Actor Lara Dutta Bhupathi has watched tennis star Roger Federer in action many times, but it is his off-court charm that has won her heart.
The tennis star announced his retirement from competitive tennis on Thursday, confirming that Laver Cup 2022 will be his last appearance in the professional sport. And tributes have been pouring from all corners of the world for the Swiss great since. The announcement has made Lara walk down the memory lane, and cherish the memories.
“I have had the privilege and the pleasure of meeting Roger Federer many times through the courses of my husband’s (former Indian tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi) career. I have been one of the fortunate people to see him play on many centre courts at many Grand Slam grand slams. For me. Roger Federer will always be GOAT. It’s just sheer poetry in motion to watch him play,” Lara tells us.
The 44-year-old continues, “I still remember watching him play at the Australian Open final against Rafael Nadal a couple of years ago. I mean, Nadal is an incredible player as well, but watching Roger move on court is literally just watching a ballet performance take place. I will always treasure the moments that I’ve had to watch him play as an athlete and as a tennis player”.
Here, she revisits her first meeting with him, and how he made an impeccable first impression.
“When it comes to knowing him for the person that he is… I still remember the very first time that I ever travelled with my husband was to the World Championships, which normally held in London around year end,” she says, adding, “That was the first time that I saw Roger. He was sitting in the players lounge right at the very back. Mahesh’s father, Krishna Bhupathi, walked into the lounge, and went to him to say hello”.
Recalling the moment, Lara shares, “Roger stood up immediately, as soon as he saw Mahesh’s dad came over, and shook his hand. It just spoke volumes about him and about his upbringing, and about the kind of person that he is, for the respect that he had for somebody’s father and an elderly person”.
Apart from his game, Lara admires him for his humble nature as well. “No matter how big he was, he recognised people. He was always really humble, always smiling, never said no to a picture being taken,” she says.
In fact, she is glad that her husband took the initiative to get him to India for a match in the International Premier Tennis League. She confesses, “For Indian fans, it was a dream come true and once in a lifetime opportunity. In our lifetime, to be able to see Roger play on Indian soil, all thanks to Mahesh really for being able to bring him down here during the league. Roger never has in the past ever played on Indian soil. So I think at least in our life and our generation, we got to see him at his peak when he was here”.
These are some of the memories that she will hold close to her heart. “These treasured memories are very close to my heart, given the fact that he is retiring from tennis. But I will always eternally remain a Roger Federer fan and for me, he will always be GOAT,” she ends.