LONDON (Reuters) - When it comes to Wimbledon, there is no hotter property than Roger Federer.
The Swiss reduced Britain’s Andy Murray to tears when he beat him in the 2012 final but having set another couple of records on Saturday and armed with what John McEnroe calls “the most beautiful shots in tennis” he remains everyone’s darling at the All England Club.
Even the person manning the “Used Championship Balls” stall around the corner from Centre Court drew in passing trade by shouting: “Roll up, roll up, come and get your used championship balls here if you want to own a piece of Federer’s DNA! Roger’s been all over these balls.”
Never mind that there was no way of identifying where exactly the balls stacked up on the pristine white counter had actually come from — considering they are collected from all 18 courts sprawled around the grounds.
The mere thought of taking home a piece of Federer for the princely sum of $1.25 certainly lured in the punters.
On Saturday, one of the birds flying over Wimbledon also wanted to get an across-the-net view of the great man.
Federer’s third-round opponent Lucas Pouille was launching into a serve but was forced to make an abrupt landing after a little bird hopped into his half of the court, edging closer and closer to the net.
Until a ballboy was called in to shoo it away, the bird refused to give up its ringside perch.
While the 15,000 Centre Court capacity crowd chuckled at the bird’s audacity, a couple of Asian fans dressed in red made no secret about where their loyalties lay as they held aloft a banner declaring “We can never find another you!”
Such sentiment seems to follow Federer wherever he goes, with his rival Novak Djokovic often declaring “Roger is the most loved tennis player in the world” — mainly thanks to the strokes that ooze off his racket strings like liquid gold.
There were plenty of those 24-carat winners on show on day six of the championships as the Swiss became the first player — man or woman — to win 350 singles matches at the majors with his 7-5 6-2 7-6(4) win over Frenchman Pouille.
As the father of two sets of twins, Federer seems to have a penchant for doing things in pairs and Saturday was no different as he also set a professional-era record of reaching the last 16 for the 17th time — surpassing the previous benchmark he had shared with Jimmy Connors.
The 37-year-old is so loved that he even drew a rapturous round of applause when he simply held up his racket in the direction of a ballboy and a spectator after both ended up in his firing line as he tried to return a couple of errant Pouille serves.
Even through their pain, the two simply smiled back at him — after all they had been touched by some Federer stardust.
Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Clare Fallon