The Artful Roger Part 1 by Suzi Petkowski in Inside Sport Magazine

Action Jackson
12-29-2003, 12:18 AM
This was a huge feature on Roger Federer in an Australian Sports magazine, unfortunately there isn’t an online version of this, so I decided to take the best parts of it out and post it here. I might even do it in two parts, or three parts even.

The Artful Roger Part 1
By Suzi Petkovski

In the jaded if-this-is March-it-must-be-Miami world of pro tennis, Roger Federer does not merely excite the bored denizens, he brings them to tears.

Among the pros who reached for their hankies after the 22-year-old’s Wimbledon tour de force were none other than Kim Clijsters, the girlfriend of the guy who won it last year and no less a legend than Martina Navratilova. “The stuff he played in the last two matches,” raved Martina, “just phenomenal.”

Women weep and blokes can’t help but admire the Federer style. “Before I ever played him,” said James Blake, a Federer victim at the US Open, “I loved watching him play. His backhand is so smooth. And his demeanour on court is one of the best. He is very relaxed.”

Wimbledon was, fittingly a dream run for the man who plays like a dream, Federer commanded the game’s greatest stage with hypnotic beauty, dropping just one set in seven matches and reducing soon-to-be US Open champ Andy Roddick and the richly talented Mark Philippoussis to lumbering artisans. The languid power, artful volleys, gliding forehand, slashing backhand- all flowed like treacle from tin. In a mesmerising final Federer out-aced Philippoussis 21 to 14, struck 50 glided winners to just nine errors, and never faced a breakpoint in 7-6 6-2 7-6 win.

“I can’t really ay I did much wrong.” Mused he luckless Philippoussis. “Obviously he is very talented. He can do everything.”

Marvelled the more effusive Roddick: “As far as talent goes, I don’t know if there’s anybody out there more talented.” The last shot (of the second set) was just ridiculous.”

“Finally,” praised three-time champion Boris Becker, ‘you see a player with old grasscourt technique: he plays serve-and-volley tennis and plays the slice and doesn’t need the 140mph serve to succeed.

Doubles star Leander Paes observed:” He played flawless tennis, hit shots you saw Martina or McEnroe hit ... shots ahead of their time.”

Action Jackson
12-29-2003, 12:19 AM
Here is the second part of the article, the third will come when I can be bothered typing it.

After Federer’s romp during the TMC in Houston. “A phenomenally talented player,” Andre Agassi gushed before their round-robin encounter. “He has great firepower plus a great feel and flair for the game.” Federer demonstrated all that and more in his first win over Agassi, braving two matchpoints and conjuring 63 winners- a huge tally in three sets against a champion of Andre’s stature.

After a 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 drubbing, which ended his dream of becoming the oldest man to win the elite event, Agassi was even more complimentary, calling the stylish Swiss ‘an inspiration to play against.” Agassi maybe the people’s favourite, but no one is disappointed to see a sublime talent at his best.

Unlike those on-court labourers who see entertainment as an accidental by-product of their game, Federer needs to feel the breath of the crowd. “I hope you guys enjoyed it,” he told the Wimbledon gallery after his emotional win. What’s not to like? Watching Federer is like the tennis equivalent of a neck massage. He’s delectable as Swiss chocolate, an pen-top car in beach weather. An icy beer at a summer barbeque.

There was an obvious symbolism in Federer’s win- coming as it did the year Pete Sampras abdicated. If Federer is the Wimbledon successor to seven-time champion Sampras, he also has the potential to take Pete’s mantle as the dominant champion of the game.

Philippoussis for one, isn’t convinced, believing tennis is too deep for any one man to dominate. Anyone but Federer. The way the Swiss scythed through the Masters field for the loss of just one set only enhanced his standing as the game’s next superstar. He extended his dominance over Roddick to 5-1, blasted Juan Carlos Ferrero out of the No. 2 position, ended his Groundhog Day dramas with David Nalbandian 6-3,6-0 and beat Agassi twice within the week.

Certainly, Roddick won’t be getting cosy in the No. 1 spot. Though Federer was pipped for the top spot by the American, he finished No.1 for tournaments (seven) and matches won (78). No-one else won on all four surfaces- Roddick’s resume lacks and indoor title, and three of Ferrero’s four titles came on clay. Federer’s all-surface mastery puts him, alone among players, on the front foot at every Grand Slam. “That’s what I think mentally is my big advantage,” Federer has said. It makes him, over the long course, the class horse.

12-29-2003, 12:30 AM
Keep it coming George.

Action Jackson
12-29-2003, 12:36 AM
I am onto it now Dirk, typing up the third part.

12-29-2003, 12:37 AM
Thank you great Roger fan. :worship:

Action Jackson
12-29-2003, 01:12 AM
The third part and I will post the final bits later.

Easy on the eye as an athlete and easygoing as a person, Federer plays for self-deprecating laughs, by trotting out his statistical lowlights, like the 0-11 record on clay he racked up in his first year as a pro, or his “special” first tournament match, the only 6-0 6-0 of his career. The punchline, of course, is that he was the loser.

At 22, Federer is young enough to recall the disappointment of being denied autographs as a ballboy in his hometown of Basel. These days, he is universally acknowledged for his generosity to his fans. At the ’03 Davis Cup in Melbourne, whether answering questions from the public while tiptoeing through cowpats at a Swiss reception, pulling on T-shirts for charity, posing for photographers while pretending to read a Japanese tennis mag, or signing endless caps, bags and bits of paper for young fans, Federer was more accessible than the Aussies.

Federer never seems ruffled, just endlessly surprised at how far and wide he is recognised, like beaches in Thailand and the Maldives. “You’re standing on the street corner in your jacket and hat,” says Federer, “you can hardly recognise yourself and suddenly someone comes up and says, ‘Can I have your autograph?’ You’re like, “What?’ Then you realise you’re a actually a star for these guys. That’s your job. It’s strange but I get used to it now. It’s no problem.”

Unlike former Swiss No.1 Martina Hingis, who was born in Slovakia, Federer is embraced by the Swiss as a genuine home-grown hero.

But apart from being multilingual and careful with money, he betrays few typically Swiss touches. He follows pro wrestling and ice hockey, prefers AC/DC to yodelling. In his decision to forgo tertiary education and concentrate on tennis, Federer is extremely unlike his incurably neat and conservative countrymen. But that is part of his appeal. Notes Christine Ungricht, president of the Swiss Tennis Federation,” His influence is great, he gives tennis another, attractive image.”

Former coach Peter Lundgren’s best advice to Roger was,” shut up on court.” Like the young Borg, Federer had a hair-trigger temper as a kid. “I was terrible,” he chuckles. “My racquet was flying in all directions. My parents were embarrassed to watch me play.”

“Sometimes it’s good to get the shit out,” Lundgren told him. “But one time- not 20 times.” Federer finally heeded the advice and played a match without tantrums and was successful. Suddenly a bemused Federer was bracketed with the iconic Swede “because I was ice-cold on the court”. Yet a couple of months before,” I was still like what I used to be like when I was ten years old.”

Of all the Wimbledon titans Federer was compared with- Sampras for the class on grass, McEnroe for inventiveness on the volley- he was most flattered by parallels with Borg, whom he considers the greatest ever “because he won five Wimbledons in a row, six French Opens and he only played till he was 25”.

Meeting Borg in Monte Carlo in 2001 was ‘the best”, Federer says, still sounding starstruck.” I wanted badly to meet him.” The next conversation was initiated by Borg.” When I beat Sampras at Wimbledon, he called Peter and told me how happy he was I’d stopped Sampras from winning five Wimbledons in a row.

12-29-2003, 01:30 AM
He thinks Borg is the greatest ever!
Another reason to like him!

Action Jackson
12-29-2003, 01:52 AM
Lurker once again we are on the same side, and it's great that he pays respect to the Iceman Bjorn Borg, then again anyone that wishes Mantilla good luck has to be good.

Action Jackson
12-29-2003, 02:10 AM
The final part of this feature.

In mid-2000, when the men’s tour recruited him for its cheesy “ New Balls, Please” marketing push highlighting the young Turks in the sunset years of Agassi and Sampras, the modest Federer was more intimidated than flattered.

“For me it was tough. I thought,” Am I good enough to be in this campaign?’’ he recalls. “There were Kuerten, Safin, Hewitt, while I was ranked 50. Yeah it put pressure on me.”’

In hindsight of course, it was an inspired choice. Three years on, Federer is front and centre in a line-up of the game’s stars- and the superstar among them. And now that the Sampras-Agassi rivalry is consigned to the video vault, the apparatchiks on the men’s tour are salivating at the budding Federer-Roddick rivalry as the one to sell the game in the next few years.

Not only is it a clash between a cool stylist and an expressive, go-for-broke hitter, it’s a melding of the two biggest tennis markets. Ferrero lacks the fluency (at the moment) in English to be a global personality, while both Federer and Roddick are infinitely more media-friendly than the litigious Hewitt, gone from the top ten and (in many quarters) unlamented.

While Ferrero and Roddick are his immediate rivals for No.1 Federer cops far more grief from two guys further down the rankings No. 8 David Nalbandian has him in a 5-1 headlock and Hewitt, who holds him an 8-2 edge. Their clashes have been standouts, with the Davis Cup classic, in which Hewitt staged his first two-sets-down comeback of his career- the most dramatic. Still, Federer ended up wearing Hewitt’s Wimbledon and Masters Cup crowns. What chance now of the Swiss swooping on Hewitt’s home slam, the Australian Open, the title he covets most?

In four campaigns, Federer has never done worse than the third round at Melbourne Park, and his AO record (10-4) is better than Hewitt’s (9-7). As Hewitt has slid down from No.1 to 18 in the rankings, it will be the Aussie who has to earn a shot at Federer, not the other way around.

If we (still) can’t get a native champion at the Australian Open, we can revel in the fine brushstrokes of a young master and a beautiful work in progress. “At least I’m playing for something,” Federer said about the elusive No 1 ranking. “I’m not stuck at No.3 or stuck at my ranking. I still have room to improve.

12-29-2003, 02:22 AM
Thanks for typing all this.

It seems that after Wimbledon, the Australian open is the slam Roger wants to win the most, even tough the surface doesnt favour his game IMO.

12-29-2003, 02:23 AM
Thanks for typing.

12-29-2003, 02:40 AM
Yeah Roger will have to cut down on his serve and volley game more there but he is flexible enough to win it. I wish him all the best at RG.

Action Jackson
12-29-2003, 02:58 AM
He has the game to be successful at all the Slams. I mean he grew up playing on clay for 6 months of the year, and he knows to move on the surface which is unlike many of the hardcourt/fast court players.

What chance now of the Swiss swooping on Hewitt’s home slam, the Australian Open, the title he covets most?

That comment was about Hewitt wanting the Australian Open the most, not Federer, though of course Roger would like to win it.

His game is suited in Australia, he has done reasonably well in the lead up tournaments and made the semis in the 2000 Olympics, so he can play on Rebound Ace.

I think the mindset that he might have going into the AO, with the sacking of Lundgren, and hopefully he remembers some of his advice, is going to be of interest.

If he avoids Nalbandian and has improved his conditioning he has the chance to do very well.

No problems about the typing, I am just very slow when it comes to typing.

12-29-2003, 03:08 AM
I think its cool he's a Borg fan. Borg was definitely the best! :)

Thanks George for taking the time to type this all up. It was all very insightful!!

12-29-2003, 03:30 AM
thatnls very much for typing all that! very kind of you.

i also think it will be interesting to see how roger will play without peter, especially since he's done reasonably well always and he'll be going for #1 once again...

12-29-2003, 03:48 AM
Thanks for that!

nice article. and yeah, borg rocks too!

Action Jackson
12-31-2003, 08:45 AM
No problems about the typing, I am just happy some people appreciated it.

This from Thomas Muster when asked about Federer. Do you think he’ll have success on clay?

Muster: If someone is playing well on hard courts and on grass, then they say, "Can he play well on clay?" If they play well on clay, they say, "Can he play well on hard courts."

He’s got great potential. He’s young. He’s going to have all the opportunities from a technical point of view. He could be a great player on all surfaces.

Doris Loeffel
12-31-2003, 11:38 AM
Thanks for the articel GWH. Of course it's appreciated!!

01-02-2004, 02:11 AM
Thanks George! Great article. Gotta get my copy of the mag (it it's avaliable here in my country!)

Marc Rosset is Tall
08-12-2004, 08:37 AM
Thanks for the article, I was glad to stumble on this one.

Of all the Wimbledon titans Federer was compared with- Sampras for the class on grass, McEnroe for inventiveness on the volley- he was most flattered by parallels with Borg, whom he considers the greatest ever “because he won five Wimbledons in a row, six French Opens and he only played till he was 25”.

Another reason to respect the man, is the esteem he holds for Bjorn Borg.

09-30-2004, 07:34 AM
Rogi has definitely gone on with it and thanks for typing out the article and the only one who is looking cosy at # 1 is not Roddick.