They are, in the nicest possible sense of the word, a cult. A group of 40-50 people from every walk of life, from all over the globe, who spend thousands upon thousands to travel each year to London, Paris, Melbourne and New York just to get a glimpse of their idol, Roger Federer.

At 3am on Friday morning, they assembled in Wimbledon Park to start queueing for ground court passes. As soon as they were in the grounds, they queued again by the resale ticket booth. At 4pm, they finally had possession of Centre Court tickets to witness their deity dispatch a mortal by the name of Tomas Berdych in straight sets.

Each of the Big Four have their supporters, but none are anywhere near as devoted as United by Rog, a group that formed on the forum of Federer's website. Since he first competed at Wimbledon in 2003, a tradition has evolved where before each grand slam he is presented with a Red Envelope of good luck messages from the devoted. Being chosen by the collective as the courier to deliver the Red Envelope to the 18-time grand slam champion is seen as the highest possible honour.

There is a reason that watching Federer is described as a religious experience. The fervour he creates among his followers is like nothing else in sport. Tani Christiaens, a 42-year-old marketing researcher from Belgium, was converted in 2001 when she saw him play Lleyton Hewitt in a tournament in the Netherlands. "It was the one-handed backhand, I had never seen anything like that. It changed my world," Christiaens said as if recalling her first kiss.


Since then she scrimps and saves to watch him in as many grand slams as she can using up all her holiday. Christiaens estimates she could have bought a house with that expenditure, but is unequivocal that it is money well spent.

"It is the way he moves on court, everything is beautiful," she said. "The backhand, the footwork, it is like he is dancing on the court. He is an inspiration. It is pure happiness. There's nothing else I can compare it to."

Christiaens is far from an extreme example. Sunita Sigtia travels from Calcutta to watch Federer every year at Wimbledon and has two tattoos, one of his RF logo on her neck and the other his signature on her forearm.

Of course, United by Rog was in its customary state of rapture after the victory against Berdych in the semi-final. At 35, even the disciples acknowledge that the Almighty is approaching the end which merely intensifies their worship. "If he wins this one it will beat everything," Christiaens said.

"It is at the stage now where you have to appreciate every shot, every serve, every time he walks on court. We are blessed every time we witness him."