Federer Feeling The Love In Shanghai
Roger Federer has the aura of an A-list celebrity when he walks around the grounds at any ATP Tour event. Fans pile around for autographs, cameras click and whirr, and his practise sessions are standing room only.
The energy surrounding Federer is heightened even further at the Rolex Shanghai Masters. The second-seeded Swiss is making his eighth appearance at this event, but the adoration he receives from the fans in Shanghai is still just as exciting for him.
”The fans get together [and] really make a conscious effort to show me how excited and happy they are,” Federer said at his pre-tournament press conference on Sunday. “I felt that yesterday at Fan Day. It means a lot to me. You don't get fans grouping together like this anywhere else in the world.”
Although keeping a low profile at the Qi Zhong Tennis Center isn’t quite possible for Federer, he has heartily embraced the extra attention. He realises that it takes just as much time to sign a tennis ball as it does to explain why you can’t sign one. Federer’s eagerness to make his fans a priority has only deepened their connection with him throughout his 21 years on Tour.
”When somebody asks you a question, you try to answer. When somebody asks you for a picture, you try to take it,” Federer said. “It means so much to any fan because it's maybe the first time they've seen you or maybe they have travelled far just to get a chance to be near you or ask you a question.
”Sometimes you're more tired than other days. For the most part, I try to lead by example for the new generation of players who I hope are going to be great for the game. I'm aware that I have the chance and the power to motivate, inspire younger children and set a good example. That's something I have always appreciated and thought was very nice.”
It’s not just the fans who are happy to see Federer, though. The Swiss had a chance to catch up with friend and longtime rival Andy Murray, who also headlines the draw this week. Federer said he’s been closely following Murray’s singles comeback and is optimistic that the Brit still has more great tennis in him.
“It was great to see him again and just chat with him for a little bit,” Federer said. “I think it’s super exciting for the Tour and for us players because he's very much a guy we like and respect a lot. Doesn't have enemies. We need guys like him who also lead by example with hard work and toughness and fairness.
”I love seeing Andy back. I also feel like he’s playing better and better, which is going to be great.”
But now that pleasantries have been exchanged, Federer is ready to get down to business. He has a challenging draw that will see him start against Croatian Marin Cilic or Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas, but believes he’s playing well enough to win his third title in Shanghai.
”The draw is tough here,” Federer said. “It also depends on your opponents a little bit. It's not just every match on my racquet, unfortunately, but I feel like I have good energy left in the tank to go and finish strong.”