name and pushing towards him, but he just calmly went on signing, doing as many as he could. I was kind of expecting that more people would talk to him as well but there was a sort of hush, an awed silence in a way. But if any of the children said something to him, he would immediately start up a conversation with them. It's a pity I don't understand much German so I couldn't make out what he was saying to them.
And then it was my turn!! There he was, right in front of me! Close-up, he's amazingly lean and broad-shouldered with a really nice, loose-limbed athletic build. Even though it was just about an hour after his match and he was still in his match gear, he still looked absolutely fresh. Since my phone wasn't good enough for pictures, I was trying to take a picture with him with my camera. But I'm much shorter than him so I couldn't get both of us in it. So he just took the camera from my hand and started clicking. I'm asking him nervously “Do you think it's coming out alright?” and he's adjusting the camera all the time and finally says “Yeah, I think this one should be good.” I thanked him and wished him luck for Wimbledon, he thanked me and moved on. Pretty amazing, right?!!! I couldn't believe it, I've watched him play on TV for so many years and to meet him in person.. it's a dream come true 🙂 . Thank you Roger!!!