Federer is used to receiving near-total support from crowds wherever he plays. But the London audience for his opener against Fernando Verdasco was a little less certain.
Spanish flags flew brightly and the hearts of female spectators beat just a little faster with the arrival of tennis’s smoldering pin-up.
The crowd was even more nonplussed when Verdasco got off to a racing start against an error-strewn Federer.
Suddenly the favorite was a set down and looking decidedly below par.
And that is when the anxious support kicked in. London had come to watch Federer magic, and they cheered him on until they got it.
The sleeping lion appeared to wake up during the second set, and clawed his way back to even terms.
Against Federer and his adoring fans, even the passion of the Spanish support was not enough, and Verdasco’s errors gave yet more fire-power to Federer.
The match ended just as each of their previous ones had done: Federer the winner.
These two men play very differently. One is right-handed, the other left. One is an all-court exponent, the other prefers the baseline.
One is all touch and craft, the other is all-out power. Fire and ice, Spanish and Swiss.
But both have that happy knack of drawing attention. Their tennis and their looks are the starting point for that attention.
Off court, though, both are articulate, charming, and approachable individuals, and that doesn’t do tennis any harm at all.