Federer returns Woods' gesture

Thursday, November 9th 2006, 6:19 am
By: News On 6

SHANGHAI, China (AP) _ Roger Federer returned the favor for Tiger Woods.

The world's top-ranked tennis player followed golf's No. 1 around the course at the HSBC Champions tournament Thursday, getting a special pass to watch from close range as Woods struggled to an even-par-72 in the opening round.

Woods, back from a five-week break, met Federer at New York in September and the pair have become friends.

He sat with Federer's girlfriend, Mirka Vavrinec, and management when the Swiss star won the U.S. Open final.

Federer was in Shanghai preparing for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup and was heading back for practice after a brief meeting with Woods in the clubhouse.

Woods appreciated the support, but wished he'd reciprocated Federer's form from their first meeting. Federer said having Woods in the crowd motivated his U.S. Open win, his ninth major title.

``He played well. I slashed it around all over the place,'' Woods said.

The friendship is more important to Woods than proving himself in front of Federer.

``We've gotten to know each other. It's not too often you can relate to someone going through certain things, and we both can,'' he said. ``It's nice to be able to talk to someone like that.''

Woods said he could relate to Federer like he could with basketball star Michael Jordan.

``It's nice to pick his brains. I've been lucky to get to know Michael Jordan pretty well and it's good to find people you can talk to about preparations and distractions, about getting to the top and then moving forward.''

Woods and Federer, who are represented by the same agency, might even have a social match.

``I'd love to play (golf) with Roger. I'd love to play tennis with him too _ I'd prefer to play tennis,'' Woods said.

Asked how many shots he'd give Federer if the pair played golf, a wary Woods replied: ``I don't know, probably not enough.''

Federer starts his Masters Cup campaign on Sunday against David Nalbandian, who beat him in last year's final.