Mexico | Federer sets new world record
Roger Federer did not to play in the new look Davis Cup in Spain but opted to tour Latin America instead, drawing some criticism for not supporting the official game.
You are an incredible audience, your support has given me goosebumps, I do not have enough words to thank you, Roger Federer
His latest leg in Mexico City on Saturday pulled in a staggering crowd of 42,517 spectators, who packed into the specially-erected arena in the Plaza de Toros México, the largest bullring in the world, to watch Federer beat Germany’s Alexander Zverev in an exhibition match, 6-3 4-6 6-2.
Those are numbers the ITF organisers could well be jealous of since the Davis Cup drew sparse crowds for much of the week.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion came back from a set down to defeat the world No 7 in front of the huge animated crowd.
“You are an incredible audience, your support has given me goosebumps, I do not have enough words to thank you,” said the 38-year old Federer.
The attendance has yet to be ratified but overtakes the 35,681 spectators who gathered in July 2010 to watch an exhibition match between Kim Clijsters and Serena Williams at the King Baudouin stadium in Brussels.
The biggest court for an official match is the Arthur Ashe Stadium at Flushing Meadows in New York, home of the US Open, which can seat around 23,000.
Dubbed by organisers as ‘the greatest match’, the Mexican event also featured the Bryan brothers taking on Mexico’s Miguel Angel Reyes Varela and Santiago Gonzalez.
“It means the world to us and for tennis to be able to write history in Mexico.” Federer told reporters after his victory.
“It has been 23 years since I came to Mexico and what a mistake I made.”
Federer played a tournament in Mexico just once, when he was a junior, in 1996 at the age of 15, and he reached the second round of the Casablanca Cup as a qualifier.
He also reached the quarter-finals of the doubles tournament.
The Mexico match was the fourth of a highly lucrative five-stop Latin American tour for Federer, who is set to earn $10 million (€9 million), three times as much as he has earned this season, according to Swiss daily Le Temps.
“They gave me the opportunity to play in front of one of the best audiences, I have chills. This day history is written in tennis and I was here with Sasha to live it.”
After a controversial first step on Tuesday in Chile, a country where sport has come to a grinding halt for a month because of the social crisis that has left 23 dead and more than 2,000 injured, the roadshow moved to Buenos Aires on Wednesday where Federer received a rapturous welcome on the famous Parque Roca arena.
Swiss flags were held aloft as the Argentine crowd showed their support despite the absence of Juan Martin del Potro in Argentina, who had to pull out as the 31-year old was still recovering from the knee surgery he underwent in the summer.
Friday’s planned match in Colombia was cancelled due to ongoing violent anti-government protests occurring in the country against President Ivan Duque and the curfew in Bogota.
Brazil was not included.
“We also spoke to some partners, but the cost and the economic commitment to sign deals to set the date in Brazil were impossible,” said Luis Felipe Tavares, who was the organiser of the event held by Gillette back in 2012 when Federer played with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The tour ends with the two players meeting again in Ecuadorian capital of Quito later on Sunday.
“I made a pair of special shoes for every place I visited,” said 22-year-old Zverev. “Mexico is the most special because this was the best game for me of the entire tour.”
It is more than likely that Federer’s latest record will be broken in the coming months by him once again.
Next February he is set to take on rival Rafael Nadal in an exhibition match in South Africa to be held at the Cape Town Stadium, which has a capacity of 55,000, as part of his Match for Africa series, which raises money for children’s education in the region.
Also set to take part is Microsoft founder Bill Gates and South African comedian Trevor Noah.
As for Federer’s views on the newly revamped Davis Cup, the Swiss admitted that had had no time to watch the matches this week.
Speaking to La Tercera, Federer commented: “I think we should give it a chance, see how it goes.
“I am very grateful with the Davis Cup, of what it meant to my career, I learned a lot playing Davis Cup matches when I was younger.
“Of course now I think it’s a bit different: everything over a week, many teams in just one place.
“We have to wait and see how the week goes and also see what happens in the future with the ATP Cup that will happen in January and is a similar event.
“I really hope Davis Cup works in its new format, I know they are doing their best to make it work and have success.
“I have not seen anything because I am very busy, I heard a bit about what’s happening.
“Davis Cup is a historical event and we have to make sure it stays there for much more time.”
Federer has no plans to return to Mexico despite the efforts of Acapulco’s Mexican Open organisers, who have been trying to bring him to their event for years.
“It’s tough for me,” the Swiss admitted. “It’s the same week as Dubai, which is my home for the last 15 years, the family is there, so it’s hard for me.
“I played there for so many years, this year I got my 100th career-title on the ATP Tour in Dubai so I am very connected to that tournament, I do not know how I can come back to Acapulco except for an exhibition match, because it seems it will not change in the next few years and that’s unfortunately quite difficult.”