Federer serves up a treat as request for Scotch lamb proves a winner

AFTER a fortnight's 'diet' of strawberries and cream, the world's number one tennis player could be forgiven for craving a more substantial dish. For Roger Federer this could mean only one thing: rack of Scottish lamb.

Federer has requested that the main course at the prestigious Champion's Dinner, to be held after Sunday's final, be his favourite meal.

Chefs at the Savoy Hotel have ordered 200 succulent eight-bone racks from the Duke of Buccleuch's estate in order not to disappoint the Swiss player.

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The Scotsman has learned that one of the hotel's head chefs said Federer had put in a special request to have the meat provided for more than 400 players, managers, coaches and other dignitaries expected to attend the feast after Sunday's final.

Buccleuch Foods has now delivered the racks of lamb to the Savoy for this weekend's event.

Brian Forrester, managing director of Buccleuch Foods, said Federer, who yesterday beat Jonas Bjrkman in the semi-final, had first eaten Buccleuch rack of lamb at the Savoy in 2004. Since then, he said, the player has raved about the dish, claiming it was the best meal he had ever eaten.

Louise Welsh, of Quality Meat Scotland, said the endorsement was a great boost to the industry: "It's great news for lamb producers to hear that the world's best tennis player thinks so highly of Scottish lamb.

"I'm sure his fellow tennis professionals will agree our lamb is the very best available.

"Perhaps he would think about becoming an ambassador for Scottish lamb."

James Withers, NFU Scotland's deputy chief executive, said: "This just demonstrates the reputation for Scotch meat, not just for lamb but for beef and pork.

"It's not just about eating quality but knowing that there has been a high quality of animal welfare. It shows the quality of independent sheep farmers across Scotland can make an impact across the Channel."

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At 24, Federer is regarded by many as master of the tennis court and his choice of dish is equally well thought of. The Buccleuch lambs were bred in the Borders fields belonging to Britain's biggest private landowner.

The estate say their food is naturally reared on idyllic grazing lands with animal husbandry and butchery expertise. Each rack can be traced back to a particular lamb in order to ensure good quality.

Forrester said: "We have always been proud of our products and it's great to see that the quality of the meat and its unique flavour are also appreciated by our customers.

"We firmly believe Buccleuch offers some of the finest meats in Britain and we are proud that it has been selected especially for the Wimbledon dinner.

"I only hope it is as big a hit on the night as Federer has been at Wimbledon."

Yesterday the Savoy Hotel refused to comment on the dinner, saying it was a "private event".

A Wimbledon spokesman said it wasn't usual policy for the previous year's champion to choose the dinner's menu.

In The Masters golf tournament, the previous year's winner is invited to choose the menu for the annual Champion's Dinner. Over the years, the food has ranged from cheeseburgers to sushi to haggis.

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Federer is on track to claim his fourth straight Wimbledon title and has already won seven Grand Slams.