Photo by Christina Manolatou
Federer Fans everywhere are rejoicing over his latest triumph – winning the Cincinnati Masters title and beating young guns Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic along the way. Self-diagnosed Rogerholic, Kathy Woodward (pictured above), was in Mason, Ohio last week helping cheer Roger Federer on to victory. She may have missed the final, but Kathy did accomplish her primary mission: Operation Pink Envelope. Kathy shares her tale of love, devotion and camera malfunctions in this dispatch from Fan Land:
Operation Pink Envelope: Another Bundle of Joy for Roger Fatherer
by Kathy Woodward
August 24, 2009
MASON, OHIO – Last week, proud daddy and fifteen time Grand Slam Champion, Roger Federer, and his lovely wife Mirka received a cheerful pink bundle of joy at the Western & Southern Financial Group ATP Masters Series tournament in Mason, Ohio. This hand delivered ‘bundle of joy’ garnered the same level of anticipation as the pending arrival of the twins, Myla Rose and Charlene Riva, from Federer’s fans around the globe.
Just a few weeks earlier, a late night text of “twin girls, Myla Rose and Charlene Riva” shook me out of bed and to the computer. Sleepy and doubtful, I checked Federer’s Facebook page knowing I would read his own words. The unbelievable announcement was true! It was a girl and her sister! Reading “This is the best day of our lives!” stirred my emotions for Roger and Mirka. I had an idea to show them first hand the joy myself and other fans felt over the birth of the twin girls. I had to respond quickly and had little time to undertake my voluntary mission before seeking out Roger in Ohio in a few weeks.
Members on Federer’s official website, www.rogerfederer.com, have a very intimate way of communicating to Roger as he travels the world collecting titles. Messages of goodwill and encouragement gathered via the web are hand-carried in the ‘Red Envelope’ by a pre-selected courier. The delivery, of at times 100 messages, is the most anticipated part of the tradition. Members anxiously await for news, photos and Roger’s charming ways with fans. I expected my mission of hand delivering fans’ good wishes to Roger and Mirka for the birth announcement at the U.S. Open Series tournament in Mason, Ohio to be an adventure.
Photo by Christina Manolatou
“I was ready for a split second handover”
My mission would follow in the Red Envelope tradition but be bundled in pink and declaring our joy of the birth of the Federer twins. The ‘Pink Envelope’ would be more than just congratulatory messages but a long lasting memento for the twins. Gathering individual messages like the Red Envelope would be impractical. I expected the response from fans to be overwhelming; and it was. Over 400 fans from 70 countries responded to be included in the keepsake book. A pale pink linen cover, scalloped pages and tiny pink footprints would highlight the works of talented writers, artists and photographers – his fans on his official website. These works, inspired by Federer on a deep and inspirational level, would uniquely convey to the twins the love and devotion felt towards their parents.
Having arrived mid-week into this short tournament was risky for a smooth delivery of the ‘Pink Envelope’. Catching Roger before his first match is always ideal when hand-delivering his mail. There really was no ‘best’ place to find him on the grounds so I decided on the entrance and found a place at the front fence with other members of the ‘Swiss by Association’ team from rf.com. As it got closer to his practice time we were convinced he already made a stealth entrance. My fellow ‘Swiss by Association’ team member Melissa and I moved on. An after-match delivery was now Plan ‘B’. We unknowingly headed towards the media entrance. Good thing I had the pink boxed envelope out of the plastic wrapper when I spotted Federer’s long time coach, Severin Luthi, coming through the gate. I was ready for a split second handover. There he was, strolling in, “The Greatest of All Time”! His elegant gait could not be mistaken.
I had no time to marvel. I had to RUN and YELL! “Roger, the Pink Envelope!” Again, “Roger!!” He didn’t respond. He walked up a back door staircase with his back to me. Security was tight around him. I was sloughed off by a guard, “Not now, he’s working.” Instead I tried, “Roger, for the TWINS!” Ahhh, the magic words worked. I held out the ‘bundle of joy’ and he took it from me with both hands. As he looked down at the pink watercolor washed ‘Roger and Mirka’ label his sweet signature grin appeared.
I got the chills. I made Roger Federer, “The Greatest. . .(the list is just too long)”, SMILE! He looked me directly in the eyes and flashed another sweet smile and said, “Thank you very much”. WOW! His smiles were so very heartfelt. Just priceless. I didn’t even care that a camera malfunctioned behind me and didn’t capture the moment. There was no photo to post on Federer’s official website for fans to share in the excitement. That was unimportant. This was unimaginable timing and unbelievable luck. Mission accomplished!
Photo by Zahed Khan
“We were all praying for him to stop and greet us”
Two days later, after the Hewitt quarterfinal, the Swiss by Association team ran down to the north baseline. I had the red and white, “Shhh, Quiet Genius at Work!”, banner with me. I draped it over the railing and our red and white team called out to Roger as he walked to the tunnel. We were all praying for him to stop and greet us. How could he pass his famous banner that has traveled the world for two and a half years without a word? He didn’t disappoint.
His signature stroll led him to us. We were stunned to hear, “Hi guys! How are you?” This was surprising not for the words but for his tone of voice, which I will never forget. It was casual, like greeting old friends. He asked who among us was going to the U.S. Open. He signed hats, flags and books; chatting and smiling along the wall. The dimple in his left cheek came and went as he smiled. He was in a playful mood. I pulled out a drawing that I included in the twins’ baby book and said, “Roger, this was done just for the baby book.” I told him a fan in Hungary drew it and I’d send an autographed copy to her. He said, “She (Mirka) loved it!” I thought, WOW! She already opened it and loved it? Feedback about the gift directly from Roger while still at the tournament was amazing. He repeated how much Mirka loved it again, then he said in a very playful way with that signature grin, “So was this the Pink Envelope?”
Postscript: After The Mighty Fed’s victory today, I received this text from a fellow Swiss by Association team member: “We hung banner (“…Genius at Work!”) at baseline and he came 2 us. Shook all our hands – mine twice lol – thanked us for our support.” This is why he is “The Greatest of All Time” to me.
Big thanks to Kathy Woodward for this report from the Cincinnati Masters! And to the photographers for their images.
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