Wednesday, June 26, 2019
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Federer, "God" back on earth

The Philippe-Chatrier court, in the first round between Lorenzo Sonego and Roger Federer, Sunday 26 May.
The Philippe-Chatrier court, in the first round between Lorenzo Sonego and Roger Federer, Sunday 26 May. ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT / AFP

He himself acknowledged that for weeks, this return had sparked "A lot of expectations". So "I was tense at first," will concede Roger Federer, who had dried the last three editions of the Paris Grand Slam. In the locker room maybe, but not on the court. Sunday, May 26, the first day of the tournament, the Swiss wandered (6-2, 6-4, 6-4) against the Italian Lorenzo Sonego, unexpected quarter-finalist in the first Masters 1000 of the season on clay in Monte Carlo. For an hour and a half, he showed that he had not lost his hand and that the new decor did not disconcert him.

On this brand-new central court, there are things that do not change. It's nice to be called Roger Federer, no need to hope, at the stroke of 14:45, have any influence on the clock of the stomach. For the guests of the tournament, the Sunday lunch comes first, including before legends. It was therefore on a half-trimmed Philippe-Chatrier court that the world number 3, taupe t-shirt, white shorts, officially touched his first ball, four years after his elimination in the quarter-finals by fellow countryman Stan Wawrinka.

Read also Roland-Garros 2019: the 12 reconstruction works

Forfeit due to a back injury in 2016, Federer had then zapped the season on clay in 2017, after a left knee surgery, then in 2018, hoping to spare his body and focus his preparation for Wimbledon. The strategy has not paid (defeat in five sets against South African Kevin Anderson in the quarterfinals), Federer is back, just not to lose the pace. The bad languages ​​say that the new watchmaking partner of the tournament, which is his since 2004, is for many.

No farewell tour

He claimed something else in January, when announcing his coming: "I'm in a phase where I think I have to have fun. I missed it not to do it. I just wanted maybe once to do it again. " Twenty years after his Grand Slam debut, right here. Of the 127 other players in the 1999 edition, he is the only one not to be retired.

See you soon 38, the Swiss denies any farewell tour – "It's not the idea", he repeated in dozens of "exclusive" interviews this week – while recognizing that at his age, the future is combined with the conditional. So in doubt, the public does not want to miss the last session. We press ourselves to his training to immortalize the idol, to admire his beautiful gestures as long as there is still time.

"This is the 21e Once I see it live, the 3e here, the other times it was Bercy ", enumerates Patrice Touchard, 44, from Orléans. The employee of a golf course has released the set: red cap and t-shirt with "RF", the initials of the player. An unconditional Swiss, "Even though I like Nadal so much," He said.

They thought that the meeting would be missed forever. Ten years that Hugo Carier and Maria Pocoraro make the move from Liege to Roland and that Roger refuses them. When he plays on the Chatrier, they have places for the Lenglen, when they have places for the Chatrier, he plays on the Lenglen. "We even went to Rome this year to hope to see him, we stayed from Saturday to Tuesday and he started his tournament … on Wednesday," tells the damn fifties, who records all his matches the few times they can not see them live.

But this Sunday, May 26, is the jackpot: they will be able to see it twice. First in training at the end of the morning, on a short schedule, then in majesty on the Central for his entry in the running. For the occasion, no more prohibitions that hold, everything is allowed. "I laugh when I see people taking a selfie with Roger in the background but here I will do it too," blushed Maria, sitting on the edge of the short number 5.

"In ninety percent of cases, he trains on court 4 or 5", specifies, in the end, their friend Jean Marczewski, electronics technician of his condition. When the three friends come to Roland, "It's to see Roger." But what do they really like about him? "The game, the character, it looks like he has no flaws. "

Behind them resonates the same panegyric. "Look at this back as it is right," swoons Gisèle Matan, Marseilles "But Swiss heart". She and her daughter Eva, 25 years old, "RF" cap and Swiss flag, arrived at 10 am "To be seated, and at the edge of the court. It's like sales! ". The day before, they waited two hours in front of his usual hotel to make him sign photos. No luck, "We were told that this year he had changed". They hope to find the right one by their departure, Thursday night. "Coming here is a holiday budget. In all, two we have for 1,200 euros, including 558 euros of tickets. " When we love, we do not count …

"It would have been like God"

Roger Federer, Saturday, May 25, during a training session on the Suzanne-Lenglen court.
Roger Federer, Saturday, May 25, during a training session on the Suzanne-Lenglen court. VINCENT KESSLER / REUTERS

The mother and daughter were already at Roland Saturday, during the traditional children's day. The court Suzanne-Lenglen was saturated like a day of great poster for the training of the Swiss against Jérémy Chardy. of the "Ro-ger" dozens were coming down from the stands. 10,000 spectators who are transis To thank them, the equipment manufacturer of Switzerland had him a t-shirt "Paris 2019" flocked with a big red heart. The operation seduction was total. "When he came on the court, he looked like God, he received a fabulous ovation. But the t-shirt was a bit too much, concedes Gisèle Matan.

Meanwhile, Austria's Dominic Thiem, a finalist last year, repeated his range in front of a pelé and three shorn on the short annex number 4. The day before, he had already held his press conference in front of a dozen of journalists when those of Federer can not contain everyone.

The symptoms of "Federomania" are visible until the volunteers of the tournament and some journalists, who barely hide during his press conferences to zoom in on the Swiss, in search of a snapshot that will salivate more than one.

"I missed the audience. I too missed it, summed up Federer Sunday night. No longer playing here for years, it created a buzz, I felt a lot today on the Central and training yesterday and today. It is necessarily very cool, I greatly appreciated the reception I received today in the field. It's not normal for me. I hope that will continue. "

Winner of the tournament just ten years ago, in 2009, few imagine him raise a second time the Cup of Musketeers, him first. "If I could already make four games and stay two weeks in Paris, it would be cool", he confided this week in L'Equipe.

A second victory is already very likely: in the second round, on Wednesday, he will be opposed to the German lucky-loser Oscar Otte. The enamored tour is gone to extend.

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