The 2014 Australian Open gave way to an unbelievable evening on Rod Laver Arena Wednesday night, as the sold out stadium came to see Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but not before a surprise that immediately lead to a standing ovation. The Rocket. Rod Laver. The man after which center court is named in Melbourne, Laver walked on in his tennis whites, and the tennis world was frozen in time.
For the first time ever, Laver and Federer were face to face, on court. Just last week, Rupert McCall recited, The Masterpiece, a poem imagining a match between the two in their younger years, one for the ages. When the Rocket was greeted by the Swiss maestro, it was priceless. The two legends warmed up (see video here), bringing tears to the eyes of Federer’s wife Mirka. And she’s just about seen it all.
Lleyton Hewitt, Pat Rafter, and former coach Tony Roche were also brought on court, giving their insight on the years they have spent with Federer, from the beginning to present. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga delighted the crowd, showing just what a flashy player he is. However, the cheers were loudest when Federer greeted Laver. The Swiss maestro admitted to being very nervous. “Well I was nervous and then he came out and I tried to keep the ball in play. I was able to do that. It was just a dream come true to be able to play some balls with him, spend time with him, speaking to him, he’s such an inspiration and has such a big impact on the game of tennis particularly here in Australia and it’s very, very special for all of us,” Federer said.
In the match itself, Federer defeated Tsonga 6-7 (5) 6-3 7-5, but the night, and entire cause, was focused on the Roger Federer Foundation. By the time of the post-match interview, over $1 million had already been raised in support.
“It’s something that’s very close to my heart, (I’m) very emotionally attached to it,” Federer said. “For me to reach 10 years already is a great deal because I’m happy I was able to start it so early … My mum has been the big inspiration behind me starting the foundation from a very young age and in 10 years of the foundation we’ve reached about 86,000 kids, so far, who are poorly educated.”
Roger Federer & Friends Interview
Before making his way around Rod Laver Arena to sign autographs and have photos with fans, a video was shown from a very special person in Roger Federer’s life. His mother, Lynette. She praised his upbringing and commemorated 10 years of the collective efforts for the foundation.
Federer added lastly, “We have an ambitious goal to reach 1 million kids by 2018 and an event like this is obviously going to help in a great way.”