Why Roger came into the club, the Old Boys TC in Basel?
Roger came here when he was eight, thanks to his mother, Lynette. She used to play here already and participated in team matches. One day she came to see me to see if his son could join the club. She was impressed by the Junior program. Before, Roger played on the courts of his parents' company (note: Ciba, Novartis-ex).
Lynette hoped that Roger could make a great career by coming here?
No, his parents never pushed him. It was always Roger and only Roger that said he wanted to become a professional. At eight years old, he was already talking about becoming number one ... He even told his buddies. I did not believe in it. Especially in Switzerland at that time, there were no very, very big players. It was the late 80s, with Marc Rosset, Jakob Hlasek ... But that's all. Yes, at the time, we never imagined he would go this far. If I had known, I would have certainly looked more closely. But there were other young people - some stronger than him.
Wimbledon was already a dream?
Win Wimbledon, it's always been his thing. Even when he was very young. I remember a story ... During a workout, I watched Roger play and a point strucked me. He faced a lob, he moved back and hit a smash winner. All content, he said: "One day, thanks to this smash, I will win Wimbledon! "And in one of his finals in London, I remember seeing him perform almost the same smash on match point ... It made me laugh, it was just incredible.
Was he a capricious child?
No, not here, he didn't dare to act like that. But, later, as a teenager, especially when he went to the study center in Ecublens, he began to cry a lot and become capricious. In Basel, he quickly progressed. So, he was satisfied. Then, when he started the major tournaments, he was not progressing as fast. So, he got frustrated on court and often threw his racket. Otherwise, he always swore, but hey, this is the case of all young people.
How do you characterize him?
Smiling, endearing ... But he, nevertheless, always wanted to mess around (can't find translation for "bêtises" ) , to make jokes. I remember one particularly. At a meeting interclub, waiting his turn to play, he hid in a tree. The problem is that we looked for him everywhere ... Impossible to find him! He loved this kind of jokes. He loved to have fun. He went to Ecublens at 13 or 14 years. I know it was very hard at first. He had to adapt to a new region, a new life and speak French ... Her mother told me that he cried a lot the first few months. It was very difficult psychologically. And it was for us, a wrench to see him leave the club. He was so adorable ... he was appreciated by all ...
He had the same game as today, in terms of technique?
Yes, absolutely. And he learned quickly. When Seppli (Kacovski, his first coach) was teaching him a new stroke, he knew immediately how to realize it, while other children needed two weeks to understand it and do it properly.
Moreover, Seppli said he had an incredible talent. He felt that he was born with a racket in the hands ...
Clearly, but one could not predict the future and destiny we know now. We could not foresee that he would be number one. Many young talented people never really have a breakthrough. In addition, at the time, Roger didn't only have tennis in his life. He loved all ball sports. He also played basketball, football ... I told all Juniors to do something other than tennis.
You stayed in touch with him at the beginning, when he exploded at the highest level?
Yes. But mostly I kept a lot of contact with his parents, his mother in particular. When we organize tournaments for Juniors, Lynette always gives us T-shirts and accessories to create lots for children.
You had a special relationship with Roger?
Not more than that. You know, be careful with young people. It is important to behave in the same way with everyone. But, he differed from the other children because of his will to win (not sure how to translate "avoir la gagne" ) . He hated to lose. We felt he was ambitious. I remember seeing him cry several times during matches per team. He was lying on the court. Unable to console, while everyone was already thinking about something else.
When you look at him play on TV, you feel something special?
Yes, especially at Wimbledon. When I was a junior, I played there...
How do you explain that he was so agitated younger, when he seems so quiet on the court today ...
It is thanks to Mirka ...
You know her well, Mirka? She is a bit of a mystery to us all ...
She came to the club to participate in tournaments, she came also to play with her friends. In fact, they had already seen each other before the Sydney Olympics.
He already looked at her a little at that time?
Yes, maybe ... We do not know. He was mainly focused on tennis. Today Mirka manages everything.
Was it her who changed him into someone calm?
Yes. At that time, only Peter Carter could really calm him. Roger and Peter got along very well. Carter was very helpful and trained him well on the tactical level, especially during competitions. His experience of the circuit and his level of play brought him a lot. Peter brought serenity. Moreover, he managed to calm all Juniors. Roger learned a lot from him, in the management of his games, because it is Peter who accompanied him to tournaments. Then he even left for the center in Biel where Roger trained. They continued to evolve together on the Challengers and the big junior tournaments.
Roger has rarely been hurt in his career. Nadal goes on to say that he has an ideal physique. What do you think?
I always knew that Rafa would have more difficulties than Roger. Rafa has a game that forces his physique because he has strokes and a way to play that put a strain on his body. To return to Roger, he was not doing much physical work before, and at that time, his career didn't really take off. But with Peter Lundgren, physical exercises were more intense and taken seriously. We quickly saw the difference!
When he was at the club he stayed after the workouts? He hit the ball against the wall?
(Laughs) Yes, he stayed... He stayed to play cards with his friends. He played Jass!
What is this game?
This is very similar to the belote.
Roger gives the impression of being a star very professional and highly protected and distant, and at the same time, in the privacy, someone easily accessible, laughing ... a big kid!
It has always been like that, even at home. But I've always asked him to behave on the court. Though, it was really hard for him to accept the superiority of the opponent. He could not accept that his opponent makes a nice point. He could swear. On the court, he played seriously, he left out the jokes. I think he inherited it from his mother. I also remember he had dyed his hair blond once ... It was at the time of his victory at the Orange Bowl. After the title, I saw him at the club. As usual, he was playing cards with his friends. I asked him to remove his cap on his head ... but he did not want to, because he was too ashamed!
Why he dyed his hair?
He made a bet! He was often making bets ...
What can you tell us about his family?
Regarding Roger's father, Robert, he always stayed in the background and rarely came to see his son play. His job required him to travel a lot. As for Diana, his sister, she also played at the club without being a member. But she still participated in small tournaments. But, she was less talented than her brother ... She preferred riding!
Yes, she did not play badly. She was part of the senior team A. She was Swiss champion with this team.
What is Roger for Switzerland? Is he a national hero?
Roger is appreciated everywhere in our country. There are many Davis Cup in Lausanne, Neuchatel and Geneva and the stadiums are always full throughout the weekend. It bothered me once or twice he did not participate in this competition, the Davis Cup. But early in his career, he has always been there. However, I think that in Switzerland he is not as considered as in the USA, for example. People often tell us so. When Americans come here, they are surprised that we do not do more things around Roger. In the United States, if an American wins, this is normal. Here in Switzerland, we are less used to it and it is always amazing to see one of us could succeed so much. But we also do not like excess.
This year, you were surprised by his victory at Wimbledon?
Yes, we watched the game here at the club. There was also the Swiss television, they use to come often for Roger's Grand Slam finals. When he won Wim ', it was great! I have always believed, and I opened a bottle of champagne. Journalists often say he should stop ... It annoys me, because he was still world number three at the end of last year and early this season. Yes, this summer, I was so happy for him ... and it made me happy to see him prove these journalists wrong.
Precisely, all those Grand Slam titles, it's huge ...
And it is amazing! Especially the first time. We didn't expect it.
How have you experienced the period when Roger was getting beaten by players like Nadal when he was almost invincible before?
Always respect other players who also have qualities. Roger could not continue like that, to win all the time, being alone in the world. It is best to have a great tennis rivalry at the top of the world rankings.
This period must have been complicated for him, who you describe as a competitor inveterate ...
Yes, but when he comes home, there is Mirka. It helps. I remember that she is always present in the stadium. Once she was not there and Roger had lost ...
One has the impression that he has no fault. He is kind, he is polite, he is great, some find him beautiful ...
You are right. He is never unjust. It's hard to find a fault, apart from the way he had to swear too often. And I confess that it annoyed me so much! Besides, her mother asked me to get him out of the court if he swore too much...
He had a favorite curse word? (Laughs)
Oh, I can not really say, it's not very nice ...
His mother , do you see her often?
Almost every month. She does not live very far from me. We talk about Roger, but many other things too.
You have a lot of visits of journalists here? It became a place of pilgrimage, right?
Yes, it's true. That's why I always have press clippings with me. Generally, this is Lynette who gives them to me or I get them through friends. One day, I remember seeing land a busload of Japanese journalists ... I already answered a lot of interviews, I can not say how many... It is regularly after Wimbledon. Like how this tournament marks everyone ... Now the demands are reduced. The last was made with an Italian journalist. I lent him a picture of Roger playing football for the occasion. But he never gave it back to me!
In Switzerland, you have Guillaume Tell and Roger Federer. Finally, today, isn't he the biggest star of the country?
Yes, I think.