Dubai: Former world No. 1 and five-time Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships champion Roger Federer has paid the perfect tribute to fans attending the event this year.
A winner here from 2003 to 2005, and then in 2007 and 2012, Federer is aiming to be the only player to win six crowns this year.
Though he was off to a quick start with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Benjamin Becker on Monday, the Swiss master struggled to a 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-3 win over the crafty Czech Radek Stepanek before coming up against Lukas Rosol in Thursday’s quarter-final.
One of the few players who owns an apartment in Dubai, Federer has a huge following at the annual competition.
“It’s encouragement for me. I really do feel I have great crowd support here in Dubai. They really get excited. The Mexican wave was a treat,” Federer said, after his win over Stepanek, which was played in front of noisy packed crowd on Wednesday night.
“In the last match when I hit the shot through my legs, it was amazing. I got a standing ovation at the end of the matches and I really do appreciate that to see sort of sell-out crowds in the first couple of or first few days of the tournament. It’s amazing,” he added.
Federer uses Dubai as his training base through the off-season and, except for missing a rare tournament here, the Swiss ace has been a regular visitor to the Dubai tournament.
“I remember how it used to be ten years or 12 years ago here. It wasn’t always like that [crowded]. So it’s nice seeing this game, the tournament grow and fans here in Dubai coming to the stadium and having a great time,” he said.
“So that’s what it’s about for them anyway, and for us, as well. If we can win, it’s nicer, but I do appreciate all the support I get here.”