‘Man, it’s Roger Federer!’

‘He was bigger than how he looked on TV, and with his long hair let loose, it took me a while to recognise him,’ says table tennis star Sharath Kamal.

Meeting the tennis legend: Sharath Kamal took a photograph with Roger Federer (left) when he met the Swiss during the 2004 Olympics in Athens. He, however, lost the photograph which was on his mobile phone. “Hopefully, some day I will get another opportunity to click a picture with Federer,” says the Indian table tennis star.   -  G. P. Sampath Kumar

It was Athens, Greece, the venue of the 2004 Olympics, my first Games. I arrived at the Olympics Village a few days before the start of the Games in order to get acclimatised to the conditions. One afternoon, during my break, I walked around the Games Village to get a feel of it.

I then walked towards the main dining hall that had more than 7000 seats for athletes to dine. As I went closer to the entrance, I saw a tennis player, who had just finished practising, walking towards the dining hall. He was quite tall with broad shoulders and his long hair let loose; he was carrying his tennis bag too. I looked at him and realised that I had seen him somewhere, but couldn’t place him correctly. So I just walked ahead to the food counter, when it suddenly struck me, ‘Man, it’s Roger Federer!’ He was bigger than how he looked on TV, and with his long hair let loose, it took me a while to recognise him.

Once I realised it was Federer, I picked up my food and walked up and down, trying to spot him again. Luckily, I didn’t have to search long for him. I found him sitting at a dining table, and I too sat at the same table, but some 10 chairs away from him. I just couldn’t take my eyes off him, and suddenly another guy in denim shorts and wearing a cap walked up to him with a tray of food in hand. Recognising this person was easy — it was Andy Roddick. So I just sat there until both finished eating their food. Then I went to them and took a photograph with Federer and Roddick. That night I was so proud, and I kept telling everyone about the picture. Unfortunately, I lost that picture, which was on my mobile phone. Hopefully, some day I will get another opportunity to click a picture with Federer!

As told to K. Keerthivasan