The “Fed Factor” has most definitely kicked off the 2017 tennis year.
After six months out of the game, Switzerland’s Roger Federer has made his long awaited return to the tennis circuit and tennis fans just can’t get enough. Along with this return is also a sense of urgency to see the Swiss maestro before he hangs up the racquet.
And if Roger Federer knows one thing, it is the power of his own brand.
Tennis twitter went into meltdown when Federer used the social media video platform Periscope, to give his legion of fans an insight into a training session in Dubai, just before jetting to Australia.
In fact, not only did fans get to see him practice, they were treated to a mic’d up Federer commentating his own practice session.
The Periscope practice was expertly orchestrated, from him driving himself to the courts to the on-court commentary.
Federer is not just one of the greatest to play tennis. He is a brand within himself and the Periscope practice session is a clear example of how well he controls his own image.
And the power of his legions of fans cannot be underestimated. The Swiss tennis player’s passionate fan-base managed to outmanoeuvre GQ magazine’s list of the well-heeled, to land him the title of best-dressed man in 2016.
His decision to use the Hopman Cup – an exhibition tournament – to mark his return to tennis was also a masterstroke of planning.
The beauty of the Hopman Cup is that it guarantees three singles matches at the start of another gruelling tennis season.
It gives players valuable court time to brush off the cobwebs and let a few little niggles from last season sort themselves out.
It’s also as close to hit-and-giggle tennis as a professional player can get.
But an event like the Hopman Cup isn’t just beneficial for players looking for a ‘soft’ start to the year.
For West Australian tennis fans it brought a legend to their shores. In a city that often misses out on any international icon, whether it is in sport or the arts, Federer was the biggest thing to hit in eons.
Further to this, Federer’s Perth visit also has a greater effect for tennis and that is his legacy to the game. Exhibition tournaments like the Hopman Cup may be not be played at the same pace as matches with ranking points on the line, but the event serves to bring in a new generation of fans.
And after the 2017 edition of the event, it is easy to see Federer has done exactly that.
Federer’s appearance at the tournament is also a huge bonus for the event. He gave organisers three sold out sessions and as reported by Fairfax Media, tournament director Paul Kilderry remarked there wasn’t a spare seat in the house for those sessions.
It was that kind of sold out.
From the 6000-odd fans who turned out for his first practice session in Perth, to the young girl crying at the net when meeting her idol, we were treated to the RF brand in all its wholesome glory. And this is not a bad thing.
Of course, Federer’s week in Perth also had the tones of a farewell tour.
Whatever Federer says, and no matter how much he tries to deflect talk of his retirement, the topic is unavoidable. The greater question is just what sort of retirement he will have. Will it be of his own choice or forced upon him?
Perhaps Federer will take a leaf out of his compatriot, Fabian Cancellara’s book and announce his last year on the tour in advance.
Like the great Spartacus, Federer could also enjoy choosing to retire in his own time and spend the year travelling the world saying goodbye to his legion of fans.
That would be a perfect end to a perfect career.
Until then the Fed Express is back for another season of gruelling travel.
Up next is the Australian Open and although no one is trying to suggest this will be his last season, if you’ve never seen the greatest before, now is an excellent time to do so and experience the Fed Factor for yourself.