by James Pham
On the final weekend of China’s National Day Golden Week, it was appropriate that Shanghai’s Qi Zhong Stadium was awash in red. However, the sea of red came courtesy of the throngs of Federer fans decked out in shirts and hats featuring the Swiss maestro on Federer Fan Day presented by Mercedes-Benz.
The afternoon began with a spirited practice session between Federer and China’s Runhao Hua. Fans were treated to a display of the Swiss’ full arsenal of shots against the 22-year-old Shanghai local, including second serve aces and his patented SABR (Sneak Attack By Roger).
Minutes later, Federer was back on court for an hour of fun and games. Under the closed roof and set against a fabulous light display, Federer further endeared the crowd by singing a Chinese rendition of “Happy Birthday” in honor of the Rolex Shanghai Master’s 10th anniversary.
Gifts were exchanged, including Federer-inspired drawings by four aspiring artists chosen from hundreds of submissions, including a manga-style Chinese brush caricature and a cartoon of Federer practicing Chinese calligraphy. In the end, Federer chose a drawing of him crowned with the Shanghai skyline, explaining that this week, “it’s all about Shanghai”. All four artists were gifted with autographed racquets. “I love all the paintings. You all did a great job,” praised Federer.
More Federer love ensued with a tribute video featuring Chinese fans in 39 cities around the world sending the Swiss legend their love and best wishes for the tournament, with Federer visibly moved by the outpouring of adoration.
Federer then answered a few fan questions. We learned that the two-time RSM champion loves dumplings; Shanghai is his favorite city; and his best-loved gifts from among thousands received from Chinese fans have been two massive teddy bears which sit on his sofa at home, favorite wrestling companions for his four children.
More antics followed, with the Swiss up for anything as usual, playing tennis with a group of children, demonstrating his prowess in shuttlecock and hula-hooping, and performing a team dance, much to the delight of the fans.