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Roger Federer: Portrait of the Champion

Published by on December 7, 2010 filed under Articles   ·   Comments (1)
Roger Federer: Portrait of the Champion  | read this item

IN 2008 I did a cover story for a magazine about Roger Federer comprised of various memories and anecdotes about Roger intertwined around some quotes from Roger himself…

Henri Leconte: “I like to watch Federer, of course. Because he can do whatever he wants.”

Akiko Morigami: “I think he’s like the God of tennis.”

Wladimir Klitschko: “Roger Federer, he’s the champion. Tennis is a great sport. And if you meet, personally, those big guys like Roger Federer, you’re just so inspired, and following and looking at it. And it’s amazing that he just keeps on winning and keeps winning, which is not common in sport. I met him personally two years ago in Germany at an awards gala. He’s very handsome and very, very down to earth guy. And I think as a person, he’s not complicated. And just a real nice person. And he told me he’s a Klitschko fan, he watched my fights of me and my brother. He said he definitely wants to come to the fights.”

Richard Evans: “Hall of Famer Frew McMillan on BBC Radio and John Parsons in the London Daily Telegraph were two shrewd observers who stuck obstinately to the belief that Federer would ultimately come through, and both tipped him for the title before Wimbledon began. And when he won, Federer was not the only one in tears. McMillan was too. For those of us who have a deep love for this beautiful game, seeing it so beautifully played strikes an emotional chord.”

John McEnroe: “Federer plays tennis the way I dreamed of playing. He could be the most talented player I’ve ever seen, someone who comes along only every 10 or 20 years. If you want to be a tennis player, then mold yourself on Roger Federer. I won three Wimbledon titles and I wish I could play like him.”

Roger: “I remember always loving to play against the cupboards, against the doors at home. With any kind of ball…soft ball, tennis ball. My mom always got upset at me, because, Bang, bang, bang!, all day long [smiles].”

Tracy Austin: “I’ve never enjoyed watching someone playing tennis as much as Federer. I’m just in awe. Pete Sampras was wonderful but he relied so much on his serve, whereas Roger has it all, he’s just so graceful, elegant and fluid – a symphony in tennis whites.”

Martina Navratilova: “I’ve been asked who I would pay to watch to play tennis, and Roger would be one of the few.”

Fabrice Santoro: “I like Roger Federer to beat the record of 14 in Grand Slams. To beat this record, to win three more. So I’m always very happy when he goes through a Grand Slam. He’s a very good guy on the court, he’s fun to watch, and he’s a great guy off the court.”

Roger: “I used to carry on like an idiot, I was getting kicked out of practice sessions non-stop when I was 16. Then after winning junior Wimbledon (in ’98) people were coming up to me and telling me I was going to be the next great player. But at first I wasn’t mentally strong enough and I found myself getting frustrated when things didn’t go my way.”

Rene Stauffer, author of “The Roger Federer Story: Quest For Perfection”: “When I first saw Roger Federer play tennis when he was a 15-year-old, I didn’t think that I would even write his name in my newspaper, let alone a book about him.”

Marcelo Rios: “When I was retiring from the ATP circuit (2003) he was only playing serve and volley. He didn’t play that well from the baseline back then. Now he just won his fifth Wimbledon from the baseline and that shows that he is a really complete player. I think Federer is the best player and he is going to be the best player ever and hopefully he will.”

Bjorn Borg: “Federer is a complete tennis player. He is an artist on the court and to beat him at Wimbledon in the best of five sets is almost an impossible task. I think and hope that Roger will equal my record this year – it could not happen to a better person. He has achieved so many great things in tennis and if he stays clear of injuries, stays motivated and continues at the same pace as he is doing, he will definitely be the greatest player of all time.”

Roger: “I remember this moment when I was playing Safin in Rome one time, and they were showing highlights after the match and sort of trying to say who was better in throwing racquets. And then I really started to realize this is not why I’m playing tennis, to be in a competition of who’s throwing the racquet more nicely [smiles].”

Tiger Woods: “Yeah, Roger came out and watched the back nine. We had dinner last night on the boat. He’s obviously playing this week (at Key Biscayne). But it’s great to have him out here. I think he’s a wonderful supporter of golf, and I think it’s pretty neat when you have probably the most dominant athlete on the planet out there in your gallery…Tennis is (more difficult to win at than golf) in the sense that if you’re physically dominant, you can dominate somebody. In our sport, you can’t physically dictate what somebody else is going to do. You can’t all of a sudden hit a drive out there past him and say, okay, I win the hole. That doesn’t happen. So a person who actually is more physically gifted and physically dominant can actually just overpower somebody, and that just does not happen in our sport. So it’s a little bit more difficult in that sense, golf-wise. But what he’s done, you know, over the last three years, no one’s ever done…He plays (golf), yeah. He played for a number of years and then got a rib injury for a while and he thought it was caused by golf, so he quit playing golf for a little bit and that’s when his tennis took off. But he’s playing a little bit more now, starting to get into it again and absolutely loves it. His mom is a hell of a player, she shoots in the 70′s all the time, so it’s in the family.”

Roger: “It’s totally different now from the beginning. In the beginning you’re trying to feel your way into the Tour, trying to look for friends, trying to understand the way it runs. You know, trying to get to know the center courts, the fans, how does the whole thing work. By the time you find out, you’re in the early twenties and then the pressure builds up on you. Through the media, they want you to have results and everything, so you’re more thinking about these things. Whereas now, I really concentrate on how I need to get ready for a tournament. I know exactly what to expect. So it’s a whole lot easier now than it used to be.”

Stefan Edberg: “I think he can go another couple of years dominating the game with what he’s got. There’s really only one or two things that can stop him – obviously an injury, or something personal to happen. But if that doesn’t happen, he’s going to continue to dominate. In a way, it’s quite nice to see because he plays such beautiful tennis. It’s really beautiful to watch. I quite like the way Federer plays the game.”

Pete Sampras: “It’s nice to watch him, he’s a smooth player, pleasant to watch, easy on the eyes. It seems like he wants it, kind of like I did. One of the misconceptions was that I wasn’t competitive, I wasn’t ‘mean.’ But I just showed it in a different way. And I think he has some of that in him too. Roger’s got that mentality, that even keel. He doesn’t get too high or too low. That helps when you want to be the best player in the world, no doubt.”

Boris Becker: “I am convinced he will win many more Wimbledons, U.S. Opens and other Grand Slam titles. In a way, he has old fashioned technique. He does not just play heavy top spin, he’s very versatile. He can serve and volley, he can stay back, he can slice, he can play drop shots. He plays like they used to, like Ilie Nastase. He plays all the shots of tennis and that’s something we don’t really see anymore. He’s amazing, he’s just incredible. And if he stays healthy and motivated, he is the kind of guy that can overtake the greatest. I also like how Federer is very popular with other players and with the media. He is a very sociable guy.”

Rod Laver: “Roger’s got too many shots, too much talent in one body. It’s hardly fair that one person can do all this — his backhands, his forehands, volleys, serving, his court position…the way he moves around the court, you feel like he’s barely touching the ground, and that’s the sign of a great champion. And his anticipation, I guess, is the one thing that we all admire.”

Rene Stauffer: “This is a guy who buys drinks for photographers and thanks reporters who show up to his press conferences. Roger lives that saying: ‘It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice.”

Roger: “It’s not so much the pressure of being #1, it’s more the time, you have less time. Everybody wants to talk with you, ask you questions, there’s always something going on, something to do. Once I’m on the court, that’s not so much the pressure. That’s the easy part. It’s what I love to do.”

Martina Hingis: “We never played together during our younger days however, I do remember that he was my ball boy at one of the Basel tournaments (laughs). That was funny. The only time we played together was at the Hopman Cup a few years ago. We won when we played together. He was a great partner. I get to see him play fairly often. Whenever I switch on the TV, you see Roger playing. I love to see him play.”

Sjeng Schalken: “I like him as a person and I like him as a sportsman.”

Lisa: “I work in the players lounge cafeteria (at U.S. Open), and we all agree many of the players are kind of spoiled, they get everything done for them, they get limo rides to the hotels, they get pampered here, massages before and after matches, they get their clothes washed, and many of them aren’t very nice to us, they don’t talk with us. Federer is nice though. He is one of the only ones I can say is nice. Yeah, I like Federer.”

Andy Roddick: “He’s so talented, some of the things he does out there, you wonder, Is this humanly possible? I’m sure every time he walks out on court, he feels like he’s going to win…I almost wish I could hate him but I can’t, he’s too nice.”

Greg Norman: “I’m a huge Roger fan. Obviously because of his grace and perfection of the game. Watching him hit a backhand is like standing there looking at the Mona Lisa all the time – it’s almost perfect. So, in sport, you always get these one-every-thousand-year athletes – we’ve seen it in golf with Nicklaus, and we’ve seen it in tennis with probably Roger Federer right now. And if you have the opportunity to see him live and what he can do – it’s totally different live than it is on TV, there’s no question about it. And seeing him more than once live…he’s just an incredible talent.”

Roger: “I just like to watch tennis. If I’m flipping through the channels and see a match – really no matter who is playing – I just like the game very much. One player I would really like to watch is Bjorn Borg because I never really had the chance to see him when he was at his best. And from what I’ve seen and heard, he is a very special player. And obviously a great champion.”

Serena Williams: “I wish I could play like Roger Federer. Roger is just, like, unbelievable…he’s just so perfect out there.”

Marat Safin: “He’s a magician.”

Gaston Gaudio: “He’s a genius.”

Tennis blogger: “Pure, rich, dripping and abundant talent. I have never seen that much of it ever, since boxer Muhammad Ali and soccer player Pele. Although I have seen videos of the latter two, witnessing it first hand from Federer is like an out-of-body experience. If you have not seen him in action in person, you are not just depriving yourself of tennis genius, but also of absolute beauty in its purest form. If you admire anything beautiful, you don’t need to know the mechanics of the form it is in, to appreciate it. Like, you don’t have to be a boxing fan, to enjoy the arsenal of shots and more importantly how effortlessly and elegantly they are executed, in the ring by Muhammad Ali. If you love beauty and grace, you cannot miss it irrespective of the form and character it manifests itself in. If you have not already done it, go out and buy the ticket to Federer’s next match. It doesn’t matter if you are a tennis fan or not. You are not going out to watch a tennis match, you are watching genius at work – a once in a lifetime kind of euphoria. It is not everyday that a genius is born. History is proof that the medium through which that genius is expressed is irrelevant. It is a spectacle to behold even for a layman.”

Danny Casesa (U.S. Open ballperson): “Federer was playing a match against Marcos Baghdatis and he turned around and said, ‘I’m so fucking off!!’ So I turn around to the line judge and I say, ‘I wish I was that fucking off.’ And I kinda guess I said it louder than I guess I should have. And then he ended up hearing me and turned around and said, Thank you. Anyway, the guy in the middle of a match, he didn’t need to turn around and say anything. Just the fact he acknowledged what I said and was still nice about it.”

Richard Pagliaro: “I remember a few years back interviewing him one-on-one at the United Nations about 20 minutes before he was going out to speak to the entire United Nations and he was so relaxed. I asked him to sign the Tennis Week cover from when he won Wimbledon, the ‘Federer Express’ cover and he looks at it and smiles and said ‘Yeah, I love this cover! This is my favorite one.’ I thought that was cool, plus the fact he actually does every press conference in three languages – English, Swiss-German and French, so he actually spends three times more than any other top player talking to the media.”

Roger, when asked, Is there a secret to your success?: “I guess not, no. Hard work and belief that I can win every match I play. I’ve come a long way. I never thought I’ll ever play so well and dominate tennis. I’m just really having a great time.”

Stefan Koubek, on his tennis inspirations: “The first one was Boris Becker. Then I switched to Michael Chang and Agassi. And, right now, there’s only one, he’s a good friend of mine, but he’s the best player in the world, which is Roger Federer. To watch him every time is something nice. Just to watch him play is amazing.”

Danai Udomchoke: “I want him to make the record (of 15 total Grand Slams). I want him to win the French Open also. He’s a good guy. He’s a very good guy. He’s very nice guy and he talk to everyone and he remember everyone. We are same age and then we play junior together. Once I play him, but in doubles, when we were like 16, 17. (Who won match?) He won [smiles].”

Anthony Causi, New York Post sports photographer: “Shooting Federer is not like shooting anybody else. He’s cold as ice. He doesn’t show any emotion. When you shoot a guy like Blake, they’re always blasting out or going wild during the match. Federer is cool and calm until the very end. He comes in as a surgeon, he does his job and he’s out. I think he’s one of the most intense guys to shoot. Because you really have to be good at what you do to shoot him, because he doesn’t give you much emotion or anything. Just pure excitement in his game. He’s a master of his game…Sampras was emotional. You saw it on his face if his game was off or if he wasn’t performing the way he was – you’d see that look on his face. Like most other guys who are playing the game today. Federer is just on his game all the time.”

Roger: “One good thing about me is that I forget matches, even bad matches, very quickly. I get sad about not having played well but I don’t really get upset. By the time I get back to the hotel, it’s completely forgotten and I’m fine.”

Ricardas Berankis, 2007 junior U.S. Open champ from Lithuania, who practiced with Federer in Dubai for two weeks this summer: “He gave me a lot of advices. But I think the main thing that I learned is to be a simple person. Cause he’s like the God of tennis right now. And he’s very simple, not arrogant at all, but he could be. And he’s not. And I think that’s the main thing that I learned from him.”

Donald Young ATP Tour rookie: “Federer came up to me actually, in the locker room, gave me a handshake and said ‘Hello, keep up the good work.’

Janko Tisparevic: “I was practicing with him the other day. I was really enjoying him kicking my ass. First four games, I tell you – I won one point. Was unbelievable. Like on PlayStation.”

Dominik Hrbaty, on the Funniest Players on ATP Tour: “I think Roger is a very funny guy. We used to play a lot of doubles together, all the tournaments together. We do a lot of crazy stuff together. That kind of sense of humor that you do with your friends, it never can hurt you or whatever. You always take it as a good joke. (Just at that moment, Federer walks by in the locker room and says with a smile ‘No interviews in here!’) You see [laughs]?! So he can never really make an offense that can hurt your feelings.”

Rafael Nadal: “Roger is the best, probably the best ever. It is Federer and the rest of us…He is a very nice person and a great competitor. I have a good relationship with him. I really admire what he does, how he plays, and how he behaves on and off the court. He is a role model for many people. I always had a bit of a language barrier with him because my English is not very good. But from time to time, and especially when there are important things to talk about, we sit and talk.”

Pete Sampras: “I think he has everything. It’s just a question of how much he’s willing to sacrifice to win majors. He’s got all the tools, no question, he has a complete game. For the next four or five years, his competition will be the record books. I really believe in my heart that he’s going to win way more than 14. I think the way he’s going and the fact that he doesn’t really have players really pushing him, he can win close to 17, 18 majors. He’s going to slide by me and hit Nicklaus (18 total major wins) soon. The way he’s dominating, it’s unbelievable.”

Andre Agassi: “He’s the best I’ve ever played against. Pete was great but there was a place to get to with Pete. There’s no such place like that with Roger. When a champion has two things they can count on out there as the best in the world – they’re a dominant champion. Roger has closer to five. Every part of his game is something you’ve got to deal with – his speed, his shot-making ability, forehand, return, sense of the court, and his ability to raise his game. The guy brings so much, you just marvel at it. You get the feeling when you’re looking at him you’re just watching history.”

Sir William Hamilton: “On earth there is nothing great but man; in man there is nothing great but mind.”

Pope John Paul II: “Artistic talent is a gift from God and whoever discovers it in himself has a certain obligation to know that he cannot waste this talent – but must develop it.”

Scoop Malinowski is currently adapting this feature into a book about Roger Federer compiling a wide array of perspectives of Roger Federer, ranging from ATP players, coaches, media, photographers, ballkids, officials, fans, etc. His first tennis book was titled, “Marcelo Rios: The Man We Barely Knew.”

(Federer oil painting by John Murawski)

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  1. Weng Robledo says:

    Roger is my ultimate athlete-idol. I just love how graceful he moves when playing, the way he handle wins and defeats is just amazing. I never liked any other athlete as much as i like him. And I can see that he’s also a very nice person. My ultimate, ultimate ‘want’ would be to be in a picture with him :) (wonder when that will be or if it will ever happen)

Scoop Malinowski

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