During one of the women's quarterfinal games at Wimbledon, a simple banner caught the fancy of folks there.
“@RogerFederer, atcentre court from India, only for you,” it read. Holding it wasAnanda Shankar Jayant, a renowned Indian classical dancer andmotivational speaker.
On that day, though, she was just an excited tennis enthusiast.
Ananda – like any other fan visiting the All England Lawn Tennisand Croquet Club – shared photographs from the day with heracquaintances. One of them shared the images on Twitter, catchingthe eye of the organisers, who then approached her for aninterview.
"I have watched tennis all my life, from the time ofBjorn and McEnroe. Does that make me sound ancient?" she quips.
The Padma Shri awardee won tickets to one of the most elitetournaments in world tennis through an overseas ballot. "My husbandand I won tickets to Centre Court. We watched both the women'squarterfinals. I would have loved to watch Roger Federer live but Isuppose that's for another day," she says.
Ananda of course is aFederer loyalist. "There is an essence of artistry when he plays.There's a grace to his game and how he makes the impossibility ofsome of his shots look so easy. It appeals to the artist in me,"she explains.
The banner was a last-minute effort by the couple."My husband egged me on and said come on, ‘let's have a banner forFederer’. He helped me, using the kajal and lipstick in my purse,"she says.
READ : 'Sad' Nadal admits Federer deserved to win
Ananda, a cancer survivor, remembers her struggle through treatmentand recovery.
"I was diagnosed with breast cancer 11 years back. Iremember getting my diagnosis around the same time in 2008, in themiddle of the tennis season. To be fair, it was not like life wasmorose and I was using tennis as a crutch. I heavily relied ondance to deal with cancer, but tennis was definitely a way to keepthe mind strong. I remember reading stories of Federer and Nadal,reading about their highs and lows. We tend to box our lives andreading about sportsmen overcoming their injuries and mentalhurdles was inspirational," she says.
How dance helped Ananda in her fight against cancer
Ananda was easy to spot at the Championship with her bright purpleand pink “Wimbledon palette” saree.
“The first thing I focused onwhen we got the tickets was on what I'd wear. I am very comfortablein a saree, irrespective of the event. The question was the colour.My husband then suggested going with the tones of the tournament,"she adds.
Her experience at Wimbledon is the fulfilment of alifelong dream to visit the venue and watch a game. "I did thewhole routine. My husband and I waited in the long queues outsidethe courts, we sat on the hill and then of course, watching theCentre Court games. The entire experience was nothing short ofmagical," she adds.
Sportstar caught up with the dancer ahead of the men's singlesfinal between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic and Ananda isunderstandably anxious.
"I am nervously waiting for the game tostart. I have been reading the dailies here in London and followingconversations online. So many people are predicting the game totilt Djokovic's way and I am worried, but I am rooting for Federer.I hope he adds another Grand Slam to his name," she says. A Federerwin will mean a 21st Grand Slam title for the Swiss great.
Whenasked if she'd do the whole thing again, Ananda agrees withouthesitation. "Maybe next time I'll actually get to meet Federer. Doone better. One can hope," she gushes.
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