Wimbledon champion Roger Federer was presented with a prize cow on Tuesday as part of a homecoming celebration at the Swiss Open in Gstaad.
But after leading the beast off court, the Swiss star then came uncomfortably close to making a pig's ear of his first round match.
The cow made its entrance at a pre-match ceremony organised in celebration of Federer’s Wimbledon success. Although he’d been told to expect a present typical of the Bernese Oberland, the 21-year-old from Basel seemed almost speechless when accosted by his new 800 kilogram pet.
“It was a total surprise,” a genuinely shocked-looking Federer told swissinfo. “Now I need to find a garage for a cow, although I have no idea what a cow garage looks like.
“I’m just so happy with the way the crowd welcomed me to Gstaad,” Federer added after entering centre court to a standing ovation. “And of course, the present is very special. As a Swiss I know all about Switzerland’s image as the country of cows, so it’s really very special.
“In fact the last 24 hours have meant a lot for me emotionally – I’m just living a dream.”
First round challenge
Having already earned the crowd’s adulation with his historic Wimbledon win, Federer then had to avoid the embarrassment of a first round defeat in Gstaad.
It was by no means an unimaginable scenario given Federer’s record at previous Swiss Opens. Coming into this year’s tournament, he had managed just one win in five attempts.
This time around against Spanish qualifier Marc Lopez, the world number three had appeared to be heading for a routine victory.
Clearly still adjusting to the Gstaad clay, Federer couldn’t quite find the consistency which he used to such effect last week. But against a player ranked 190th in the world it didn’t seem as if he would have to.
Serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set, however, Federer’s normally powerful service game dissolved, allowing Lopez to take the match into a deciding third set.
Fortunately for the increasingly tense Swiss public, the favourite recovered his composure to eventually wrap up the encounter 6-3, 6-7, 6-3.
"I was very relaxed at the start," said a relieved Federer as he looked back on his first match as the reigning Wimbledon champion. "Maybe I got a little nervous when it came to serving out the match, but in the end I was pleased with how I battled today."
Federer, who has yet to win a title on Swiss soil, will now face France’s Jean-René Lisnard for a place in the quarter-finals. The Swiss player will be joined in the second round by Bern's Michel Kratochvil who also completed a three sets victory on Tuesday, over Germany's Tomas Behrend.
swissinfo, Mark Ledsom in Gstaad
Federer is bidding to win his third title in a row, following his wins at Wimbledon and Halle.
The 21-year-old Swiss is also chasing his first tournament win on home soil.
Tuesday's win over Spain's Marc Lopez was Federer's 13th victory in a row.