During the match between the local favorite Cem Ilkel and Daniel Gimeno-Traver, you could already see the excitement on the kids’ faces. They lined up by the entry to the lower stands early in the match, and during the next two change-overs, they eagerly filled up one side of the stadium’s lower level.
You could see the excitement on their faces. They were going to be a part of something special, a clinic led by the world’s best-known male tennis face, the 17-Major champion Roger Federer. They patiently watched with their parents the rest of the match between Ilkel and Gimeno-Traver. Once it was over, they got invited to the court and the equipment needed to hold the clinic was rapidly brought to the court by the staff. The kids warmed up, and the much-awaited announcement filled the air: Roger Federer was on his way to the center court. By the time he arrived, the atmosphere was electric the setup was complete. The Swiss joined the party with a microphone hooked up to his head. He masterfully entertained the public of the center court, kids and adults, for about half an hour in a way that no other top name in tennis can. He showed that he not only possesses great skills on the court, but also in the art of showmanship. He literally gave a clinic on how to entertain a large group of crowd. He engaged the kids in various fun drills, kept a running commentary, and cracked jokes here and there keeping either the kids or the crowd laughing continuously.
The organizers successfully picked kids that play tennis and have attained a certain degree of skill, which led to some fun rallies between Federer and them, sometimes with the kid winning the point and the crowd roaring. The Swiss maestro kept a smile throughout, encouraged the crowd’s participation, and simply made every kid feel special with his cheerful personality. Even when the clouds covered the sky and it started drizzling, he remained upbeat and never made the conditions feel like a threat to the flow of activities.
When it was all said and done, a mesmerized crowd applauded both Federer and the children for an extended period of time. Federer lined the kids up one group at a time for plenty of pictures, and made sure to sign as many of the giant balls as possible.
Having seen many kids’ day activities at various professional tournaments at all levels, I was impressed with the planning and the execution of the event. Just as failures deserve criticism (see the previous blog entry), successes deserve praise; therefore the organizers should get an A+ for convincing Federer to fully engage himself as the main attraction of the event, making sure all the necessary measures were taken for a smooth operation, arranging the equipment, and setting up the court and its surrounding ahead of time. Careful planning spells success and the Tuesday late afternoon at the Istanbul Open proved that it can be done.
Wednesday features four singles matches on the center court, ending with the main star of the tournament, Federer, taking on the seasoned veteran Jarkko Nieminen.
Until next time…