CHEMO CHAIR STORIES 1. The day we met Feds.
In 2006 I went back home to Sydney to visit my folks and younger brother (Sam) for Christmas. My Christmas present was a card which said “this card entitles you to a meeting with Roger Federer and Tony Roach….”. Then mum told the story of how it came about.
Tony Roach lived behind us. He had a really long battleaxe driveway and a rebound ace court out the back of his house. This surface is used at professional tennis complexes and all the professional matches are played on them rather than hardcourt. Tony’s Labrador kept getting into our rubbish bins, tipping them over and making a mess. My mum (Muz) dropped in there to tell him to sort their pup out and, at the same time sneakily asked if I could have a coaching lesson with him as a chrissie present. He said no because Roger was staying with him over the Christmas period but does he want to drop in and meet Roger? ‘Shit yeah’ said Muz. Done deal.
3 days before Christmas day Sam, myself and a few mates had a night out in the city. After midnight the trains stop running but a bus service goes from station to station until the early hours of the morning. We got off the bus around 2am at our stop and started the walk, more of a stumble, home. A line of shops ran down the road before it turned right towards home. As we walked past the shops a car burned past us. Then as we turned right we were met suddenly by 4 guys, face to face, nowhere to go. One of them was holding trolley poles (the metal handle of a shopping trolley), one each hand, one had a beer bottle, two had nothing but bad breath and another guy was in the car with it running.
The bloke at the front asked for my ‘stuff’. Wallet and phone I figured. As I put my hands into my pockets he broke the bottle over my head cutting the side of my forehead. The guy with the trolley poles hit me in the body I don’t know how many times. A mate ran in and he was hit on the top of his head with a pole.
My brother yelled at the guy ‘put the poles down and fight like a man!’. Laugh. That’s actually what he said. Sam is only small but he’s an animal when he needs to be. He pounced on the guy and they fought each other for a while. The adrenaline was well and truly pumping.
It all broke up and the other guys got in the car and drove off.
My mates couldn’t find me for a while. I came to to the sound of Sam yelling out my name. I had crawled behind the shops in all the ruckus I guess. We called Muz, who rocked up in her nightie, and the ambulance picked us up to go to hospital for stitches and a check up. 9 stitches a bit above my temple and my mate got 9 on his head too.
Never heard from our mates with the trolly poles again.
Back to Christmas. I got the card and couldn’t believe it was real! I was big into tennis when I was young and Roger was and still is one of my idols.
On boxing day I could hear them having a practice session so I went around. They were just finishing up as I arrived. Roger said “What happened to you?!” as he took his shirt off and we shook hands. I had two black eyes with a big blood spot on the whites on one of them. We sat down at the table with Tony and spoke for the next half an hour. He was so down to earth. We spoke about gangs in Sydney and also in Switzerland. He spoke a fair bit about the gothic trend over there. He asked me more questions than I asked him and it was just incredible to see how grounded he was. I asked if I could come back and watch him train the next day. I sat with his wife Mirka and watched him play for 3 hours. There was an old woman just sunbathing there too. I think it was Tony Roaches mum. I couldn’t believe she had her eyes closed. I regret not asking Roger for a hit and I regret asking Mirka if she played tennis too (she was world #300 for a bit there).
Sam joined us for a while at the end. We took some photos and asked Roger to sign a Nike tennis shirt that we had raced around half of Sydney to find the night before. We asked him if he wanted to kick the footy in the park over the road. He’d never kicked an AFL footy before. Would have been a weapon no doubt, but he had to do his cool down and keep moving.
I was definitely nervous to meet him but it didn’t take very long to feel comfortable in his presence. I think he would have the ability to do this with anyone he met. He is such a dreamboat of a human. Best player ever but that is just a bonus if you ask me. Even if Djokovic wins more titles than him, Roger will always be seen as better. I learnt a really valuable life lesson from him. We are all equal, or maybe we aren’t but you should never act as if you are above anyone else no matter how good you are at something or how much money or knowledge you may have. Given the chance, you can learn something from everyone you meet and that lesson that you may miss out on might be the one you needed all along. Roger learnt not to walk home from train stations half cut in the middle of the night in Sydney. Thank me later.
Love ya Feds.