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Best Off-Court Moments: Federer Visits South Africa, Delpo Meets The Pope

Best Of 2013

Del Potro© Mauricio BecchiA mural in Tandil commemorates Juan Martin del Potro's bronze medal performance at the London Olympics. reviews the best off-court moments through the first half of the season. 

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The Tower Of Tandil
A pair of ceremonies bookended Juan Martin del Potro’s season to remember. While he took home the top prize as Argentina’s sportsman of the year in a star-studded gala last week in Buenos Aires, he began 2013 in his hometown of Tandil, for the unveiling of a mural commemorating his bronze medal performance at the London 2012 Olympics. Standing on the street in front of his childhood tennis club, del Potro received a warm ovation from those in attendance, including Mayor Miguel Lunghi. 

“For me it’s a great pride to travel around the world playing tennis and saying I not only come from Argentina, but also from Tandil. To be called ‘The Tower of Tandil’ is the nicest thing,” said del Potro. “Hopefully one of these kids that are here today may be there along with me in the mural or some other place in town.”

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South African Roots
On the 10th anniversary of his foundation, Roger Federer made a long-awaited trip with his mother, South Africa native Lynette, to her homeland to see first-hand the benefits of their charitable work. Federer spent several hours at the pre-schools of the Limpopo province, where he read to the children, played games such as hopscotch and helped some youngsters take their first swing of a tennis racquet. 

“It’s very important to me to have the opportunity to do a trip like this,” said the Swiss, who was returning to the country for the first time in eight years. “It’s emotional, it’s motivating to do this. I’m very excited to see the help that [the Roger Federer Foundation] has provided over the years.”

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TipsarevicUp In The Air 
Janko Tipsarevic unleashed his inner 007 as he went sky high not once, but twice, this season. 

The Serbian boarded a seaplane for an aerial tour of Dubai, taking in spectacular views of the manmade Palm Jumeirah Island and skyline. “I’m hoping we’re going to do some kind of James Bond-thing with the Burj Khalifa,” he quipped as the plane passed in front of the world’s tallest building.

Tipsarevic also went to the highest point of Bogota during the inaugural Claro Open Colombia, where he had his first practice from 2600 metres above sea level. “We went on the 46th floor of the highest building in Bogota and it was a beautiful day, so the view was amazing,” he said.

Watch Dubai Feature | Read More From Bogota

Fashion Police
Andy Murray turned the tables on fashion police Jean-Julien Rojer and Colin Fleming during a humorous exchange on the red carpet at the BNP Paribas Open Players’ Party. Murray was made to explain his outfit (“I picked up the first thing on top of my suitcase. I’m very relaxed about it.”) before firing back at his interviewers.

“What should I learn from that?” he asked Fleming about his pocket square. He also commented on his countryman’s dress shoes, preferring his own casual adidas sneakers. “Wearing shoes like this you can pick up blisters. They’re very uncomfortable shoes and they don’t look good either,” said the Wimbledon champion, who was named one of GQ’s 20 Most Stylish Athletes of 2013.

Watch Interview

VerdascoGentlemen’s Game
Juan Monaco, Nicolas Almagro, Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco brought a touch of class to a memorable Great Gatsby-themed photo shoot at Larry Ellison’s luxurious Rancho Mirage estate. The players donned designer suits and took part in such activities as poker, pool and chess to capture the mood of the era. 

“The guys were styled very vintage, and we had each of them doing something very reminiscent of gentlemen things to do,” said John Russo, who likened the assignment to “hitting the lottery” despite photographing the likes of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  

The pictures featured in Esquire Latinoamerica’s June issue in a spread titled, “The Sport of Glamour”, with four pages dedicated to each player. 

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Dancing Kings
The ATP World Tour wasn’t immune from the Harlem Shake craze that went viral earlier this year. Led by Milos Raonic, the stars of the men’s game - including Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray - took the stage at the annual ATP Player Revue in Monte-Carlo for its own rendition of the Harlem Shake.

Novak Djokovic also showed off his moves to one of the year’s hits, “Get Lucky”, entertaining the crowds at the Coupe Rogers with post-match victory dances. “It was a little agreement I had with my friends when we had vacation time a few weeks ago,” explained Djokovic, who donned a wig after one victory and involved the ball kids following another. “This is one of the summer hits. We listened to that song quite a lot. We had a lot of dancing going on. I said, Why not? I'll do it after the first match in Montréal. If I keep on winning, I'll do it after every match.”

Read More: Harlem Shake | Get Lucky

MontjuicMaking Magic
The Magic Fountain of Montjuic provided one of the most majestic backdrops for a court this season. One of Barcelona’s top attractions, with its display of water acrobatics, music and lights, played host to four of the ATP’s elite - Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori - in April. The players had a hit on the red court in front of the fountain to kick off the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. 

The activity proved to be a glimpse of what was to come at November’s Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Nadal, Ferrer and Berdych all qualified for the eight-man field at the season finale and were drawn into the same round robin group.

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Papal Audience
Despite his share of success, accolades and memorable matches in 2013, nothing could match Juan Martin del Potro’s experience of meeting His Holiness Pope Francis. During a mass at the Vatican, del Potro had a rosary blessed by the first Pope from South America and a fellow Argentine, who was elected in March, coincidentally during del Potro’s run to the BNP Paribas Open final. Del Potro presented Pope Francis with a racquet he used during his 2009 US Open final victory. 

“It was an incredible experience with Pope Francis, something that I’ll never forget,” said del Potro. “It was a dream come true for a guy like me. It was an unforgettable moment. I was very nervous before meeting him, to be able to congratulate him and talk with him. He was nice. Everybody knows he is very humble. Today was a day that I'll remember forever.”

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Federer, TinocoA Wish Comes True
Roger Federer made a young cancer survivor’s dream come true, when he hosted Beatriz Tinoco during The Championships. The 18-year-old Maryland native received a surprise video invitation and made a whirlwind trip with her family to Wimbledon, where she joined Federer on the practice courts and also received a personal tour of the All England Club from the Swiss.

“Many people have had their dreams but this one was nice because we could spend more time together,” Federer told ESPN, which documented their day for the ‘My Wish’ series. “It wasn’t just a meet-and-greet. I could take her around and show her Wimbledon, play tennis with her, basically celebrate her birthday as well with her. Also meet her family, who [were] very sweet, so I personally enjoyed it very much and it seemed that she did too, which is nice.”

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Ad Men
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal starred in a pair of fun spots this season. 

The Swiss battled a fly buzzing around his house in an ad for Nike Free shoes, finally figuring out a way to resolve the standoff after failed attempts with a tennis ball, magazine and broom. “It was pretty funny because the fly wasn’t really there,” said Federer. “I think you can tell a little bit at the end.”

Following in Federer’s footsteps, Nadal joined the long list of athletes to feature in ESPN’s popular “This Is SportsCenter” campaign following his triumph at the US Open. In the spot, anchors wonder why everyone is flocking to the Spaniard’s desk at the ESPN office, speculating that it may be his good looks or accent, when in reality it’s what’s inside the trophy. 

Watch Ads: Federer | Nadal

Coming next Sunday... The best off-court moments from the second half of the season.

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