Kathy and her buddies from rf.com met up this year at the Cincinnati Masters tournament.
Being a Roger Federer fan has its perks! Self-diagnosed Rogerholic, Kathy Woodward, tells her story of fandom, friendship and felines, with photos by Christina Monolatou:
Ever meet someone for the first time and feel like you’ve known them for years? An introduction via the Internet or the “back in the day way” of pen pal correspondence may have connected you. I’ve had several such friendships since childhood, all sparked through a common bond. Years ago, it was the Mod music revival in the U.K. that inspired me. I traded stories of local revival bands, fashion and the Mod culture with pen pals in England and Ireland. Now I trade tales of tennis across borders – stories of the brilliant game and warrior spirit of tennis genius Roger Federer.
In addition to my childhood pen pals, my time in Sweden as a foreign exchange student deepened my interest in international relations. Now I’m part of Roger Federer’s worldwide fan community. Once I discovered him and his astounding career and joined his website, I began to meet fellow fans online. I’ve formed friendships with Federer fans from the four corners of the U.S., Europe and Down Under. Now just a year later, my number of friends exceeds Federer’s 15 Grand Slam titles. Bonds that develop from a love of tennis and an admiration of Roger Federer are worth more to me than his collection of trophies. Experiencing these unique friendships makes me more emotional than recalling his glorious triumphs this year. Recently, I wrote to Roger to thank him for his role in forming this community:
Over the last year my admiration for you has transcended far beyond marveling over your sheer grace and warrior spirit on court. Following a match, you may leave the court a victor or a proud competitor. It’s then that your persona becomes very alive and vibrant in the hearts and minds of your fans. Bonds of friendship are strung from country to country through your spirit and inspiration. Roger, please be very conscious of this wonderful gift you leave us after every match point. We are not counting points we are counting our friends.
“Shreya5” and I started chatting via rf.com during Roland Garros, 2008. At my wits end, with a broken 27″ flat screen, I had no way to watch Federer attempt to conquer the clay last year. She saved my sanity by suggesting live streaming web sites, so I didn’t miss a match. We consoled each other after that wicked straight-set loss to Rafael Nadal in the French Open final, reminding ourselves why Roger is so loved outside of his titles.
Our friendship grew from there, and Shreya made a big change in her life last August. She moved from southern India to the Midwestern United States to study medicine. Days later, after 26 hours of travel, there was a message on my phone. “Hey Kathy! Guess who this is! It’s Shreya!” Hearing the voice of a fellow fan for the first time started the tears flowing. We could finally talk! I was her first friend outside of family in the States, and I was proud that it was Roger who brought us together.
Not long after her big move, Shreya celebrated her birthday. I jumped at the chance to create a photo album of Roger’s amazing 2008 season for her. His cherished Olympic gold medal and incredible 5th straight U.S. Open victory were the highlights. She was thrilled and so touched that she shared it with family during the holidays.
Tennis talk is the usual topic of discussion during our weekly phone calls, but the terrorist attacks at the luxury hotels in Mumbai set a more serious tone last fall. Her family was rattled by the news but thankfully no one close to her was in the area at the time. We discussed our different cultural perspectives on the tragedy and neither of us had a theory on what motivated the savages. Come winter break, Shreya was thrilled to be going home for a few weeks to see her family. She really missed her older brother who introduced her to Roger and constantly assures her that “The Mighty Fed” can pull out victories when things look bleak.
In the spring, she had exciting news and sought my advice. She was going to learn tennis! That’s sounds strange, a Federer fan not playing the game, but I knew she picked up a racquet for the same reason I did: Roger. She wanted to know racquet types, proper shoes, how to determine grip size, etc. I am by no means an expert, but I was touched she sought my advice.
Of course we have our girl talk about shopping, favorite foods and men. My interest in fashion and world costume was a natural topic as Indian textiles and the sari have always fascinated me. One of my first questions for her was if the sari was her daily attire. No, polo shirts and Western street fashion like jeans and Converse are more her style. It’s strange how our cultural assumptions are sometimes not the actual norm. I’ve always loved Indian food and now consult her before calling in a take-out order. Mexican food is her new favorite. She’s not living in the most ideal city to taste truly authentic food – unlike where I live in California – but she loves it more and more. She’s tried our traditional American sweets like pumpkin pie and brownies. What a surprise we have chocolate in common!
Another Indian cultural tradition I’m curious about is arranged marriage. We had a long talk about that the other night after I watched Outsourced, a movie set in India with arranged marriage as a sub plot. She said it’s not uncommon and parents try not to be so obvious about it nowadays. One could be introduced to the son of a friend, and if you hit it off then it’s natural to see what happens. That didn’t sound too different from the folks here in the States wanting their daughter to meet the boss’s Yale graduate son.
After all this, we still have yet to meet in-person. I’m hoping she’ll be able to come out to the Masters tournament in Indian Wells next spring and see my sunny home state.
Over the past weeks, we’ve both been restless without Roger on court and can’t wait until play resumes for him in Basel. Until then, we are managing life’s ups and downs and supporting each other from afar. I recently sprained my back and lost two cats within days of each other. Shreya was very consoling to me along with other fans from rf.com. I was very touched to hear from fans I’d never been introduced to, supporting me during my difficult time. And I didn’t wait long to find a new feline friend. Coincidentally, she was born the day Roger won his Coupe des Mousquetaires, so I named her “Chatrier.”
Thank you Roger, I love my new friends.
Roger Federer photos by Christina Monolatou, another friend of Kathy’s.
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