All in the name of Federer - this is Ananda Shankar Jayant's Wimbledon story

Padma Shri award-winning dancer, cancer survivor and public speaker Ananda Shankar Jayant rates her trip to Wimbledon 2019 and catching Centre Court action as one of life's best moments.

ananda federer fan

Bharatnatyam dancer and Padma Shri awardee Ananda Shankar Jayant at Wimbledon with her husband, Jayant Dwarkanath.   -  Special arrangement

During one of the women's quarterfinal games at Wimbledon, a simple banner caught the fancy of folks there.

“@RogerFederer, at centre court from India, only for you,” it read. Holding it was Ananda Shankar Jayant, a renowned Indian classical dancer and motivational speaker.

On that day, though, she was just an excited tennis enthusiast.
 

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Ananda – like any other fan visiting the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club – shared photographs from the day with her acquaintances. One of them shared the images on Twitter, catching the eye of the organisers, who then approached her for an interview.



"I have watched tennis all my life, from the time of Bjorn and McEnroe. Does that make me sound ancient?" she quips.

The Padma Shri awardee won tickets to one of the most elite tournaments in world tennis through an overseas ballot. "My husband and I won tickets to Centre Court. We watched both the women's quarterfinals. I would have loved to watch Roger Federer live but I suppose that's for another day," she says.

Ananda of course is a Federer loyalist. "There is an essence of artistry when he plays. There's a grace to his game and how he makes the impossibility of some 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 for Federer’. He helped me, using the kajal and lipstick in my purse," she says.

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Ananda with the banner that caught the attention of the organiser at Wimbledon 2019.   -  Special arrangement



READ : 'Sad' Nadal admits Federer deserved to win

Ananda, a cancer survivor, remembers her struggle through treatment and recovery.

"I was diagnosed with breast cancer 11 years back. I remember getting my diagnosis around the same time in 2008, in the middle of the tennis season. To be fair, it was not like life was morose and I was using tennis as a crutch. I heavily relied on dance to deal with cancer, but tennis was definitely a way to keep the mind strong. I remember reading stories of Federer and Nadal, reading about their highs and lows. We tend to box our lives and reading about sportsmen overcoming their injuries and mental hurdles was inspirational," she says.

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Ananda was easy to spot at the Championship with her bright purple and pink “Wimbledon palette” saree.

“The first thing I focused on when we got the tickets was on what I'd wear. I am very comfortable in 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 a lifelong dream to visit the venue and watch a game. "I did the whole routine. My husband and I waited in the long queues outside the courts, we sat on the hill and then of course, watching the Centre Court games. The entire experience was nothing short of magical," she adds.

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Sportstar caught up with the dancer ahead of the men's singles final between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic and Ananda is understandably anxious.

"I am nervously waiting for the game to start. I have been reading the dailies here in London and following conversations online. So many people are predicting the game to tilt 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 Federer win will mean a 21st Grand Slam title for the Swiss great.

When asked if she'd do the whole thing again, Ananda agrees without hesitation. "Maybe next time I'll actually get to meet Federer. Do one better. One can hope," she gushes.