Such is Roger Federer’s stature on the circuit that even opponents can’t seem to hide their admiration. The 35-year-old Swiss beat Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 7-5 in the Indian Wells Masters final on Sunday.
After the match, a very emotional Wawrinka paid rich tribute to his compatriot, even calling himself Federer's "biggest fan".
“I’m sorry, I’m just tired after 10 days. I’m sorry. I would like to congratulate Roger,” Wawrinka said, with tears in his eyes as he glanced over at Federer. “He’s laughing. He’s an a**hole, but it’s OK.”
He continued: "I lost some tough ones against you, but when you played the final in Australia I was still your biggest fan so congratulations for your comeback and congratulations for today.
"Anybody who loves to watch tennis loves to watch you so it's always good to see you back at that level, hopefully for many years."
Having spent six months away from the sport due to an injury, Federer made a stunning return to win the Australian Open in January. At Indian Wells, he won a record-equalling fifth title in the desert and earned the distinction of being the tournament's oldest winner. He also did not lose a set at the first ATP Masters event of the season.
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Federer joins Djokovic as a five-time winner at the event and becomes the oldest champion in the tournament's history, surpassing Jimmy Connors who was 31 when he triumphed in 1984.
"I was very sad when I couldn’t come here last year so just being here is a beautiful feeling," Federer said during the trophy presentation.
"It's been just a fairytale week. I'm still on the comeback. I hope my body is going to allow me to keep on playing.
"I came here for the first time 17 years ago so to be here again as the champion is an amazing feeling. And I can’t tell you enough what it means to me."
Federer said he was only trying to cheer up Wawrinka, according to a report in The Telegraph. “I was trying, when he looked at me, not to give him the sad face,” Federer said. “I was looking at him going, ‘You’ll be fine,’ and gave him a laugh, say, maybe gets his mind off it. I guess I achieved that.”
Asked later if it was the first time that he had been called the expletive, Federer said he’d heard it “many, many times before” in a joking way. “That’s why I take it as a compliment,” he said, smiling. “There’s not always cameras around, so I get called that sometimes. Quite often, actually. On the court is the first time, but it felt good.”
Both players will now move on to Miami for the second Masters event which starts later this week, and with both Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic withdrawing with injuries, they will be hoping to reach the latter stages of this tournament as well.
With inputs from Reuters
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Updated Date: Mar 21, 2017 13:02:40 IST