19 at SW19

The number “19” refers to the number of Grand Slam singles titles that Roger Federer will amass if he triumphs.

SW19 refers to the exact location of the tournament that the Swiss is attempting to win. Wimbledon is located in SW19. That’s South West 19, its postcode in London.

A coindence, these “19” numbers?

Maybe. Or possibly it’s a sign of what’s to come tonight when Roger Federer meets Marin Cilic for the grandest prize in racket-sport. Will SW19 mean “Swiss Wimbledon 19?”

Often called “GOAT” for “Greatest Of All Time,” the Federer Express has accummulated a record that is peerless. Federer’s professional career started in 1998… guess how many years ago? That’s 19 years ago. And while he lost his first match to Lucas Ker in Gstaad, Switzerland, he has won and won and won. Of the 1,357 singles matches that he has played in 19 years, he has won 1,110 for an outstanding 82 percent winning clip.

In career titles, Federer has 92 trophies, behind the 106 of Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl’s 94 (which he will soon overtake, for sure).

With the most important tournaments (the majors), Federer has been champion five times at the US and Australian Opens, once in the French Open and, at the pristine green grass of SW19, he has seven.

Will he be eighth-time lucky tonight, starting at 9 p.m.? Yes. I don’t want to jinx it (as Jourdan Polotan would warn me) but it’s hard not to see the Swiss maestro lift that Wimbledon trophy, which was first handed to the champion in 1887. (As trivia: the actual trophy is not given to the winner; there is replica, three-fourths the size, that is given as prize.)

I’ve been blessed to have seen RF in person. The first was in 2007 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia when, together with a contingent from Cebu (that included RF diehards Michelle So and Chinggay Utzurrum, Renee Ven Polinar, my brother Charlie and sister-in-law Mitzi, Dr. Ronnie and Stef Medalle, Jess and Jacob Lagman), we watched Roger play Pete Sampras in “Clash of Times.” The year after, my roommate Jasmin and I saw Federer partner with Stan Wawrinka as the Swiss won the Olympic doubles gold medal in Beijing. At the 2015 French Open in Paris, I was in the center court as The Fed won his 3rd round match; he later sat inside the Press Room, seated just a few feet away, answering questions.

Up close and having watched hundreds of his matches on TV, what makes Federer special?

He’s good. Not only on the court but more so, off the court. He is a good father to his twin set of twins, spending most of his free time playing with them. He is good to his wife Mirka and their 17-year-old relationship (they met at the 2000 Sydney Olympics) is as rock solid as RF’s first serve.

Inside and outside; mentally and physically; while wearing Nikes or slippers at home; whether he’s meeting Pope Francis (Federer is Catholic) or smiling at a 9-year-old ballkid… RF is an honest-to-goodness good man.

I quote Nick Torres on his favorite player: Good guys do finish first.

One final word: When I visited the clay courts where Federer first started to play in Basel, Switzerland — he was four years old when he first held a racket; and the name of the club is “Old Boys Tennis Club” — I toured the facility and marveled at the brown clay tennis courts. I gazed at the courts and imagined an athletic young boy toiling for hours, swatting a racket to hone his forehand. Then I went inside the small clubhouse. It was adorned with signed photos of their prodigy. The club opened it’s doors for children to play; it was neat, clean, humble and spotless. Just like tonight’s champion.

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