MANHATTAN, NY - Marc Jarman, 45, (LHS Class of ’87), had a once in a lifetime experience on March 9— he met his favorite athlete Roger Federer, played tennis with World #11 Grigor Dimitrov and had his tennis strokes complimented by Monica Seles and Gabrielle Sabatini.
Aside from the birth of my daughter and marring my wife Daniele—this was the third greatest experience in my life,” said Jarman, who resides in Mountain Lakes.
A few months ago, Jarman, who plays tennis at Center Court in Chatham in the winter and at Orange Lawn in South Orange during the summer, was approached by a friend, Alan Aaron, who was putting together a special USTA event for World Tennis Day, which would take place March 10. He was planning to bring a group of players from Center Court to the BNP Paribas Showdown on March 10, at Madison Square Garden in NY, where exhibition matches would include 17-time Grand Slam singles champion Federer taking on Dimitrov, while former US Open champions Seles and Sabatini would be squaring off in another match. Proceeds from the event would help support the USTA Foundation’s scholarship funds and programming grants to under-resourced youth.
“Last year was the first time Alan ran this event,” said Jarman. “He had his kids walk the players out, attendees had a meet and greet with many tennis greats and participated in clinics run by tennis stars,” said Jarman. “I am a huge Federer fan, and Alan asked if I would be interested in doing the two-day event this year where I could meet Federer. I said, ‘Yes,’ right away.”
The event which cost $5,000, with proceeds going to the USTA Foundation’s charity, was to include a Monday night cocktail party at the Essex House in Central Park where participants would and meet the players, a Tuesday clinic with a tennis great, another meet and greet with the four players and courtside seats to the BNP matches.
At first, my wife Daniele thought I was crazy to spend that kind of money for a two-day event,” said Jarman. “But after seeing how happy I was when it was over, she said it would have been worth $10,000 more.”
Jarman was very excited for the event.
“On Monday, I got there really early to beat the traffic,” said Jarman, who arrived at 3:00 p.m. for the 6:00 p.m. cocktail party. “I planned to scope out the Essex House and walk around Central Park.”
However, Jarman’s plans changed for the better.
“When I went to check in, the person asked if I was there for the press conference, and always up for anything, I said, ‘Yes,’” said Jarman with a laugh.
“The next thing I knew, I was walking into a room with four reporters,” he said. “I walked in, sat down and started talking to “NY Daily News” reporter Filip Bondy, who covers tennis and soccer for the paper.
“All of a sudden, Chris Fowler of ESPN, who shortly after was interviewing Federer, walked in, and then I ran into Federer’s agent, who I know, and asked to meet Roger,” said Jarman. “He agreed, and you would have thought that this 45-year-old man was 10—I was so excited.”
Federer walked over to Jarman, who said he was numb. “I said it is an absolute honor to meet you – you are everything that is right about the world of tennis,” Jarman said. “I also apologized for my attire—a suit.”
Federer asked why, and Jarman said, “Because I am always in Federer clothes.” Jarman said this made Federer laugh.
Jarman also got to have his picture taken with Sabatini and Seles.
“This was not part of my itinerary,” said Jarman. “I fell into it because I was so early and ended up winning the lottery.”
Next up was the press conference. Jarman took a seat at the very front of the room that was filled with 80 reporters.
Todd Martin, a formerly ranked #4 in the world, who is Chairman of the Tennis Hall of Fame, led the press conference. He announced the 2015 inductees and asked for questions.
“Not one of the 80 reporters asked anything, so since I am very knowledgeable about tennis and the Hall of Fame, I decided to ask a question,” said Jarman. “Todd walked over to me later and thanked me for saving him.”
Next, Federer, Seles, Sabatini and Dimitrov were on stage and while reporters finally had some questions, Jarman said the questions were embarrassing.
“Again, I raised my hand and now had four of the greatest players staring at me,” said Jarman. “I said it was and honor to be there. To the girls I said, I have watched you play great matches and Gabriella I have bone to pick with you. In 1990, when I saw you win the US Open, I had the worst seats in the house, and that is when I realized I was afraid of heights. But, I wanted to see you play so badly, I stuck it out.”
“She laughed,” said Jarman.
Jarman then addressed Federer and said, “When I watch you play at all hours of the night, whenever you are playing, regardless if you win or lose (you mostly win) you always have a great attitude. I play at the club level and find that hard to do. How do you do it?”
Jarman said that Federer’s answer went on for at least two minutes, where Federer explained that as a professional player, he is more scrutinized and it really matters how he acts.
Later on that day, Jarman attended a cocktail reception where most of the 10 people in Jarman’s group met the players for the first time.
The next day was Jarman’s clinic with Dimitrov, which began at 3:30 p.m. Again Jarman was early. He went to the courts to watch some of his friends play.
“I saw Gabriella there, who is drop dead gorgeous in person, and asked her to pose for a picture with me while holding a magazine with me on the cover for winning the Men’s Orange Lawn Championship last year,” said Jarman. “I thought it would be great for such an amazing tennis player to be posing with me and a picture of me on a magazine cover.”
At 5:30 p.m., Jarman went to another cocktail party where former top-ranked player, James Blake, who was recently named USTA Foundation Chairman, and has been a top junior player, a collegiate No. 1 player, a Davis Cup champion, and the No. 4-ranked player in the world, spoke. Jarman and his group also got to talk to the players.
Jarman said, “Gabrielle and Monica said, ‘we watched you in your clinic Marc, and love your strokes. You hit the ball beautifully.”
Jarman wasn’t done with making the most of his visit. He next asked Federer and Dimitrov to take a photo with him, where Federer would be pulling the plastic off Jarman’s racket.
“It you watch Federer play tennis, you know that he uses about ten rackets a match,” said Jarman. “When the tension goes down, he gets a new one. He is famous for taking the band off the racket and having a ball boy yank the plastic off it. That is why I asked him to take the plastic off my racket. He laughed and said of course he would.”
After that, Jarman and his group were ushered upstairs to box seats to watch the featured matches. Again, Aaron’s sons walked out with the players. In addition, one of the people from Jarman’s clinic flipped the coin to start the match.
Earlier that day, Jarman’s dad called and asked if he had seen the “NY Daily News” article where Bondy had quoted Jarman’s question to Federer from the press conference.
The article called, “Bondy: In tennis, nice guys first to last,” said “…how it is possible that hackers at country clubs demonstrate more egregious, petty behavior than he does, despite such different stakes.”
The reply: “(Club players) can behave any way you want to behave. Nobody is watching,” Federer said. “With me, everybody’s watching, you have to get your act together. That’s why I had to adjust. I had to find the right balance, be certain there is enough fire there. Deep down I’m not casual, believe me."
“He not only quoted my question, but he based his article around it,” said Jarman.
“I have heard horror stories of people meeting their idols and finding out they are not as nice in person,” said Jarman. “That was not the case with Federer. I was so nervous going into this because I had built Federer up in my mind as being such a classy individual. But I was not disappointed, he is even nicer than I expected—he exceeded my expectations. He is the best player of all time, and he spent time with each and every person and treated them each with such respect. He always acted happy to see me and gave me the time of my life.”
“I got home on Tuesday night at 11:30 p.m. and have been smiling ever since,” said Jarman. “To meet and talk to your favorite player, meet and play tennis with a future number one player, Dimitrov, and meet two of the best women players of all time and find them to be so nice, was a dream come true.”
“The people in my group said they had more fun watching me, than anything,” said Jarman.
“I took enough pictures to fill up seven rooms,” said Jarman with a laugh. “And I have a video of me playing with Dimitrov to boot. I have every intention of being there again next year.”
Marc Jarman, 45, is a regional director at TS Capital, LLC, lives in Mountain Lakes with his wife Daniele and daughter Chloe, 11, who is an avid tennis and lacrosse player. He also has two stepdaughters named Jackie and Kaitlyn. He played first doubles at LHS and played two years of tennis at Monmouth University. He then took some time off and got back into tennis on 1994. He hasn’t stopped playing since.