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Feature: Roger Federer - Welcomed Back Like an Icon

Roger Federer - Welcomed Back Like an Icon
October 13, 2023

The former world No.1 is a winner of two Rolex Shanghai Masters singles titles, lifting the trophy at the 2014 and 2017 editions. Among his 23 match wins (against six losses) at the tournament, there are notable victories over fellow legends Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

He's also one of the game's most popular-ever champions, as evidenced by the hero's welcome he received in his first visit to Shanghai since 2019. On a day fittingly dubbed "Federer Fan Day", the Grand Slam legend did not disappoint. 

As the fans cheered, Federer patiently posed for selfies and happily signed autographs.   

ILater, there was another title to celebrate as Federer was presented with the Icon Athlete Award. He also received gifts from Rolex Shanghai Masters Tournament Director Michael Luevano in recognition of his presence at the tournament. 

As he discussed the matches that fans had voted as his best in Shanghai, Federer revisited his prolific rivalry with Nadal. 

"I played Rafa on so many occasions ... almost in all the matches all around the world and I'm happy we could do it here, not just once but three times," said Federer, who defeated Nadal to win the 2017 Rolex Shanghai Masters title. "Of course, it's even more special if it's in a final."

A special night at Qi Zhong Stadium was enhanced by the presence of past and future Chinese champions. 

After two-time Grand Slam champion Li Na was revealed as a surprise Center Court guest, a smiling Zhang Zhizhen also appeared on court. The Shanghai-born Zhang explained he had always been a Federer fan and was delighted to meet the Swiss star. 

Their presence, said Federer, symbolised a hugely successful journey for Chinese tennis. 

"It's been great to see tennis grow here in China," he said. "More and more players are coming through - one icon is standing here and a future superstar in the making. It's great to be surrounded by Chinese tennis players."

But mostly, said Federer, it was special to thank the fans who had supported him in China for over 20 years. 

"Ever since I showed up here as a teenager in 2002, maybe I even had a ponytail, I looked different, I played different, but I got so many fans I feel like from the first moment I came," he smiled. 

"I feel like I got the most incredible support here in Shanghai and in China. I've been very fortunate to play here for so many years."

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