Thank you Jonathan for giving me this opportunity to share my recent experience of ‘how I met Roger Federer’. Well, in this post I will mainly highlight how the whole unexpected journey started rather than describing about Roger Federer's game as we all know very well and how Jonathan always writes beautifully in his peRFect blog.
Here is my story about how I met Roger Federer.
PART 1: MISSION IMPOSSIBLE!
To meet a person like Roger Federer or any celebrity for that matter is not impossible. Everything is possible if you are at the right place at the right time with bit of luck. But it was not how I imagined it at the first place. It is our human nature and that’s why we normally say “it’s my dream to meet roger Federer one day.” So to meet him eventually and exchanging few words was quite a big deal for me.
Well, this is how my dream becomes reality. Few months ago my wife showed me the amazing deal from Qatar Airways for Europe. The deal was for two cities – Zurich and Oslo. Since we both love Federer and Switzerland, it was very easy for us to finalise our destination – Zurich. And the first thing came to our mind was Swiss Indoor Basel. We quickly checked the dates for the tournament and we booked our flight tickets accordingly. We were very happy that we are going to Switzerland and we would possibly see Roger play in his hometown. Though we have seen him play in Melbourne in 2013, it’s always not enough LOL. We were confident that Federer will reach in quarters as per his recent form. We were quite confident and we thought we will book the tickets later. Big mistake. After few days when we checked online, the tickets were sold out. We were shattered. We thought we are going all the way to Basel and we will miss this golden chance.
Our tight schedule started from Zurich – Lausanne – Paris and ended in Basel. As per our schedule we arrived at night in Basel on 23rd October with big hope that we might get lucky. We were positive. We went to catch the local tram and we saw all the Swiss Indoors Basel ATP 500 flags/flyers outside of the main train station. We were more existed the fact that we are now in Roger Federer's home town. It was hard to believe. Though Basel is third largest city after Zurich and Geneva, we felt like we had arrived in small town where people are not rushing like major big cities.
It was rather normal and not really crowded. After some time we realize people were giving smiles and few told us “ Are you Roger Federer Fan?” we were like “How do you know?”. Then we realize that I was wearing RF cap with RF T-shirt and definitely looked like tourist who must be here in the small town for the tournament. That was our first encounter with friendly local crowd. We reached to our apartment and checked in net whether Federer has survived his 3rd round? He did and now he was going to play Grigor Dimitrov. Later we met apartment owner who unfortunately not that big Roger Federer fan. We asked him that all the tickets were sold out; do you think we have any real chance to get the tickets for tomorrow’s match? He gave some hope.
He said there is super market called Migros (which is everywhere in Switzerland) so maybe you go there and check early morning as they also sell tickets. The next morning, I rushed to the nearest Migros market to find out whether they really sell any tickets or not. I reached there and ask the cashier lady. The problem was she could only speck Swiss German.
I said: “Roger Federer …… Swiss Indoors….. Federer …… Federer ….. Tennis..”
Now she understood but asked her coworker to check what I exactly wanted as she couldn't communicate. The other lady came and told me that they don’t sell tickets here but asked me to go to the bigger Migros market located inside the city square and try my luck. She was kind enough to rush and wrote the address for me. I was so happy, I hugged her. I was mesmerized by her nice gesture. I couldn't believe it. But the job was half done. Now I have to rushed to the city square to find the bigger Migros. We took the next tram and I couldn't help but asked the person standing right beside me about the address. He politely said he knows and he is also going there to buy his breakfast.
We followed him and reached to the ticket corner and asked whether we are still lucky enough to grab two tickets. The lady smiled and told us YES!! There were ONLY two seats available. Now we couldn't freaking believe that we are going to see Roger – Dimi match. It was like written in the stars that we will see Roger play. And it all happened for good karma – the friendly lady in Migros – the guy in tram – and just two tickets available!!!
We considered our self extremely lucky because that day we saw Nadal lost to young kid and Federer won to Dummy-trov. We reached there and saw the 2nd quarter final between Ivo Karlovic vs Benjamin Becker. Man the Karlovic guy was serving bombs. I couldn't believe with his serving speed. It was bullet. He won eventually. Now we were waiting for 3rd Quarter final between Rafa and Borna Coric to come. To be very honest with you guys, I found Dull’s game extremely boring. And it’s not that I am big Roger Federer fan but it’s true. It was very irritating to see him does his usual routine before every serve. For fun we took his photos while he was serving and send it to our friend who likes Nadal. The crowd was amazing. Everyone was supporting the 17 years old kid. We were amazed the way he played the first set. He almost gave Dull a bagel.
I was sitting beside this family who came from Germany – Father and two sons. One brother likes Nadal (who was sat besides me) and the other likes Federer so does his father. Every time Nadal lost his serves, points we high-five which irritated the elder brother. He didn't like the way Nadal was playing and he was covering his face with his cap. Eventually Nadal lost and the crowd went nuts. It was like big celebration going on. The irritated brother told me that Federer will also lose to Dimi. Well he was wrong.
Now everyone was waiting for “Prince of Basel” to come to play. First Dimi came. The atmosphere was mind-blowing. The music was going on loud. On the big screen they were showing Federer's past victories in Basel. And they announce for Federer the usual stuff like “please welcome the 17 times GS champion, the five times Swiss Indoors Basel Open champion…etc..” but the most touching moment when you are there at the stadium when the announcer said : “ THIS IS HOME … Roger Federerrrr” woooow, it was extremely emotional moment if you are there and witness Roger’s entry. We were not surprised the fact that the guy is loved so much by locals and who ever came to see him play. Priceless 🙂 . The lights were on Roger.
They played thrilling first set and the second set was more like formality from Fed. We were sat on the side of the court and boy, we couldn't believe how fast Roger is? It was a pleasure to see his footwork and speed. The way he retrieve the ball and how deep he return to opponents. We enjoyed the matches of that day and went home happily knowing Nadal lost and Fed won. We skipped the semis as we also wanted to see bit of Switzerland and we thought we will see him in the finals since we know where to buy tickets now. (The other reason was the tickets are freaking expensive LOL)
Saturday we came very late and first thing we checked whether Federer is in the final or not? When we learnt that he is in the final we thought great, now we will go and buy tickets tomorrow morning. But we realized that Sunday all the major markets were close. We were like what to do next. Though we have seen him play, we didn't want to miss this chance to see him lift the trophy in his home town. The match was scheduled at 2:30 pm. the owner told us that there is only one outlet is open and that is main tourist information centre at Basel train station. We went there to check but the lady told us “Sorry, Roger is in the final so everything is booked. Not a single ticket left. At that time my wife was bit upset more than me LOL. She really wanted to see Federer play in final and win. She really wanted to witness his victory. I was quite surprised by her reaction and at the same time happy that she was very serious about the finals.
She said let’s go to the stadium, we will buy the most expensive one if we have to. We went to the stadium. We saw many people were holding “ticket” signages as they also wanted to go inside the stadium. We were like screwed. We thought we will not get any tickets. We went and check at the ticket corner and boy oh boy we couldn’t believe that we got the tickets for finals. Some people cancelled their tickets at the last moment. The tickets that we bought were bit expensive but that time we thought who cares, the final is the most important thing right now. We both were jumping like little kids. Now we really wanted Fed to win which he did it in less than one hour LOL. It was fast – game – set – match – Roger Federer – the six time Basel Open Champion.
This could have been ended right there. We would have left the venue happily knowing that we have witnessed Roger Federer wins the home tourney which is very close to his heart. These are few tournaments which he takes it very seriously every year and this is one of them. While we were leaving the stadium, one gentleman who was working during this event asked us whether we are interested in the Tennis Year Book 2014. We said no but then I asked him whether any chance to get Roger Federer's autograph? Because I remember this year Jonathan posted Ruchi’s story during Halle tourney. I guessed may be he does the same in all the smaller events. The guy smiled and said Roger is a busy guy and you may have to wait for hours. He also said that Roger normally goes to meet media process/ formalities and later meet his fan but this time he has not done it this year and he usually leave stadium from the front door. We tried our luck and went to the place where all the fans were waiting. We got the location and we rushed there hoping we will meet him.
PART 2: HOLLY S#!T … IT IS POSSIBLE!
We reached there and hoping Federer will come out soon. We waited like half an hour and the first familiar face we came across was Mr Mohamed Lahyani. Extremely funny character as he liked people attention. He liked to talk to people. He approached his car where I was standing and I didn’t know why but I told him “I like the way you say ‘Rooger Fedderrr’”. He laughed, goodbye the crowd and told his driver “next stop London.”
After few minutes left, we saw Severin Lüthi came out to collect something from the car. Few people rushed to take his autograph. I was one of them and I got his autograph on my RF cap.
The next person leaving was poor Goffin. He looked unhappy but people were cheering him. He then smiled and started giving people autograph. I shook his hand and wished him luck for the future tourneys. He quietly said “Thanks you”. He was kind enough to allow me to take a photo with himself. I personally like Goffin as a person. He has this same attitude like Federer. He looks down to earth kind of guy. Hope he wins more in future.
It’s been two hours and it was freaking cold outside. People were kept telling security whether Federer is coming from this exit or from the main door? Is he really coming or not? I saw all kinds of people –very small kids, young couples, and old people were waiting for him with posters, tennis balls, RF hats. The exit door was accessed by VIP and club members. Every time somebody opened the door, people started cheering like it was Federer. Now more and more people are coming to see Federer.
It was already dark outside and we thought he may not come this time. He must be having media interview and then may be gym/massage etc. we thought we should leave now. And suddenly someone just opened the door and rushed to the public like he belongs to that group. When we opened our eyes, we realized “no shit, he is Federer”. Now the worst part was I didn’t have pen that he could sign, I didn’t have any sort of card or poster or photos of him that he can sighed because we weren't prepared. Also it was too late to run and collect the tennis Book of the Year. He was approaching very fast where I was standing. I was in the front row waiting for him, wanted to talk to him but I was freaking blank. He has this charisma that you want to say so many things but when he stands in front of you, you become speechless.
All I had was ticket where he could sign. When he was signing autograph to the people besides me, I realized that I am wearing RF cap. I quickly removed and wait for my turn. Now he came and stand in front of me. Now it was my turn. The whole Roger Federer saga went through my mind. I was like this is it. This is what I wanted so badly since 2006 where I became diehard Roger Federer fan. The same person who is responsible for my love of tennis game, because of the same person I started following and playing tennis. Because of the same person I left cricket/ Sachin Tendulkar and started following Tennis. He is the same guy who has given so many Sundays to celebrate.
Now He was right in front of me about 1 feet away.
Now the moment of truth
He looked at me and smiled. I gave him my RF cap where he signed his first autograph. He was so gracious signing autograph. He allow people come up to certain space and make sure every single person will leave with something which they treasure rest of their life. People were shouting: “ Roger Roger Roger”….. I wanted to say something to him. I couldn't help it but I started conversation:
“Hey Roger, all the best for your future tourneys and hope you have great time in India”
He smiled and told me: “Thanks …yes, I am extremely looking forward to my trip to India”
Now he was signing autographs to people besides me. And I was like “no this can’t be it”. I wanted more autograph, I still wanted to talk to him. I realized that I was wearing one of his RF t-shirt. I removed my jacket and ask Roger to come and sighed on the t-shirt.
I said “Hey Roger, can you sign on your RF T-shirt?”
He actually came back and signed on my left shoulder.
He told me “it’s not mine, it’s your t-shirt. Enjoy”
He smiled and left.
I was flattered. I thought he will leave very quickly and may not come back but he did.
It was literally a big shock. We weren't prepared for it to personally meet Federer, getting his autograph and exchanging few lines. The life is unpredictable. We left the venue happily. Basel becomes our favourite place in Switzerland.
Thank you Roger for giving this moment which I will cherish for rest of my life. Next time I will be more prepared to meet you 🙂
Hope you guys like my Roger Federer fan story and sorry for the lengthy post 🙂
Lots of love to all peRFect Tennis Blog family.
Phantom (Priyank Desai)