Roger Federer is in China for next week’s Shanghai Masters. According to reports from China, Federer received the following death threat from an anonymous blogger on a popular Chinese website, prompting tournament officials to contact police and increase security for the Swiss No. 1 and the other players at the event:
“On October 6, I plan to assassinate Federer for the purpose of tennis extermination,” read the message, posted under the name ‘Blue Cat Polytheistic Religion Founder 07′ on baidu.com.
The user also posted a doctored image showing a decapitated Federer on his knees on a tennis court, with a masked executioner dressed in black and holding an axe posing next to him.
According to the report, tournament director Yang Yibin addressed the threat to the Shanghai Youth Daily.
“We hope that it was an oral threat only, and the fan won’t take substantive action,” Yang is quoted as saying. “However, we have to take it seriously. We have contacted the local police and we will upgrade the level of security for Roger. Meanwhile, we will also protect other players’ security.”
It’s frightening situation for Federer, especially given that his wife and kids have accompanied him to Shanghai for the tournament. Security issues have been an unfortunate black mark on tennis since 1993, when Monica Seles, then ranked No. 1, was stabbed in the back by a deranged Steffi Graf fan mid-match while sitting in her chair on a changeover.
UPDATE: Oct. 5, 7:02 a.m.: Shanghai Masters tournament director commented about the heightened security via email:
“We are fully aware of the comments that have been made and we take all such issues seriously. The Shanghai Rolex Masters has security in place for our players and every precaution is taken to make sure players are kept safe and comfortable and allowed to do the job they are here for; to play tennis and provide their fans with the thrill of watching them in action.”
Here are two of the more recent security breaches that have allowed fans to get dangerously close to a top player. Granted, they ended with a beret and a kiss, but given tennis’ history with security (or lack thereof), it’s difficult to find them amusing.