Roger Federer, who is now thirty-seven years old, continues to reveal what he means to tennis. At the Miami Open, for the past two weeks, he was the only player who could bring the Stadium Court to life. The tournament moved from Key Biscayne to Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, the home of the Miami Dolphins, this year; for now, the Stadium Court, where the biggest matches are played, is a fourteen-thousand-seat arena constructed within the sixty-five-thousand-seat football mega-complex.
When Federer played—once in the afternoon, once in the evening, once a day late, because of rain, and, at last, in the men’s final, on Sunday—people went to the stadium. On Sunday, there were few empty seats as Federer dispatched John Isner easily enough, 6–1, 6–4. Most people, as was clear from the cheers as the players entered, were there to see Federer, even though his opponent was not only an American but a Southerner (born in Greensboro, North Carolina) and the reigning Miami Open champion. There were a lot of tennis devotees on hand, it was clear, but there were plenty of casual sports fans, too, people who wanted to get a live glimpse of Federer, the same way that people with only a passing interest in basketball go to see LeBron James when he’s in town. The Miami Open is not Wimbledon, but seeing a Roger Federer final is a bucket-list item, like a dinner at Noma.