Roche, Federer a perfect fit
Roche, Federer a perfect fit
June 17, 2005
Legendary coach Tony Roche works with his illustrious charge Roger Federer during the Australian Open in Melbourne earlier this year.
Tony Roche has not tasted Wimbledon singles glory, but Roger Federer may be about to change that, Richard Hinds reports.
As Tony Roche thwacks another razor-sharp volley back at the feet of his latest Wimbledon contender Roger Federer, you could be forgiven for believing he would not be disgraced himself in an early-round match against one of the grasscourt neophytes who will slip and slide their way reluctantly around the famous lawns this year.
In the hour he spends trading shots with Federer, only a creaky service action betrays the fact Roche turned 60 last month.
Otherwise, he looks as much at home on the practice courts of Aorangi Park that adjoin the All England club's famous stadium as you would expect of a man who has invested so much time and energy at the game's mecca.
The return on that investment has been substantial. Roche won five Wimbledon doubles titles with John Newcombe and reached the 1968 singles final, where he was beaten by Rod Laver.
Yet, for all that, he has never got the dividend he deserved. Not only did his own name fail to appear on the singles trophy, neither did those of the two champions, Ivan Lendl and Pat Rafter, whom he guided into a total of four finals.
Throw in the fact that he was in the New Zealander Chris Lewis' corner when he lost to John McEnroe in the 1983 final and you could be forgiven for thinking Wimbledon is a place of heartache and frustration for Roche.
Yet, publicly at least, Roche does not see it that way. "Not really," he says. "Getting to finals is not too shabby."
It is a measure of the respect in which Roche is held that Federer literally came knocking on his door in Sydney late last year asking Roche to improve the world No. 1's game.
The deal hammered out between the then holder of three grand slam titles and the coach - who is now known to enjoy his days on the golf course as much as he once relished the grinding work of the practice court - was mutually beneficial. Roche would not travel full-time, but the pair would work together before each of the year's four majors.
Even for a coach as widely respected as Roche, Federer presented a tough challenge. He had earned praise for guiding the driven Lendl to new levels of professionalism and, later, for his work in taking the late-blooming Rafter to two US Open titles.
But when Federer came calling, he was already considered a once-in-a-lifetime talent. "Just a few little things here and there," says Roche when asked what he has brought to Federer's game. "But he always feels he can improve, which I think is good. Just because you get to the top of the tree doesn't mean you can't improve. He is always looking for little things to work on and I've seen it come through in a couple of his matches."
Such are the high standards Federer has set that, despite his seven titles so far this year, his season is viewed as slightly disappointing. There was speculation at the start of the year about a grand slam. But he was beaten in the semi-finals of the Australian Open by Marat Safin and at the same stage in Paris by Rafael Nadal.
"He had match point at the Australian and didn't play as good as he can in Paris, yet still got to the semis. I think he can definitely win the French. But he has to play at his best," Roche said.
During a light warm-up, the strong rapport between coach and player is obvious. As Roche clips a neat groundstroke past Federer at the net, the Swiss even seems to greet the shot with a classical Aussie response: "Beauty!"
"It's been good fun," says Roche of the past six months. "This trip will be eight weeks and I've enjoyed it. First of all, he is a really nice guy, apart from just being a very good tennis player. He's pretty relaxed and I think that's good in this game.
"There is enough pressure on when the tournament comes around. If you can have a relaxed attitude when you practice, so long as you put in the hard yards, it is a pretty good build-up."
So is this the best chance Roche has had to share the game's greatest glory, a Wimbledon singles crown? "I thought Pat was a pretty good chance but it wasn't to be for whatever reason," he says. "But he's got as good a chance as anyone, so let's hope we can do it this time."
source: the age
Q. When you've played as few matches as you have over the last two, three months, did you ever lack motivation to go out and practice?
ANDY RODDICK: Motivation? No. I enjoy what I do. I enjoy what I do. You know, I've never been one to, you know, blow off practice or, you know, do anything like that.
You know, I'd be lying if I said I'm looking forward to practicing the next two days as opposed to playing here. That part is gonna suck...(2010 Aegon Championships)