And thus began one of the more heartwarming stories of athlete-fan interactions to go viral, all thanks to Roger Federer, one of his biggest fans, Beatriz Tinoco, and the Make-A-Wish foundation.
Tinoco, a 17-year-old from Rockville, Md., survived a bout with cancer in 2011 and 2012. The high school tennis player's No. 1 wish was to meet Federer, and Make-A-Wish made it happen at Wimbledon. In conjunction with ESPN, Federer invited Tinoco and her family to London, where the Swiss star gave her the royal treatment. After Tinoco stopped at the Nike house to pick up some all-white swag, ESPN led her to the competitor's area.
I'll let Tinoco take it from here. Her enthusiasm is infectious.
We were waiting on the place where players eat and hang out. However, the guys from ESPN told me we might not see him that day because schedules change a lot. So I wasn't expecting anything, just sitting watching some practices and someone calls my name. I turn and it's FREAKING ROGER FEDERER. He comes up, gives me a hug and a kiss and then sits down and starts talking to me very naturally. I was trying hard not to freak out haha. We talked for about 10-15 minutes (which I was told later he wasn't supposed to do. He was just supposed to come and say hi and then go to practice but he's a perfect human being and talked to me for a while!) oh my gosh this is getting very long haha.
After that he went to practice, but he told me to go change, because I was gonna watch his practice from inside the court and maybe we could hit a little bit after he was done. He told me that he would send someone to take me to the court because like no one is allowed in the courts except the players and coaches. So I changed and went there, and I was waiting for someone to come take me to the actual court when I hear someone call my name and oh my god it's [Federer's coach] Paul Annacone. He sent PAUL ANNACONE to get me. So I go to the court and am introduced to Sev [Luthi, the Swiss Davis Cup captain] and Steph [Vivier, Federer's physiotherapist], and then sit there watching his practice with [Lleyton] Hewitt (!!!!).
But Federer didn't just let Tinoco sit idly by and soak in his practice session. Federer pulled out one of his rackets and, with the help of Annacone and Luthi, he persuaded her to get on court for a hit.
I was really scared because I'm not like amazing at tennis, I'm pretty good, but not out of the ordinary, and even if I was, it was freaking Roger Federer. But Paul and Roger told me not to be scared, it was so cute haha. So we hit for a bit, then he told me to come up and volley and he went up too. Paul told me not to be scared of Roger in the net 'cause it was all pressure, he wasn't even that good haha. Then he served and oh my gosh it's fast even though he wasn't even close to full speed. After that he went over the net, shook my hand and gave me a kiss on the cheek (!!!!!!).
The next day, Federer met up with Tinoco again to give her a tour of the All England Club along with Wimbledon chairman Philip Brook. Tinoco also received a front-row seat at Federer's pre-tournament news conference.
So yeah, they took me around, and to the walk the players take to get to Centre Court, and then to actual Centre Court, with everything being explained to me by Roger and the Chairman. After we got to Centre Court Roger had to leave earlier than us because he had his press conference (which I was going to), so he left us there to see a bit more of Centre Court. AND on his way out he talked to the main guy that gets Centre Court ready, to let me actually go there. Like, I stepped on the grass on Centre Court because of Roger. He's perfect oh my god.
And then we took a while there so his manager called the girl from ESPN to ask her if we were going because Roger was waiting for me to start the press conference (!!!!!!!!!!). OMG HE IS PERFECT. So we went to the press conference and saw everything, and then on my wait out I passed Roger and he was like "So did you like it? Me getting grilled by the press?" He's always so dorky and funny haha.
After finishing his media obligations, Federer met up with Tinoco one last time to chat, sign autographs and take photographs. Then it was time to say goodbye.
So he went around the table hugging my mom, my dad and my sister, and then it was my turn. He told me I had been through a lot and hugged me really hard and I just started crying so so so much in his shoulder (it was around that time that the picture from my avi was taken haha) He was like "awnn". Then when I let go of him I was still like sobbing and I turned to him and he was kinda tearing up :') I thanked him and then he went.
You can read Tinoco's full post on the whirlwind week here. Kudos to the folks at Make-A-Wish, ESPN (which Tinoco said will air a segment this month) and, of course, Federer himself for going above and beyond in making this young woman's wish a reality.