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Roger Federer won the ATP Fans' Favorite award despite playing just 1 tournament, but is anyone surprised?

Roger Federer with his 2019 ATP Fans
Roger Federer with his 2019 ATP Fans' Favorite Award
ANALYST
Modified 23 Dec 2020, 01:55 IST
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Roger Federer has played only six matches in 2020, all of which came at the Australian Open. For the rest of the year the Swiss legend has been on the sidelines, recovering from double knee surgery.

Despite his lengthy absence from the sport, Roger Federer has been voted as the ATP Fan’s Favorite Player for the 18th year in a row. But is that really a surprise?

The guidelines to decide the winner of the award are pretty simple. ATP puts up a poll on its website towards the end of the year, and fans from all around the world are allowed to vote for ‘their favorite’ player of the season. But overzealous fans can also cast their vote multiple times, by using different devices or login credentials. 

For a while now, it has been universally accepted that Roger Federer is the most popular player on the planet. He attracts fans in droves wherever he goes, and gets a lion's share of the crowd support in practically every country that hosts a tennis tournament.

That, unsurprisingly, translates to the web too. Ever since Roger Federer won his first Slam in the year 2003, he has been getting the highest percentage of online votes from fans.

The ATP Fans' Favorite award was instituted in the year 2000, with Gustavo Kuerten being its inaugural winner. The Brazilian was followed by Marat Safin, who won the award in two consecutive years. But after taking home his first prize in 2003, Roger Federer has established such a vice-like grip on the popularity contest that it feels pointless to even consider other players as nominees.

Out of the 21 Fan Favorite awards declared so far, the Swiss has won 18 - which means he has won 85% of all the awards ever handed out in this category! That's unreal dominance.

Some expected the streak to be broken this year, given that Roger Federer was barely even active on the tour. Players like Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem and Rafael Nadal dominated the tennis headlines with their on-court exploits, while Federer was reduced to an injury-affected afterthought. And yet here we are, with the Swiss having beaten the competition yet again.

Should Federer fans have taken into account that their hero barely played all year? I myself did not, and I'm pretty sure most loyal fans - of any player - wouldn't have either.

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Your favorite player doesn't change with the amount of tennis they play. It doesn’t matter whether Roger Federer plays six matches or 60. What matters is the joy that the player gives to his fans, and Federer certainly gives plenty of joy even when he's not physically on the court.

That thing called you YouTube? It is filled with all kinds of 'Federer the genius' videos, each of which gives his fans unlimited happiness.

Roger Federer is a fan favorite wherever he goes or plays.
Roger Federer is a fan favorite wherever he goes or plays.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. And Roger Federer has never been more absent from the public eye than he has been in 2020. That has made his fans all the more affectionate towards the 39-year-old; they know that he doesn’t have many more years left on tour, so they want to cherish every moment they have left.

Even if Roger Federer had lost in the first round of the Australian Open this year, he would've likely still taken home the Fans' Favorite award. Heck, his fans would have probably voted him to victory even if he hadn’t played a single match all year.

Why is Roger Federer so loved across the world?

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No other male player is as loved as Roger Federer is
No other male player is as loved as Roger Federer is

Roger Federer's elegant and seemingly effortless game has played a key role in making him the most popular player on the planet. Most fans want to be entertained while watching a match of tennis. And there aren't many things more entertaining than watching Federer skip around the court and unleash one of his signature shots, with the speed of a tracer bullet and the grace of a ballerina.

Federer’s poise and behavior both on and off the court have also made him an all-round exemplary figure, a role model to look up to. The way Federer carries himself in victory as well as defeat is something that even neutral observers admire.

When he wins, you get to see a certain childlike excitement in the Swiss. And when he loses, you get to know how much tennis means to him.

Who can forget the aftermath of the 2009 Australian Open final, where Federer cried like a baby after suffering a heartbreaking loss to Rafael Nadal. Federer didn’t cry because he lost to Nadal or went down in a tightly contested five-setter. He cried because he gave it his all that evening, and it still wasn’t enough against the might of the Spaniard.

You could see that the 20-time Grand Slam champion had thrown everything into the match - his whole heart, body and soul. Federer cried at his failure, and his millions of fans cried along with him.

Rafael Nadal consoles Roger Federer at the 2009 Australian Open.
Rafael Nadal consoles Roger Federer at the 2009 Australian Open.
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There is a human side to the otherwise god-like figure that is Roger Federer, which almost serves as the exception that proves the rule. He can be a fun-loving child, he can be a responsible icon, he can be an exemplary family man. Federer can be anything you want him to be, and more.

To put it simply, Roger Federer is an amalgamation of countless unique and positive traits. And that explains why the Swiss star has fans from every age group, every region and every gender.

Federer is like Superman in a lot of ways. Both are revered as Gods by the people of their world. They are relentless in their pursuit of glory (or justice for Superman). Interestingly, they both also have a logo unique to them; for Superman it is the ‘S’ emblazoned across his chest, and for Federer it is 'RF'.

And much like how the ‘S’ stands for hope in the case of Superman, Federer himself is a beacon of hope for many across the world. The eight-time Wimbledon champion has come back from the brink of defeat several times in his career, and now he is continuing to fight the good fight despite being close to 40. Many consider him to be more than just a mere mortal, and why wouldn't they? He keeps giving them reason to believe in the supernatural.

In fact, Federer has had his share of logic-defying victories even this year, despite playing just six matches. His wins over Tennys Sandgren and John Millman at the Australian Open this year were nothing short of miraculous, and they reminded his fans why you can never write him off.

Don't be surprised if Roger Federer wins a few more ATP Fans' Favorite awards in the years to come, even if he never wins another big tournament or even competes at the top level. As long as his name is amongst the voting choices, he will be the top contender to win it.

Published 23 Dec 2020, 01:55 IST
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