Unbelievably classy is a description used for Roger Federer on many occasions but never was it more apt as he adhered to that line of Rudyard Kipling of which all tennis stars are aware and treated triumph and disaster just the same.
A three minutes long standing ovation greeted Federer as he put the disappointment of losing the French Open quarter final behind him, and probably his attempt to equal Pete Sampras with the most weeks ever in possession of the world no.1 ranking, to receive his award as the International Tennis Federation’s World Champion for 2009.
Federer was understandably late for the glittering ceremony, held at the Pavillon d’Armenonville in the midst of Paris’ Bois de Boulogne; he was held up in drug testing and then the requisite media requirements after the loss to Robin Soderling which ended a run of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals dating back to Wimbledon 2004. But after exchanging his track suit for a tuxedo he felt an obligation to attend with more than 400 invited guests that included numerous former champions.
“Losing the match and being here tonight are two very separate things,” said Federer. “Of course I am disappointed about what happened on the court today but I also remember coming here as the World Junior Champion back in 1999. I had to come across from England where I was playing the Surbiton Challenger and there was a long trip finished off by bus and the Metro. This was only a matter of a five minutes car ride so it was easy.
“I love being here. This is our world and for me 2009 was such a wonderful year what with getting married, finally winning the French Open title, then going to Wimbledon and beating Pete Sampras’ record of Grand Slam singles titles, and then becoming a father with twin daughters. I don’t know if I have ever enjoyed life and tennis more, even after today.”
Federer also honored three-time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten who was presented with the Philippe Chatrier Award for his contribution to the world of tennis including developing it and other sports in Brazil as a well as raising money for charity projects including his Guga Kuerten Institute. In addition he was a key member of Rio’s successful Olympic bid.
The pair joinedITF Junior World Champions Daniel Berta of Sweden and France’s Kristina Mladenovic as well as Wheelchair World Champions Shingo Kunieda of Japan and the Netherlands’ Esther Vergeer who won the award for a record tenth year.
However Serena Williams sent her apologies in being unable to collect both the Women’s Singles award and Doubles in tandem with elder sister Venus. Men’s Doubles Champions Bob and Mike Bryan had already returned home to the United States after losing early in French Open.
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