Re: Isn't it time for Roger to get some damn ads on US TV?
Hey UM, good question. Here's an article about it in the NYT from Sunday...
May 21, 2005
Federer Is in Control, On and Off The Court
By CHRISTOPHER CLAREY
PARIS, May 20 - It was the Wednesday before the French Open and Roger Federer, the world's finest tennis player, was genially doing interviews and a photo shoot in a gilded hotel, with his girlfriend and his personal assistant by his side.
They happen to be the same woman: Mirka Vavrinec, a former Swiss player he has been romantically involved with since the 2000 Summer Olympics.
When he is home in Switzerland, Federer regularly sees his mother, Lynette, and meets with the coordinator of his charitable foundation, who happen to be the same person. And he spends time with his father, Robert, and with the man who negotiates his tournament deals and appearance fees, also one and the same.
Tennis has long been a family game, but Federer has extended the family connection beyond the kitchen table or the players' box to the boardroom. In the process, he is trying to take command of his career in a much more complete way than most of the world's leading athletes.
"I approve everything," Federer said, knowing that detachment from the commercial aspect of his sport has led some of his peers and predecessors to financial ruin. "You see and hear that and always wish that it's not going to happen to you, but you hardly ever have a guarantee, except, of course, if you really take it into your own hands like I did."
He has no agent, although he does have a lawyer and tax adviser based in Switzerland. Unlike some of his rivals, he requires no more than one courtesy car for his entourage to go from lodging to loge.
The decision to go it relatively alone, made in early 2003 - after his agent, Bill Ryan, left the International Management Group - dovetails neatly with Federer's independent streak. The same character trait allowed him to put together one of the finest seasons in tennis history in 2004, without the services of a formal coach. He has hired Tony Roche on a part-time basis this season.
Top agents, who would like nothing better than to change Federer's do-it-himself approach to personal finance, contend that his decision is costing him millions. They also say that it is costing them millions, because some of his sponsorship deals, including one with Nike, were signed for far less than his market value. As a result, he is making it harder for their clients to receive what they deserve.
"If you add it all up, Maria Sharapova is probably making over 20 million bucks a year in off-court sponsorship deals, and Roger is not even close to that," said one agent, who did not want to be named because he did not want to spoil any chance of working with Federer in the future.
"As far as I can determine, he's not even close to making 10 million off court, and you're talking about potentially the greatest tennis player ever."
But on the top floor of a hotel Wednesday - with the Eiffel Tower and the tree-lined Champs-Élysées for a backdrop - Federer, who made more than $6 million in prize money last year, sounded like a star at peace with his career moves.
"I think the thing that makes me feel good is that I am taking decisions by myself, and I used to hate taking decisions," he said. "And I think that is also what has helped me to maybe even become a better player and to become a better person, more of a grown-up person."
After Ryan split with I.M.G. in 2002 and Federer was unable to keep working with him because of contractual restraints, Federer considered hiring another agent or management company. "I finally said, 'I think we should try to handle things on our own for a while,' " he said. "We is my parents and my lawyer and Mirka, and we started to help each other out, and suddenly we thought, 'It seems like we can handle this.'
"Of course we had to be more into it, to speak more, to make sure things happen quicker, make sure you are well organized. You can imagine. For this, I wasn't prepared in the beginning, and there were times, of course, where you think, 'If I would have known that,' or, 'Oh, man, I wasn't planning on coming back to Basel to sort things out and decide on a few business things.' "
But, Federer said, he feels more comfortable having control of all his dealings.
"I feel you use a different part of your brain; you have to think more in the future and in a different way," he said. "I think it's kind of a good balance sometimes to get away from the tennis and talk business for a while."
The arrangement is not without complications, particularly when the woman he wants to spend more time with is occupied with his business.
"In the beginning, sometimes we had issues where I think that, and she thinks this, and we're like 'O.K., let's not fight,' " Federer said, referring to Vavrinec. "At least if we fight about it, and we forget about it after, then we can cuddle each other, so it doesn't really make a difference. By now, it's no problem, but in the beginning, like in Wimbledon for that first time, you go through those times when she's so exhausted and is maybe irritated a little bit, like I was."
The Wimbledon he was referring to was 2003, when Federer won his first Grand Slam title. It was indeed a big spike in the learning curve for him and Vavrinec, whose career had already been cut short by a leg injury. She was already coordinating Federer's travel and his media and sponsorship obligations.
"There was this big boom, and everybody wanted so much from us," Federer said. "To be caught off guard, it was interesting."
Federer has since hired a firm based in Germany to handle some of his communication needs. His mother continues to answer all his fan mail and e-mail messages, but her main responsibility is the Roger Federer Foundation, which was established in December 2003.
"When Roger was starting to earn good money, his father and I said, 'We think it's a good thing you give back a bit of your own fortune to those who are less advantaged,' " Lynette Federer said in a telephone interview.
Federer's father is Swiss, but his mother was born and reared in South Africa. They met when Robert Federer was working in Johannesburg for a Swiss pharmaceutical company. Although they eventually settled in Basel, a small city near the French and German borders, they have maintained strong ties with South Africa. Roger was first taken there when he was 3 months old, and returned frequently as a boy, so Federer's foundation begin its charitable work there.
In connection with an organization called Imbewu, a word that means seed in the Xhosa language, Federer's foundation is now paying for the schooling and meals for hundreds of children in New Brighton Township, near the city of Port Elizabeth. He traveled there in March, skipping the first round of Davis Cup play for Switzerland. And like many top tennis players, he has also been active in fund-raising for Asian tsunami relief.
"Sometimes with a little time, you can create an unbelievable amount of money or a lot of happy faces," he said.
But some people are still frowning over Federer: the many men who cannot beat him and the many agents who cannot join him.