Even at the age of 38, Roger Federer is easily the most bankable and biggest crowd puller in the sporting world. A glimpse of Federer’s popularity was once again on display on Sunday when he met rising tennis star Alexander Zverev in an exhibition match in Mexico City. The exhibition match between Federer-Zverev was attended by more than 42,000 spectators who came out in numbers at the Plaza de Toros to show their love for the Swiss Tennis legend.
According to broadcaster ESPN, 42,517 people attended the event at Mexico’s Bullring, dubbed “The Greatest Match”. The 20-time Grand Slam winner recovered from a shaky start to came out on top 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 versus the lanky German. Federer, Zverev smashed an almost decade-old record of 35,681 set at an exhibition game between Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters in Brussels, Belgium in 2010.
“You are an incredible audience, your support has given me goosebumps, I do not have enough words to thank you,” Federer said after the match.
Federer also spoke about his experience of playing in Mexico and rued the fact that he regrets not coming to this part of the world during his glittering career.
“It means the world for us and tennis to get to write history in Mexico,” Federer was quoted having told the crowd. “It has been 23 years I haven’t come to Mexico and what an error I made. It gave me the opportunity to play in front of one of the best crowds, I have chills.”
With no ratification from the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the match didn’t receive official status. But unperturbed by the importance attached to the encounter, the people of Mexico turned out in numbers to set a new record of the biggest audience coming out to watch a live tennis match.
The biggest court for an official match is the Arthur Ashe at Flushing Meadows in New York, home of the US Open, which can seat around 23,000.
Earlier before Zverev’s clash, the 38-year-old Federer had announced his intention to set a new world record for attendance when he meets Rafael Nadal in an exhibition match in South Africa in February (next year).
Alongside the singles, Bob and Mike Bryan played a doubles exhibition with Mexican pair Santiago Gonzalez and Miguel Reyes Varela.
After pulling himself out of the new-look Davis Cup in Spain, Federer opted to compete in the highly lucrative South American swing. The Mexico match was the fourth of a five-stop Latin American tour for Federer who is set to earn $10 million (9 million euros) – three times as much as he has earned this season, according to Swiss daily Le Temps.