It is hot, humid and testing for best tennis professional players across the world, yet it’s the lineage that draws the champion to the Indian Wells. It is a dream destination for the fans where players are easily accessible and tickets are also economical. And, the day opens at BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.

Most people think tickets are expensive for these events but they are mistaken. You could get a ticket for as low as $25 and roam all around the ground all day. The only reason I had travelled so many miles was to see Roger Federer whose presence I first felt at the 2015 US Open, which was a dream come true for me. I have followed Roger for almost 14 years now. To get a second chance of seeing Federer live was something I hadn’t even dreamt about.

On Monday, Roger did not have a match. He had however scheduled a practice session at 2 in the afternoon.  I reached the Indian Wells Tennis Garden around 10AM. After spending about 45 minutes going through the grounds, I reached the practice court 2 three hours before Roger’s practice session.  Indian Wells is a small town located in the Californian desert. The dry heat could make you feel sick if you don’t keep yourself hydrated. I went to Well prepared by carrying three bottles of water, a couple of towels, caps, sunscreen and some cereal bars to keep myself in the right shape. Most of the people waiting along with me were either Djokovic fans or Venus Williams fans, both of them had practice sessions just before Roger’s on PC1 and PC2.  I waited eagerly for them to finish, it was getting too hot for most of us there at courtside that we decided to cover our head and neck with cold towels. Djokovic practiced for about 45 mins and signed some autographs after he was done and then he left the court.

Roger’s practice session was still more than an hour away. While I was hungry, I didn’t want to leave to grab something to eat because I very well knew I wouldn’t have a seat available when I return. So I decided to put my hunger on the backseat and stayed on.  At 1:55 Caroline Wozniacki arrived for her practice session on PC1. She was five minutes ahead of Roger, the crowd gave her a good round of applause as she is one of the most loved Tennis players in the United States even though she does not represent the US.

Then came the moment, Roger Federer with his coach Ivan Ljubicic and hitting partner came out for his practice session. The crowd went berserk. Most of them waiting along with me to get a piece of Roger Federer had some sort of Federer merchandise on them. Roger acknowledged the crowd and got to work. He began with some casual baseline play, just hitting the balls across the net, getting a feel of things and slowly got more serious. He then worked on his net play before moving on to the serves and overhead smashes. He took a break and then came back out again to work on his serve for a bit longer. 

Once he was done, Roger spent about 5 minutes talking to his team and his hitting partner before they decided to call it a day. His hitting partner for the day, DamirDzhumur, like most of us was a Roger Federer fan. Roger then picked up some old balls and bottles, neatly dispatched it in the trash and just when people thought he was leaving the court, he walked all the way to the other side (where we were waiting) to wave at us and sign autographs. 

Once people saw Roger coming for autographs, there was chaos, people rushed from all corners to get his autograph.  He started signing for people on the extreme left, I would have been totally fine had he just left after signing a few autographs as the conditions were extreme. But to my surprise, he went from the extreme left to the extreme right signing for almost all his fans. Some of us were able to get in a few words to him like a quick “Congratulations on your 18th Major, Roger” while most of the others were just screaming Rogerrrr! After he had finished signing, Roger waved again and disappeared. 

First Published | 20 March 2017 8:15 PM
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