In what brought back memories of the 1993 attack on Monica Seles, where she was stabbed in the back during a quarterfinal match in Hamburg, Germany by a crazed fan, top-ranked Roger Federer heads to the Shanghai Masters in the face of a death threat of his own.
Late last month on the Chinese website baidu.com, a user who goes by the screen name "Blue Cat Polytheistic Religion Founder O7" posted this chilling message:
"On October 6, I plan to assassinate Federer for the purpose of tennis extermination," adding a doctored photo of a decapitated Federer kneeling on the tennis court and someone holding an axe standing nearby (h/t CNN).
Tournament organizers are taking the threat very seriously and explained to reporters that they have taken precautions to ensure that no harm comes to the No. 1 men's player in the world:
The Shanghai Rolex Masters has security in place for our players and every precaution is taken to make sure players are kept safe and comfortable and allowed to do the job they are here for; to play tennis and provide their fans with the thrill of watching them in action.
Federer, who has not played since leading Switzerland in the Davis Cup playoffs last month, has surprisingly been able to brush the threat aside, making no mention of it upon his arrival (h/t ESPN):
I am very happy to be back in Shanghai. I have a lot of fans here.
I have not been here for two years because so many things in my life have changed, like having a family. I decided five days ago that I was ready to play here and I discussed it with my wife [Mirka], because it's important to have a happy wife.
I am very happy to be back here, where I have had a lot of success in the past.
Federer might seem like a machine when he's on the court, but he's a human being.
All of us, regardless of our standing in life, would be more than a little unnerved if someone put a threat against our lives out on the web for everyone to see. The fact that this person went to the lengths he did with the doctored photo makes it all the more frightening.
Yet Federer, in the face of it all, remains focused on one thing: his record-breaking 22nd Masters 1000 title.
That's impressive, and it speaks volumes about his intestinal fortitude.
He's a pro's pro if ever there was one.