“I love India. I enjoy going there to visit and also to play. It’s a vibrant country”. From asking his fans to take him on a tour of India via photoshop or confessing his love for ‘naan’, tennis legend Roger Federer’s love affair with India is no secret.

As the 20-time Grand Slam champion announced his retirement from top-level tennis, saying that Laver cup will be his final ATP tour event, we take a look at Federer’s connection with India.

Federer has been to India three times in 2006, 2014 and 2015. He last visited India in 2015 for the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL). 

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He also visited India for the IPTL’s inaugural edition in 2014, where he played for the Indian Aces.

During that visit, Federer played two matches at the Indira Gandhi National Indoor Stadium in New Delhi. In the singles tie, he beat Czech player Tomas Berdych 6-4 before teaming up with Gael Monfils to beat Nenad Zimonjic and Novak Djokovic in straight sets.

Federer’s 2014 visit was a memorable one too as some of Bollywood’s top stars like Aamir Khan, Deepika Padukone, Akshay Kumar and Riteish Deshmukh joined the Swiss on court to play tennis during an exhibition match.

In the all-stars match, he partnered Deepika Padukone and played against the pair of Novak Djokovic and Sania Mirza.

Federer visited India for the first time in 2006 in his capacity as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador following the devastating 2004 tsunami in Tamil Nadu. Federer visited a protection centre for children and orphans in Cuddalore to oversee relief efforts. Federer also led several fundraising initiatives, including the ATP All-Star Rally for Relief.

More than 18,000 people in India, a third of them children, were killed or reported missing due to the tsunami on December 26, 2004.

Accompanied by his then-girlfriend-now-wife, Miroslava Mirka Vavrinec, Federer also went to Villupuram, where he took part in an HIV Education Programme.

In 2015, a controversy erupted after Federer shared a picture on Facebook that shows him unpacking a Team India jersey, with the hashtag #BleedBlue. The photograph, posted just before India’s World Cup match against Pakistan, irritated Federer’s legion of fans in Islamabad.

However, the post was part of a marketing photoshoot as Federer shared the same sponsor as the Indian cricket team.

Amid the row, Federer apologised for sparking the controversy. “It was a Nike campaign they had because I met some of the Indian players and I had just spent some time in India so they presented the shirt to me. I support South Africa, and everybody knows that. The idea wasn’t to spark any fire and I’m sorry if it did that,” Federer had told reporters.

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By Dipak

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