Tennis player meets her hero

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Clarisa Salinas

Varsity tennis player Clarisa Salinas recently got to meet Swiss tennis player Roger Federer at the Australian Open.

Being in tears, not being able to think, junior Clarisa Salinas couldn’t believe it was actually happening. For years this varsity tennis player admired Swiss tennis player Roger Federer.

She not only watches Federer whenever she can, but she often takes what he does and utilizes it into her own playing style.

Clarisa started playing tennis when she was 13, but didn’t start taking it seriously until she was 15.

“My dad’s always been into tennis, so even before I got really into it, we were always watching [Roger],” Clarisa said. “It wasn’t until when I was getting serious when I really started to watch how [Roger] played, watch his technique as a player, and then I really started to admire him. I’ve watched slow motion videos of his, like his forehand and watched that, and how he prepares, and the way he hits the ball. I definitely have used that to my own tennis and how I play. So that’s one of the reason why I look up to him. [His technique is] almost flawless, and so I want to imitate that in some ways too.”

Watching Federer’s game on video or live tv is one thing, but seeing him play in person was something Clarisa never anticipated happening. Then, her dad suggested a trip down under for the Australian Open.

When I actually first saw him I did like a double take. I literally could not believe it.”

— Clarisa Salinas

“It was just something my dad asked me kind of out of the blue,” Clarisa said. “[My dad] told me he wants someone who also loves tennis to go with him, so of course I am not going to say no to that.”

Once the father-daughter fans were in Australia, they watched each match through the eyes of tennis players.

“It was also a really awesome learning experience watching professionals and watching why they are professionals and how they get to that point,” Clarisa said.

Watching Federer play in person probably would have been enough for Clarisa, but then her trip to Australia got interactive.

“Roger was actually staying at our hotel, and my dad and I went to go the gym and while we were looking for the gym, we just happened to run into him there,” Clarisa said. “He was actually going to the pool. We just ran into him and I couldn’t really believe it was happening. It was so surreal. I got so lucky. It’s definitely a dream come true.”

“He came to us and I told him, my daughter wants a picture with you and he said sure come on,” Clarisa’s dad Osiel said. “He was very nice. She was in tears.”

I told him he was an inspiration and that really sums up how I view him as a tennis player.”

— Clarisa Salinas

But despite her tears, she knew she would regret it if she didn’t talk to her idol.

“When I actually first saw him I did like a double take,” Clarisa said. “I literally could not believe it. All the videos I’ve watch of him, all the pictures, it was so surreal actually seeing him, and the only thing I was thinking was, alright don’t make yourself look like an idiot, this is your one chance to talk to your idol. I took a few deep breaths, told myself be cool, just tell him what you want to say.”

She told Federer the thing that came to her mind; her views on him as player. Through her tears and jumbled thoughts, she managed to spit out a few words.

“Well, at first I couldn’t really talk,” Clarisa said. “It was kind of in shock, but once I kind of got over that, I didn’t get a lot of time to talk to him. He asked me a lot of questions and the only thing I could say was, I got to tell him was you’re an inspiration to a lot of people, including me, and he was like oh thank you. All humble and what not. I told him he was an inspiration and that really sums up how I view him as a tennis player.”

Tennis star Roger Federer signed junior Clarisa Salinas' hat when they met on a casual encounter at the Australian Open.
Tennis star Roger Federer signed junior Clarisa Salinas’ hat when they met on a casual encounter at the Australian Open.

Watching his daughter meet her idol, Osiel could tell Clarisa was yearning for more time with Federer.

“After we got the pictures and the cap signed, she carried a Sharpie and we walked away from him,” Osiel said. “Clarisa was still teary eyed. We are looking at him from about 50 feet away. Clarisa says to me ‘I want to talk to him some more’ I said ‘you can’t he’s busy and we don’t want to intrude anymore’, so she says ‘I’m going to ask him if he has seen my sharpie’ (which she had in her bag) so she goes and asks him if he has seen her Sharpie.”

Clarisa knew it was a lucky experience, but her dad feels blessed as well to have gotten the experience of meeting a pro in a sport they both are enthusiastic about.

“For Clarisa, it was an unforgettable experience,” Osiel said. “We are blessed to be able to experience those moments. When we got home, she gave me a hug and thank me for taking her with me. She was an excellent companion perhaps because we share the same interest and love for the sport.”

To this Leopard tennis player, Roger Federer is a player and a person to look up to.

I think the one thing I will always remember is shaking his hand. Just getting to shake the hand of a living legend…It is a moment that I will never forget.”

— Clarisa Salinas

“As a person, he was actually very humble through all of his accomplishments,” Clarisa said. “He deserves all the praise, but he is a really nice guy and really down to earth. He is willing to get even better than he already is. So that drive, I really respect that, and he’s not doing it for the money, he’s doing it because he loves playing tennis”

Clarisa’s love of tennis and Federer is displayed on and off the court.

“I definitely advertise him in a way by wearing his hats a lot,” Clarisa said. “Everyone on the team would tell you that I’m very outspoken when it comes to Roger. Even now if I know he won’t win a match, I’ll be like, ‘oh he’s gonna win’. They all know I really really like him as tennis player.”

For most high school students, running into a professional athlete and personal hero is nothing more than a fantasy. For Clarisa, it’s a memory that will live on forever.

“I think the one thing I will always remember is shaking his hand,” Clarisa said. “Just getting to shake the hand of a living legend. He’s done so many things, winning 17 Grand Slams, which is a record, no one has ever done that. I felt very lucky, very grateful at that moment when I shook his hand. It is a moment that I will never forget.”