A rebirth for Roger Federer - http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/03/2...r-federer.html
The last time we saw Roger Federer at the Sony Ericsson Open, he was having a rare meltdown -- standing angrily over his mangled racket, frustrated that his forehand had betrayed him, depressed that his back wasn't fully healed and annoyed that the media seemed fixated on the what's-wrong-with-Roger angle.
After 4 ½ years at No. 1, the Swiss king looked mortal. He had surrendered his throne and lost five matches in a row to Rafael Nadal, including the finals of the 2008 French Open, 2008 Wimbledon and 2009 Australian Open (after which he left the court weeping). He also lost four in a row to Andy Murray.
And there would be no trophy in Key Biscayne, either, after an error-filled loss to Novak Djokovic. Federer couldn't get off the court fast enough. He even brushed past autograph-seekers, something he almost never does.
But his fortunes began to change almost immediately after he left Miami. He married his longtime girlfriend, Mirka Vavrinec, on April 11 in Switzerland. A month later, he beat Nadal on clay in Madrid and finally won the French Open title that had eluded him. The first week of July, he outlasted Andy Roddick in an epic Wimbledon final, broke Pete Sampras' record with a 15th Grand Slam title and reclaimed the No. 1 ranking in the process. From May through July he went 26-1. The last week of July, he became the father of twin girls, Charlene Riva and Myla Rose.
As he prepared to return to the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open, Federer talked about his forgettable trip to South Florida last spring, the eventful months that followed, the art of changing diapers and how fatherhood has changed him.
``Last year at this time was very tough for me,'' Federer said. ``But it was more the media being down on me than me doubting myself. I thought I played a great Australian Open but just wasn't able to win it, and then losing in the semis at Indian Wells [Calif.] and Miami, the media came down hard on me. The tone got very negative, and I was answering tough questions.
``My forehand had some issues, my movement wasn't there. Because of my back injury, I was pressing too much on offense. But all in all, I made two semis, and I knew there was no reason to panic. Still, the negativity all around gets to you.''
Adding to the tension, Federer was dealing privately with the tightly guarded news that he and Mirka were expecting twins in the summer. Like any couple that learns two babies are on the way instead of one, it can be overwhelming.
``We found out in Australia that it was twins, and we were very worried, to be honest,'' Federer said. ``At first, we thought it might be twice as hard, twice as many problems. We wondered how we would be able to travel with two babies. Would they cry all the time? Would they sleep at the same time? How would this all work with our lifestyle?
``But then, we realized having two at the same time would mean they could be best friends forever, and we got excited about it. Now that Myla and Charlene are in our lives, I wouldn't want it any other way.''
Once Federer hit the clay in April, everything came together. When he got to Madrid, he told the press he was going to win.
``They're like, `It's Rafa's turf. OK, you're crazy.' But I knew my game was back. I won, and the rest is history. I never looked back.''
When the babies arrived, so did new questions: Would Federer lose his focus? Could he stay No. 1 while waking up in the night for feedings and diaper changes? Would he care less about tennis now that he had a family?
No. Yes. No.
``Having children has had a major impact on me, all good,'' he said. ``Mirka went through the pregnancy so well, and that inspired me. I felt bad that I was just sitting on the sidelines, not able to help much. Once the babies came, I wanted to be part of it. Mirka still does more diaper-changing and waking up, but in the daytime, I hold the babies a lot and spend a lot of time with them.
``The press started asking questions because a father hasn't won much before, but I am a master at blocking stuff out on the court. The marriage and kids inspire me. My relationship with Mirka was always very strong and intense, and we worried a little that if we have kids, can we keep that? Should we take that step? We decided it's better sooner than later. Hopefully, they can see me play. That was important to Mirka. My life feels very balanced now, and my perspective changed. All of a sudden, I have children depending on me. It's not all about me anymore.''
That realization has led Federer to be more charitable outside the home, as well. When he heard about the devastating earthquake in Haiti, he was at the Australian Open. Within 24 hours, he had rounded up other top players and organized ``Hit for Haiti,'' an exhibition that raised $200,000. Last week he organized another involving Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Nadal and Martina Navratilova and raised $1 million.
``The guy's loving life right now,'' TV commentator Patrick McEnroe said. ``He's got a beautiful family and can afford to travel well with them. He's No. 1 again, which is where he likes to be. Some guys view that as a burden, but not Roger. He loves it on top. It's where he's most comfortable. Now that he broke Pete's record, he's playing without pressure. He's relaxed and fit, and when he plays like that, it's a scary sight.''