Where’s the most frenzy on Middle Saturday at the BNP Paribas Open?
At a tight match on Center Court? At the height of a feisty comeback on Stadium 1? Or maybe at the line to squeeze into Nobu restaurant, or the checkout line at the Fila tent?
No, it’s the masses – maybe 2,500 people – watching every twist and turn of a practice.
Then again, it’s no ordinary fellow who’s grooving his forehand. It’s TMF – The Mighty Federer.
In the stands, on roofs, on perches from surrounding stadiums – grandmothers from Burbank and shrieking kids from Palm Springs crane their necks and scream at the top of their lungs, “Raw-gerr!”
“This are even more fans here than people who come out for [Steph] Curry’s practices,” suggests a thirty-something guy from San Jose. Others say it is “Beatles-esque.”
Barry Buss tweets, “I know a couple who came down from Seattle just to see him practice.”
In any case, we speculate the practice draws more fans than 90 percent of the ATP’s matches – and the fans are far more invested.
When Roger’s finally done, the throng yells, “This way, Roger!” Kids are packed behind an unmoving iron fence. Sardines have it better off. A voice in the crowd warns, “This isn’t safe. Someone’s gonna get crushed.”
The ecstatic kids could care less. They stretch out their Federer caps, magazine covers, visors – anything for the great man to sign. And he does.
Never mind that it’s a sweltering 94 degrees out there, the Swiss “works the line,” signing scores of autographs before he finally calmly saunters away. And yes, before ducking into the player garden, he does pause one last time. The security guard wants an autograph. And why not? Rogermania is relentless.