INDIAN WELLS – The news that Roger Federer would be appearing at the Tennis Warehouse tent at 4:15 p.m. to sign autographs for a half-hour sent fans at the BNP Paribas Open scurrying over more than two hours ahead of time.
If you wondered why the crowd was fairly sparse for the Pablo Carreño Busta – Pablo Cuevas match in late afternoon (which was a good one, even if most of the fans probably were unfamiliar with the Pablos), that was certainly one factor.
They capped the number of autographs, all of which came from a stack of photos Federer signed. The line began at the very exit of the retail area and went all the way to the deepest part of it where the Tennis Warehouse tent is. And in front of a white-picket fence, as Federer sat down to work on a bad case of carpal-tunnel syndrome, there were 100 or more who could barely even catch a glimpse him, with the fans going by after getting their signed photo and several very beefy security guards and some diligent tournament media shooting with iPhones in the way.
It’s an insane, surreal thing to be Roger Federer, even if he’s well-used to it after going it for so many years. When every random stranger you have five seconds of contact with either tells you they love you, or you’re God, or the GOAT, or they named their firstborn after you well, that can’t help but change a guy.
With all the commotion, Federer never lost his smile. And unlike some of the players who go through this exercise, he actually had eye contact, a smile or a kind word for nearly all of those who were rolled through the Fed-sembly line.
The fans crushing against the fence, who hadn’t made the cut in the line, seemed destined to go home empty-handed.
But no …
Federer stopped there on his way out, signing hats, balls, pieces of paper. He did a few selfies. Some of the fans just wanted to shake his hand (you felt like this was a throwback to the last century or something – they didn’t even want a selfie!!!). He obliged many of them, too
And then he walked off, hair unruffled, brow most definitely un-sweaty, behind a phalanx of security beef to get on with his day, perhaps a nice dinner with his family. Because for Federer, this was just another day.
For the hundreds of fans he touched in one way or another, during the half-hour of his time Thursday, he created an equal number of indelible memories.