The Thrill of Playing With Roger Federer
Wrote about my experience playing tennis with the great Roger Federer. Since we met, Roger has added two Grand Slam titles to his all-time record of 19. Just saying... Original article: http://www.thepostgame.com/thrill-playing-roger-federer-tennis-us-open
I couldn't sleep two Wednesday nights ago. In the morning, I'd be playing tennis with Roger Federer.
The sheer ridiculousness of the situation kept me awake, tossing and turning with excitement. I've daydreamed about sharing the court with the 17-time Grand Slam champion plenty of times. But for it to actually happen in real life? Impossible.
And I'm sure that's also how the roughly 30 other clinic participants felt as they made their way to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows.
I arrived at the clinic, organized by Mercedes-Benz, not sure what to expect. I doubted Federer would play much, if at all, as he nurses a knee injury that is keeping him out of the U.S. Open.
When he finally arrived, we stood in two rows with our racquets raised to form a tunnel for him to walk under.
"Please welcome the greatest player of all-time, Roger Federer!" said emcee Wayne Bryan, father of twin doubles stars Bob and Mike Bryan. Wearing a blue sweatshirt and carrying his signature Wilson racquet, Federer strolled down the middle with a wide smile.
Federer seemed genuinely happy to spend time with us. After he made some remarks to the crowd, I walked up to him to introduce myself. But before I could utter a word, he made the first move. "Hey, what's your name?" he asked, and then, "How are you doing?"
His friendliness caught me off-guard. Though I can't remember exactly what I said during that moment alone, it must have meant something to him. He patted my shoulder and said, "I'm happy you're here," and we rejoined the group.
Wayne then told us there was a surprise in the form of a couple "special guests." He was referring to Bob and Mike, who own 16 Grand Slam doubles titles.
With these three greats overseeing us, we finished our drills. And despite saying he wasn't fit to play, Federer stepped onto the court next to me to warm up his groundstrokes. He hit every shot perfectly, looking every bit the legendary player he is. But instead of watching on TV, I was witnessing the magic with my own eyes.
We split into six teams, with the Federer and Bryan Brothers serving as three of the captains. Mike picked me, and I hit some big shots to keep our team alive in the "penthouse" while we sent opponents to the "sewer." After a couple mini-matches, Mike strategized a rotation that kept us both on the court together at the same time. It felt great to fill in for Bob, if only for the day.
We had a hiccup and ended up meeting Federer's team in the middle court. He sat out the first few points of the round but subbed in once Mike and I were on the court. I involuntarily mumbled, "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh," as I faced Federer across the net. I simply couldn't believe this was real life.
He must've sensed my nervousness. He hit a sharp-angled volley that was just out of my reach. Though I wasn't able to return a Federer ball, at least I can say I chased one down and got my racquet on it.
We would go on to lose in the final against Bob's team, but it hardly mattered. Playing with Federer and the Bryan Brothers far exceeded any win I've ever had on the tennis court.
I spent most of my teenage years training to hopefully play in college. Though that dream never came true, an even wilder one did.
So if this could happen, certainly it's not too late to some day make the main draw at the U.S. Open ... right?