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And he (Federer) loves them back. An in-depth piece in the New York times today (written by Christopher Clarey) dives into the incredible passion fans have for Roger Federer, and his recent exhibition tour in South America, the largest and most lucrative exhibition tour in tennis history.

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The Swiss maestro was downright adored by millions of fans seeing him for the first time. It was the first venture into South America as a whole for Federer, and he spent full days in clinics with children, playing pick-up soccer games, meeting legends such as Pele, and the president of Argentina. Federer dazzled with high quality exhibition play, jumping and soaring to hit forehands and overheads. There was his signature between the legs “tweener” shot, and lots of fun play. During matches he danced with the mascots, he took part in the wave with the crowds, and orchestrated the cheers. He also showed that his soccer skills are top notch. Fans went crazy just at the sight of it.

“They are so passionate here,” Federer said. “I’ve had more fans break down here in South America than anywhere else in the world. They cry, and they shake, and they are just so, like, not in awe but so happy to meet you. It’s disbelief for them that they can meet me, and that is something that has happened a few times before, but it’s very rare. Here I must have had at least 20 people probably hugging me and kissing me and so happy, you know, just to get a chance to touch me, even. And they’ve actually been very, very respectful when they realized I couldn’t sign more autographs because it was a safety issue or whatever the circumstances might have been.”

As the vehicle and its police escort pulled away from the tennis stadium, the convoy rolled past a long line of cheering Argentines. A number of fans broke free of the barricades and began running next to the windows, shouting “Roger!” or, in the shock of making eye contact, nothing at all.

“Bye-bye,” Federer said through the glass in a conversational tone, waving and smiling without flashing his teeth. Christopher Clarey asked, “Does it start to seem normal after a while?”

“This?” he said, his voice rising. “No, no, no. This is unbelievable.”

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The Swiss star also earned a reported $2 million for each exhibition match, $12 million in total (compared to $8.5 million earned in prize money in 2012 on the ATP World Tour).

“It is totally an out of body experience, almost disbelief that it’s really happening,” said Federer, looking out the window at the crowds. “I feel very fortunate and I guess that’s also one of the reasons I would like to play for more years because these things are not going to come back around when you retire.”

Source: New York Times

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