Wor­ship­ping at the Church of Roger Meet the Fed­erer fa­nat­ics

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Daniel Schofield

They are, in the nicest pos­si­ble sense, a cult. A group of 40-50 peo­ple from all over the globe, who spend thou­sands upon thou­sands to travel each year to Lon­don, Paris, Mel­bourne and New York just to glimpse Roger Fed­erer.

Meet the devo­tees called United by Rog, formed on the fo­rum of Fed­erer’s web­site. Be­fore each grand slam he is pre­sented with a red en­ve­lope of good-luck mes­sages. Be­ing cho­sen as the courier to de­liver it to the 18-time grand slam cham­pion is the high­est hon­our.

To them, watch­ing Fed­erer is a re­li­gious ex­pe­ri­ence. Tani Chris­ti­aens, 42, from Bel­gium, was con­verted in 2001 when she saw him play Lley­ton He­witt in the Nether­lands. “It was the one­handed back­hand, I had never seen any­thing like that. It changed my world,” Chris­ti­aens said, as if re­call­ing her first kiss.

She saves to watch him in as many grand slams as she can, us­ing up all her hol­i­day time. Chris­ti­aens says she could have bought a house with the money, but be­lieves it is well spent. “It is the way he moves on court. Ev­ery­thing is beau­ti­ful. The back­hand, the foot­work. It is like he is danc­ing. He is an in­spi­ra­tion. It is pure hap­pi­ness.”

Su­nita Sig­tia trav­els from Cal­cutta to watch Fed­erer ev­ery year at Wim­ble­don. She has two tat­toos, his RF logo on her neck and his sig­na­ture on her fore­arm.

Even the dis­ci­ples know the Almighty – at al­most 36 – is ap­proach­ing the end of his ca­reer, merely in­ten­si­fy­ing their wor­ship. “If he wins this one it will beat ev­ery­thing,” Chris­ti­aens said. “It is at the stage where you have to ap­pre­ci­ate ev­ery time he walks on court. We are blessed ev­ery time we wit­ness him.”

Prais­ing the almighty: These United by Rog devo­tees fol­low their idol Fed­erer (right)

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