I’m not really sure when I became a Federer fan. I know it sounds stupid, but for me it’s difficult to pinpoint the moment where I went from a casual admirer to the full on oh-my-god-the-live-score-has-frozen-I’m-going-to-have-a-panic-attack kind of fan!
Tennis was on in my house during Wimbledon. That was pretty much it. I vaguely remember watching the Wimbledon 06 final on a dodgy TV screen and crossing my fingers for Fed at every possible opportunity. It just seemed kind of natural to support him the most – my mum did for the same reason she supported Justine Henin, because he played beautiful tennis – and so I followed her lead. I saw his quarter final against Ferrero in the stands of Wimbledon Centre Court in 2007, but didn’t fully appreciate it at the time.
I registered on Roger’s website on 8th September 2008. That was the day he won the US Open final. I probably found out about that because it was in the news (Murray being there meant it would have been difficult to not hear about it. Yep, I’m a British fan) but I couldn’t watch it because of the exorbitant pricing of Sky Sports, the US Open broadcaster. Anyhoo, that tournament, having watched it back later, will always be pretty special to me, especially after having suffered through the Wimbledon 2008 final live. I was too nervous to watch that one on television – in fact the only image I ever saw was of Rafa draped in the Spanish flag and climbing through the stands as I walked through the living room to the kitchen. I didn’t see the Aussie Open 09 final live either – I saw the pictures instead, on the front page of the Daily Telegraph, and remember feeling so much affection for Roger just because he cried.
But what really turned me from a fan into a fanatic was probably the French Open 2009. Yeah, that’s a bit late compared to most seasoned followers, but I’m not complaining 😉 I suffered through the matches from Acasuso onwards, and for the final I was too petrified to do anything except follow the live scores until the very last game, when I relocated to in front of the TV. I fumbled with the controls then watched, open-mouthed, as his nerves got the better of him and he went break point down. But for me it was one of those moments where you just know you have to watch because of history or it being something special or whatever.
Anyway, he won. And I think what really made me a fan was the almost fairytale-like story of it. He’d lost to only one incredible talented guy over the last four years; he’d been on the brink against Acasuso, Haas and Del Potro; and most of the tennis world had written him off not only winning that event, but any other slam ever again. It’s an underrated side of him, really – he doesn’t quit. It’s why I admire matches like the Wimbledon 2008 final and his 2008 Masters Cup RR match against Murray. In some ways the most special thing he’s done, for me, is that he’s played 900 singles matches on tour and never once has he retired.