Roger Federer strips down for ‘vulnerable’ art project

Roger Federer may be one of the greatest tennis players of all time – but that doesn’t mean he’s recognized wherever he goes.

In December, the 20-time grand slam winner revealed that he was knocked back from Wimbledon’s prestigious All England Club after a security guard failed to place him.

Now, it’s been revealed that Federer went undercover again – this time as a piece of artwork.

While the 42-year-old’s career was on pause after surgery on his knee, Federer participated in an art project led by renowned Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone.

Rondinone immortalized Federer as a flying sculpture, dubbed Cloud Sixthat was displayed in Venice’s Scuola Grande San Giovanni Evangelista church from April-September last year.

But remarkably, not one of the many people who used the church or came to see the sculpture recognized the tennis legend.

The creative process was captured in a documentary titled Portrait of a Champion presented by Credit Suisse, of which Federer is a brand ambassador.

In preview footage released this week, the Swiss maestro can be seen suspended by ropes and pulleys, wearing nothing but his underwear and a head cap.

In another shot, Federer is seen getting a cast of his face, his head slathered in silicone.

Federer spent hours suspended in the air to 3D-capture his form for the sculpture. Photo: Credit Suisse
Federer
Federer’s body was replicated for one of the seven floating sculptures. Photo: Credit Suisse

In the documentary, Federer says the experience made him “feel vulnerable”, in a way he’d never felt on the court.

“OK, I’m used to it when I’m on a tennis court. But then I’ve got my racket, which is like my hammer from Thor, and when someone films you then, it’s no problem,” he said.

“But in your underwear, in a harness, hanging there it’s obviously a very different situation and that’s what I think was so unusual for me.

“Even if it’s ridiculous, you still think ‘well it’s part of the creative process, this is what it’s going to take to make it a good end result’.”

Rondinone explained his decision to keep Federer’s identity under wraps.

“I said ‘why not include him as an anonymous figure in this project, not as Roger Federer’. I will not promote him, I would like him to be one of seven neutral bodies who fly,” he said.

The sculpture isn’t Federer’s only recent creative endeavour.

Last week, it was announced that Federer would be co-chair of the 2023 Met Gala, alongside actresses Penelope Cruz and Michaela Coel, and British singer Dua Lipa.

Tsitsipas shoots his shot

Back to on-court news, Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas is through to the semi-finals of the 2023 Australian Open.

After beating Czech player Jiri Lehecka on Tuesday night, Tsitsipas told Jim Courier about his love for Melbourne and Australia.

“Australia is such a great country. I like a lot of Aussie things, you know. One of my favorite actresses comes from Australia, Margot Robbie,” he said.

“Are you pitching right now?” Courier asked.

“It would be nice to see her here one day,” Tsitsipas responded.

“So you’re extending an invitation to Margot Robbie? I just want to be crystal clear here,” Courier continued.

“Absolutely,” Tsitsipas replied, with plenty of applause from the crowd.

Watch Tsitsipas’ cheeky pitch to Robbie

While Robbie typically spends most of her time abroad, she is in Australia this month promoting her latest film Babylon.

That means it’s not entirely impossible for her to attend his semi-final on Thursday, or even the final – should he make it that far.

But there is one issue Tsitsipas may not be aware of.

Robbie is actually already married, having wed movie producer Tom Ackerley in 2016.

Close call

While Tsitsipas finished the match with a joke, it nearly ended in disaster.

At the close of a point in the third set, Tsitsipas had retreated to the back of the court near a ballkid.

Frustrated that he lost the point, Tsistipas hit the ball towards the back wall – and narrowly missed the ballkid in the process.

Courier, who was also commentating the match, said Tsitsipas “got very lucky” that he did not hit the ballkid.

“Watch what happens here. He swings in anger and it nearly hits the ball kid and if it does, he is shaking hands a loser in this match,” he said.

“You cannot do that. You have to be careful. That was dangerous.”

It’s not the first time Tsitsipas has come under fire for venting his frustration.

At Wimbledon last year, he was slapped with a $14,000 fine for hitting a ball into the crowd.

An inappropriate swing can even cost player the tournament.

In 2020, Novak Djokovic was defaulted from the US Open after inadvertently hitting a linesman in the throat after hitting a ball in frustration.

Similarly, Italian 17-year-old Maria Vittoria Viviani was ejected from the 2017 Australian Open for hitting a ball away in fury, which accidentally struck a ballkid in the chest.

Tournament slims down

There are officially four players left in the running for the women’s singles title, with Maria Linette and Aryna Sabalenka through to the semi-finals.

Linette dominated former finalist Karolina Pliskova on Wednesday, snagging the win in straight sets.

And while Sabalenka faced a tough match against Donna Vekic, trailing 5-1 in their head-to-head, Sabalenka showed no mercy, storming home 6-3, 6-2.

Linette and Sabalenka won’t have much time to regroup. They will meet bright and early at 11am on Thursday for their semi-final.

The winner of that match will play either two-time AO champ Victoria Azarenka or reigning Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina in Saturday’s final.

In the men’s draw, an all-American contest is underway on Rod Laver Arena, with Ben Shelon and Tommy Paul fighting for a spot in the semi-finals.

They’ll be followed by Andrey Rublev and Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic, who has been in impeccable form this tournament, leads their head-to-head 2-1.

A mixed doubles match will close up the night, with Aussies Olivia Gadecki and Marc Polmans playing their semi-final against Brazilian duo Luisa Stefani and Rafael Matos.

Twenty-year-old Gadecki wowed last week in her first round match – her first ever at the Australian Open.

Wednesday night’s doubles match will mark Gadecki’s Rod Laver Arena debut.

If all goes to plan, Gadecki could very well reach a grand slam final in her first major.

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