Nino Severino: Reflecting on the Australian Open finals, and Roger Federer’s glow!
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In his latest weekly column, Nino Severino waxes lyrical about the weekend’s Australian Open finals, and his experiences of working alongside the likes of Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki and the legendary Roger Federer.
It would be impossible for me to write my column this week without focusing on the two finals of the Australian Open in Melbourne, which this year delivered some wonderful stories from great players I had the privilege of sharing a working environment with for more than eight years.
The ladies’ final, which was played on Saturday, involved the world number one, Simona Halep and the world number two, Caroline Wozniacki, and what a fantastic final it was.
On Twitter I described these two players as “warriors”, and that’s exactly what they are. As Elena was climbing the ranks of world tennis, we both were travelling to all four corners of the world, and many of the top female tennis stars of today were part of this group, fighting to rise and make a name for themselves – Simona was one of them.
I remember this period very vividly. No-one was aware of this young girl, steadily making progress, quietly going about her business of dreaming big, and dealing with all that the tennis world will test you with, as a young up and coming player.
Elena and Simona often shared warm up sessions together, so we got to know her well. She was a very polite, extremely hard-working athlete, who left no stone unturned when it came to her craft of tennis – Elena was made in the same mould, so they got on very well.
During lunch times in the players lounge, you often get players from one nationality all group together. I remember once in Cincinnati that was the case, and there was a group of the Romanian players having lunch. We joined them, Simona was included in the group, and I must say, she has a great sense of humour.
She was kind enough to provide a personal message for all our foundation-supported players – this was shown at our awards in December last year, and was an incredible way of her honouring Elena.
At the same period as Elena and Simona were climbing the ranks, Caroline was already seen by the tennis world industry as a potential tennis super star, and of course they were not wrong.
She is the ultimate professional, and if I had to chose a small group of female players for our young players to study, I would place her in that group.
She is ridiculously hard-working and committed, and this has been witnessed through her time in tennis.
She reached the status of world number one, and banked many of the worlds top WTA World Tour titles, but could never win one of the four big Grand Slams.
Of course, on Saturday against Simona she achieved this, and I was so pleased for her, it was just a shame one of them had to lose. Caroline and Elena also got on very well, and Caroline has not forgotten this, also providing the foundation with a personal message for the awards in December – little did we know when the message was played on the big screen, we were all listening to a future Australian Open champion.
And what can I say about the one and only Roger Federer, who against Marin Cilic in the men’s final, won his 20th Grand Slam title – yes, 20th – and at the age of 36, this man has truly cemented his name in tennis history.
Roger’s success is now so huge that he has earned himself life-time sponsorship deals from companies such as Rolex.
That is very rarely achieved by athletes, but I think it’s fair to say that Roger, when he does eventually hang up his racket, will truly have the right to enjoy all that life will offer him – although I have this funny feeling he’s not anywhere near to retiring!
I remember the very first time I ever saw Roger in person. It was at Wimbledon, around 2007, I had a job to do for Elena, and I was walking through the players lounge, and there he was, sitting on his own, enjoying a drink.
I remember he was wearing a white jumper, it was bright white, he was very tanned and his hair was immaculate. This may sound strange, but there was almost like a glow around him, if anyone has met this man up close, you’ll know what I mean!
During our time on the tour I had the privilege of watching him hone his craft, and of course it was amazing.
I wish him all the best for the future – and who would bet against Roger banking a few more Grand Slam titles?