Some players have the ability to light up the atmosphere simply by their sheer presence! Roger Federer is one such player who sent 17,000 roaring spectators at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in New Delhi into raptures on Sunday. Not only that, he inspired all his Indian Aces teammates to register a resounding 26-16 victory over the Singapore Slammers at the Coca-Cola IPTL.
For India this was a dream come true and a truly exhilarating experience to witness the maestro from up close. For years, Indian tennis aficionados have feasted on the delectable strokes of the Swiss on television. Thanks to Mahesh Bhupathi’s unparalleled gift of IPTL, they finally got to see the aura of Roger Federer.
Deafening roar for Roger
Quite naturally, the 17-time Grand Slam champion got a deafening roar as his name was announced just before his entry. You could see the gleeful faces all over the stadium jostling to get as closer to the tennis icon as possible. Here was their idol in flesh and blood, the man they had been waiting for breathlessly for weeks.
And the man who had said it’s ‘a pleasure and privilege’ to be in India was soaking up the frenzy and the excitement as well.
Later on he described the Indian reception as ‘’It was big, it was loud, it was different to what I had experienced in the past!”
Clearly, Indian fans were special. After all they had come to witness something special as well!
When Indian Aces captain Fabrice Santoro decided on getting done with the past champions singles first, even he did not want to deprive India of an uninterrupted show of brilliance from Roger.
Pete Sampras starts for the Aces
So, the day began with 14-time major winner Pete Sampras taking on the court against Pat Rafter of the Singapore Slammers. For the American legend this was a brand new concept of tennis and he took time to settle into the match. A jetlagged Sampras started with an error-ridden game which Rafter immediately took advantage of. Even though Sampras got into a rhythm later on, Rafter carved out the victory 6-2.
Sania and Roger thrill the crowd
It was then that the crowd got a glimpse of what is known as perfection personified. Roger Federer and Sania Mirza – this was a dream pair for Indian tennis lovers. The Indo-Swiss pair put up a scintillating display on court and looked to be thoroughly enjoying playing with each other.
Federer was aggressive, sharp and pouncing on his opponent’s serve at every opportunity. Every smash was greeted with cheers, every backhand was approved with applause. The Federer magic was on and the crowd just couldn’t get enough of his astonishing point construction.
Singapore Slammers’ Daniela Hantuchova and Bruno Soares looked clueless while the Federer juggernaut rolled on. Bruno got replaced with Nick Kyrgios as the score looked 4-0 in favour of the Aces.
The substitution didn’t change their fortunes as moments later, the former World No. 1 was seen high-fiving with his teammates after a 6-0 victory. Roger revealed that the beaming Sania Mirza was his fourth mixed doubles partner after Martina Hingis, Martina Navratilova and his wife Mirka.
Rohan Bopanna of India next partnered the Swiss in the men’s doubles encounter. Roger Federer kept on continuing with his laser-paced brand of tennis on the super-fast courts of New Delhi. The balls stayed low which looked absolutely tailor-made for Federer’s serve-and-volley tennis.
The man has an extraordinary quality of lifting others’ spirits. Even after 16 years of professional career, his hunger for the game hasn’t diminished one bit. The passion, the energy, the drive and the desire to excel is a lesson for everybody.
The positivity that he emanates can make the general ambience look so enjoyable. Rohan Bopanna clearly looked delighted to pair up with Roger and made some dazzling shots as well. Singapore doubles pair of Lleyton Hewitt and Nick Kyrgios tried hard. But Federer was simply poetry in motion. Amidst chants of ‘Let’s Go, Roger! Let’s Go’, the Indo-Swiss duo wrapped up the set 6-1.
Federer magic continues in singles
The legend next squared up against a familiar foe Tomas Berdych in singles. The Czech had been known to trouble Federer in the past and he did so, even though briefly.
After going down 0-3, Berdych broke back to 3-3 to bring some semblance of competition into the set. The duo traded some delicious back-to-backhand rallies that drew the gasps from the crowd. But the determined Federer had the decisive break and calmly seized the win 6-4.
The Federer dance
Team bonding is rare in the world of tennis and the players thus are relishing this team format. Having a teammate as sprightly as Gael Monfils can do wonders. The Frenchman even inspired the one and only Roger Federer to shake a leg. It wasn’t the best of effort but definitely an attempt worth watching.
Ana Ivanovic finishes the job
With the thrilled Delhi crowd still recovering from the Federer magic, Ana Ivanovic took the court in the last match of the day. The former World No. 1 looked nervous probably from the pressure of matching the high level set by Roger.
Daniela Hantuchova of the Slammers team looked confident and composed and took an early break. It took a few minutes but the smiles finally came back for the World No. 5 Ivanovic. Showing great fighting skills she first tied the score 5-5 and won the shootout comfortably to make it 6-5. The Indian Aces thus thumped the visitors 26-16 much to the joy of the crowd.
The Happiness Open
Perhaps more than the team’s win, it was the pleasure of watching Roger Federer that will remain etched in their memories forever. He came, he saw and he conquered their hearts!
The IPTL is truly one ‘Happiness Open’ for the Indian tennis lover.