Roger Federer gave a lengthy interview to William Simons of Inside Tennis for their May issue. Apparently, it took Simons four years and many kindly worded rejections from his better half to lock down the wily Fed:
E-mails from Federer’s companion Mirka, saying “Sorry, dearest Bill” became treasured rejection slips, which carried a certain cache. It was worth the wait. The Swiss stylist gives great insight into the mind of an athlete who has dominated their respective sport, discussing his celebrity status, the death of his first coach + mentor Peter Carter, the importance of Hamburg '02, Mirka's role in his career, which players own the best strokes, and what he'd like first - a Roland Garros crown, Davis Cup title, or Olympic gold medal:
INSIDE TENNIS: Everybody sees the glitz of celebrity. But is there a downside, a burden to celebrity?
ROGER FEDERER: It’s good we don’t have paparazzi in Switzerland. We don’t have people chasing you around and stuff. That’s a good thing. This is one of the reasons why I want to live there when I’m older.
IT: In your formative years, the Aussie Peter Carter was so important to you. The man was so much more than a coach to you. And then on a summer day in Canada, you got word about his sudden death in an auto accident. Soon you found yourself walking alone with your sorrow and loss in Toronto. That solitary night, a young athlete walking the streets alone with your loss was a moment of...
RF: It was difficult because of the disbelief. Until then, I didn’t have to deal much with anybody passing away who’d been close to me. It really touched me strongly because of everything Peter did for me and what he gave me as a player. At a young age, when a coach helps you, he’s more than just a coach. He’s a mentor. He’s your friend. He’s your father figure when your parents are not around. This is why it was so important to me. I wouldn’t say it woke me up, but it definitely made me work again extra hard because it just shows you how quickly it can be over.
IT: It had meaning?
RF: It did have an affect on my game, yeah.
IT: You’ve spoken about the importance of your big breakthrough on court in Hamburg in ‘02. Before that you said you were stuck outside of the top ten and you wondered what you had to do to get into the top ten. You were a struggling player within the pack — a player with great potential, but one who still remained a wannabe. Then you won and felt you were in contention to be No.1.
RF: I wasn’t playing too well. I lost in the first round in Rome the week before against [Andrea] Gaudenzi 4 and 4. I just had changed rackets, changed strings — the whole thing — to actually what I’m playing today. So six years ago almost? Before that I played with Pete’s [Wilson ProStaff] racket. I was in a transition period before that and a little bit frustrated on clay. I lost a lot of close matches, like, 7-5 in the third to [Andrei] Medvedev. Close. I was on a losing streak — my first 11 or 12 matches on clay. I knew I could play well on clay, but for some reason I started off with a terrible streak. I didn’t have the experience. I had just come through the juniors. But for me to then all of a sudden win Hamburg was a shock. And there was the way I did it, beating Guga and Safin. I beat quality players. It was just phenomenal.
T: One of the really unique things you have in your career is your relationship with Mirka. You’re so close. She, I imagine, provides so much companionship and even helps you some with your management and does some scouting.
RF: She’s been a great support, her always being there for me and being at every tournament. It’s just been good. You know, [you’re out on the circuit] having good times and bad and there’s always somebody reminding you what’s good and bad.
She’s known me since I had zero titles, and now I have 53. She hasn’t just been there since I had 20 or something. She came along with me right at the start. This is where she’s been so helpful. To clarify, people think she’s a manager or something. She’s not. She just handles a little bit of the press, but I’ve been trying to take that away a bit, because it does stress her out. I have a manager now with Tony Godsick and IMG. They handle that. She does organize flights and hotels, but...
IT: But still...
RF: She’s important. She oversees [a lot] and it’s always great to get her advice. She’s definitely one of the important persons in terms of my management, in terms of organizing everything. That’s where she really comes into play.
IT: Let me go through some strokes and off the top of your head, tell me the player who has the best stuff out there. Let’s start with the forehand.
RF: I’d have to go with Rafa [Nadal], Fernando Gonzalez or James Blake. Those are the guys with bigger forehands.
IT: First serve?
RF: You’ve got to go with Andy [Roddick] or [Ivo] Karlovic.
RF: They’re not so many around anymore, unfortunately.
IT: Unfortunately, really?
IT: You saw a few pretty good volleys the other night from Pete [Sampras] in Madison Square Garden.
RF: Yeah. He would be No. 1 if he were still playing.
IT: If you could accomplish one more thing in your career — win the Davis Cup, take home the Olympic gold, hold that elusive Roland Garros trophy high in Paris or break Pete’s all-time record of 14 Slams — what would it be?
RF: I don’t know. I guess as a selfish individual player I’d have to pick the French Open. I would almost have beaten Pete’s record. I’d be just one short but would have won all four majors. The thing I’m really gunning for is to have all of them by the time I retire. Winning the French is very, very high in my rankings, because I’ve already achieved so much. I think how nice it would be to win the Olympic Games, the Davis Cup, because I love the team and our coach. It would be such a great feeling as a team to go so far, and try to chase all of them down. Hopefully, I can achieve all them.
IT: Twenty-five or 30 years from now, when players gather around, what do you want them to say about what Roger Federer brought to this sport?
RF: I hope they still remember me, because sometimes players don’t recall history very well. What’s important to every player is that you’re remembered in a good way. I hope I’m going to finish my career in a good way. I’d like to be remembered for my charity work, my results, my sportsmanship.
To read the full interview, click here.
(image via Getty)