Roger Federer held a charity event at Rod Laver Arena last night and I was lucky enough to attend. The night was called Roger Federer & Friends and it kicked off with some interviews with Australian stars, Tony Roche, Lleyton Hewitt and Pat Rafter.
The main event was to be an exhibition match between Federer and Jo Wilfried Tsonga, but first both those men needed warming up. Tsonga was lucky enough to get Rafter to hit with before the match. As someone who didn't watch tennis before Federer became a force, it was interesting to see how simple Rafter's swing is. He reminded me of golf's Ernie Els, who is nicknamed 'The Big Easy'.
With Tsonga warmed up, we all wondered who was going to warm up Federer. Lleyton was in a suit, (and Brisbane probably a little too fresh), so perhaps it would be Fed's old coach, Tony Roche? Nope, out of the tunnel came none other than Rod Laver, dressed in his tennis whites.
It was something special to see Laver hit with Federer. I don't think it'll happen again, (I wonder whether Laver took much convincing). Laver, at 75 years old, still hits a pretty nice forehand, in fact it is the volley he struggled with the most. Federer openly admitted to being very nervous about hitting with his idol. “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.
Tsonga and Federer played a high quality exhibition match which ended in a predictable scoreline – Federer won 6-7 6-2 7-5. But the true winner of the night was Roger Federer's foundation, which has now being running for 10 years. The night raised over 1 million dollars for charity. “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. 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,” Federer said.
Federer then went on to answer a few questions from both Lleyton Hewitt and the audience. My favourite was from a pregnant lady who asked Roger, “If you had two more children and you had to name them after active tennis players, what would you call them?” Roger found the question both hilarious and awkward. After much deliberation he settled on Serena and Novak. Well, I think he was joking about Novak but we will take it anyway.
It was a great night for a great cause and the perfect way to kick-start the Australian Open.
Click here to see more photos of the night.