By Daniel Teo
Never have I seen a room packed with so many star-struck sports reporters and photographers.
Neither have I seen so many hands raised when the floor was opened for questions.
More incredibly, in my three years as a sports journalist, I have never witnessed reporters so in awe that they were willing to go against journalism ethics and ask for a photo or an autograph with a celebrity.
Like most reporters in the Credit Suisse training room-turned press conference room at One Raffles Link on Friday afternoon, I am pretty much used to meeting and speaking to big-name personalities and celebrities.
But this was a press conference like no other. It was Roger Federer’s press conference.
The Swiss tennis master and legend was in town for a stopover as a global ambassador of Credit Suisse en route to Melbourne where he will be looking to win his fifth Australian Open title.
The winner of an incredible 17 Grand Slam titles and holder of the record for being in the world No. 1 position for 302 weeks, Federer is arguably the greatest player in the history of tennis.
And just as we are used to seeing him on the tennis court, the world No. 2 was a picture of poise as he entered a room impatiently awaiting his arrival.
Arrived he did like a king taking his seat on the throne as camera shutters went berserk and reporters got off their sears to take a once-in-a-lifetime photo of him with their own camera phones.
When asked how he keeps up his excitement for the game despite being under the spotlight for so many years, he said, “I want to enjoy what I’m doing, which is this.
“So instead of dreading another year of tennis or another round of media interviews and signing autographs, I want to be more motivated and excited each year.”
Many are expecting the 31-year-old Federer to hang up his racquet soon, especially with the likes of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and now Andy Murray challenging and at times even surpassing him at the top.
But the Swiss master who started playing professionally at age 17 warns he will be sticking around and hopefully win more titles for as long as he can.
“I still get out of bed looking forward to playing tennis. People keep saying I am fading away but I’m not 80 or 90 years old. So I want to make full use of my time while it lasts.
“I feel like I am playing great tennis right now and I will never back out as long as I can physically do it.”
Federer will be aiming for his fifth Australian Open title later this month but is no longer considered the favourite as he faces stiff competition from Djokovic and Murray, as Nadal has been ruled out because of an injury.
Asked what are his chances for the first Grand Slam of the year, he said, “It doesn’t matter if I’m not the favourite. If I play well I believe I can win it.
“Djokovic is definitely the favourite going into the tournament but anything can happen. Murray is playing great as well and will be more relaxed after winning his first grand slam last year.
“And of cause Nadal is not around although we would love to see him back. So it’s a great opportunity for the rest of the players as well,” he added.
There were many questions left unanswered in the room as the press conference was brought to an end. And just when I thought the mayhem was over, reporters and photographers were all over Federer as he took his leave.
One managed to get a photo with him while another got his autograph.
I am sure I will never get to see something quite like this again.