As I headed towards the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium on Day 2 of the International Premier Tennis League, like any other tennis fan, I too, was brimming with excitement. There was disappointment for everybody on the opening day, where Roger Federer didn’t play a match. But knowing the fact that the Swiss legend would play on the second day, thousands of fans thronged to the stadium.
I interviewed few fans on Day 1, who were in a state of shock to know their wait to get a glimpse of their tennis superstar would be extended by 24 hours. No matter who played on the court, chants of “Come on Roger!” “Miss you Roger!” “Where is Roger?” filled the stadium, and it was something I am sure would have distracted the stars from other countries.
Meanwhile, from fans to tennis greats, everybody hailed the format. It was a unique one, with several new rules and deafening music between the points, a rare experience for the Indian fans. To get Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, currently ranked World No. 1 and 2 respectively, in the inaugural edition of the IPTL, was a huge achievement for Mahesh Bhupathi and his entire team.
On Day 2, the fans got a taste of some quality tennis from Federer and Djokovic, who entertained the crowd while playing for Indian Aces and UAE Royals respectively.
Prior to the IPTL, most of the Indian fans had seen their tennis superstars play at big tournaments and prestigious Grand Slams only on their television sets. Thus, IPTL was an incredible experience. And needless to say, Federer’s presence was the highlight of the event.
On the final day, a Monday, it took some time before the stadium was filled with over 10, 000 spectators. They had come to see the Federer vs Djokovic contest – final match of the tournament.
And the two greats of modern day tennis, who met in the final of Wimbledon earlier this year, made sure they provided entertainment worth every penny spent by the fans, by displaying their brilliance on the court in a thrilling encounter that lasted for almost half an hour.
Moment the match ended, journalists rushed to the room where Djokovic’s press conference was scheduled to begin in five minutes. While we all sat there anxiously waiting for the World No. 1 to arrive, in the background one could hear Bollywood song “Kehte hain hamko pyaar sey Indiawaale” as tennis superstars tried to entertain fans one last time by shaking a leg to the tune before signing off.
Djokovic’s press conference was followed by Mahesh Bhupathi’s and then came the much-awaited one – the Roger Federer press conference. Even though it was his second of the tournament, with some technical glitches in the first one, we were all set for a detailed press conference, to end the tournament.
The media persons had tried getting autographs from the tennis greats, but their efforts proved futile as they all seemed to be in a hurry. Federer, being the greatest player of all time, was expected to do the same.
The 33-year-old patiently answered all the questions, and was about to leave, when the journalists, not giving up on their hopes of getting an autograph, approached him with markers, tennis balls, their media passes and notepads.
Much to the surprise of everybody, Federer stood there for around ten minutes, signing each and every object that was handed over to him. When he left the conference, journalists who had been firing a barrage of questions at the Swiss at the top of their voices a short while back, stood in silence looking at their prized possessions in disbelief. They had worked hard for three days and couldn’t have asked for a better reward. While some of them even got emotional having realized what had happened, something which most of them whispered from their hearts was, “Thank you Roger.”
The Roger Federer Tennis League had come to its beautiful end.