By CHRISTOPHER CLAREY
DECEMBER 2, 2011
BOSTON — After working and winning indoors in Europe for most of November, Roger Federer is now in the sunshine at a distant, undisclosed resort with his wife, Mirka, and twin daughters. But even with sand between the toes and the rackets in very temporary storage, tennis remains part of the lounge-chair conversation.
“The vacation has only just started, and I had quite a trip trying to get down here,” Federer said by telephone. “But once down at the beach with the nice weather and the alone time with Mirka, I definitely look back and go, ‘I can’t believe I was just in my 100th final, and it’s already my 70th title.’ That’s what I told her. I got together with her when I had zero titles, and we kind of went through all this together, and now we have a family. It’s been pretty incredible.”
Until the home stretch, Federer’s 2011 season was better defined by frustration than fulfillment, but after a timely six-week break, his mental and physical freshness helped him produce tennis reminiscent of grander years as he won his last three tournaments: his home city event in Basel, the Paris indoors and the elite year-end championships, known as the Masters Cup, in London.
Novak Djokovic was the man of the year, winning three of the four Grand Slam singles titles. Rafael Nadal won his sixth French Open. But though Federer lost four of five matches to Djokovic and failed to win a major singles title for the first time since 2002, he is the only one of the game’s lead pack who will be carrying major momentum and a long winning streak into the new year.
“By Roger’s incredibly lofty standards, 2011 was a down year in that he didn’t win a major,” Jim Courier, the U.S. Davis Cup captain, said in an e-mail. “I think his fall win streak is testament to his intact talent, the effortless aspect of his game compared to his peers and intelligent scheduling. I suspect he will continue to be a strong contender at the majors until his speed of foot starts to fall off, which seems to occur in top-level athletes around the age of 32 or 33.”
If so, Federer, who won’t turn 31 until August, still has time to keep covering the corners, even if he is now the oldest man in the top 25 of the rankings .
“Am I surprised I’m still so hungry at this age?” Federer said. “Not really, because I always expected myself to be this way. I never saw myself sort of just all of the sudden fading, fading away and at the end having no love left for the game. I just really think it’s a thing that maybe the body decides or something else decides when it’s over, but it’s not just all of the sudden not going to be there anymore.”
It has been a bustling phase on and off the court for Federer, and 2012 could be even busier, as he is expected to chase the only two significant prizes he lacks: the Olympic singles title and the Davis Cup. The Olympic event will be on grass at the All England Club in late July, shortly after Wimbledon.
“It’s not as complicated as other Olympic years,” he said, chuckling. “We couldn’t be better prepared this time around, whereas the last times have been brutal.”
Federer said he was close to committing to the first round of Davis Cup in February, in which Switzerland will play host to Courier and the United States. This would be a major shift considering that Federer has not played a nonrelegation round in Davis Cup’s World Group since 2004.
“I think it looks good that I will play, but I still just have to finalize my schedule,” he said.
Federer also said that he had extended his relationship with Paul Annacone, his co-coach along with Severin Luthi, after the U.S. Open semifinal loss to Djokovic in which he squandered two match points on his serve.
“I know when someone is doing a good job and when someone is not,” said Federer, who said he told Annacone, “Just because Novak smashed a forehand past me, and I missed match point, has no effect on my decision in working with you.”
Federer also revealed that he and Nadal had met in London before Nadal left for Spain in an attempt to talk through their differences about the direction the men’s game will take off the court.
Federer is president of the player council, Nadal is vice president, and there is much to resolve.
The men’s tour is searching for a new chief executive, and while Nadal has backed Richard Krajicek, the former Wimbledon champion from the Netherlands, Federer has been focused on finding someone with a stronger business background. Nadal has been pushing for a new two-year ranking system, while Federer feels strongly that the current one-year system is worth preserving.
“We did have a meeting together in London before he left for Davis Cup, so we’re on the same page in terms of we spoke about everything,” Federer said. “It was just a matter of just hearing it from him and him hearing it from my side what we all think, and we’ll now have probably a chat either before Davis Cup or after Davis Cup, just letting time go by a little bit after our conversation and see where we want to go from here and just be helpful to the tour so that we can take the right decisions. Because in the end, it’s not us that take the decisions but the board. But we would like to maybe give the board some direction, so we’ll see how it goes in the next week or so.”
The A.T.P. board of directors, composed of tournament representatives and player representatives, has also been divided on Krajicek, but there are other issues, including the cyclical complaints about the length and grueling nature of the season.
Nadal has been vocal in calling for further change, saying this week in a radio interview in Seville that he wanted to be healthy enough when his career finished to live a normal life and be able to play soccer with his friends.
Federer prefers to focus on the golden age that men’s tennis is currently experiencing on court and see what comes of the changes already in place, including a two-week cut in the length of the season in 2012.
“I just think it’s unfortunate that maybe we hurt the tour ourselves sometimes,” Federer said. “I’m not addressing any players in particular. It’s just an overall feeling. I think it’s a rare thing that athletes of a certain sport are negative toward their sport.”
Federer said he wished players would reserve their complaints about the schedule for more private, constructive forums, but then Federer is that rare veteran star who has never had a major injury.
He has now played in 48 consecutive Grand Slam events — last missing one in 1999 — and winning a record 16. He has also played in 10 straight tour championships, winning a record six, which is all the more remarkable considering how much Djokovic’s Federesque run through mid-September took out of him down the stretch, when he looked emotionally and physically spent.
Federer has won three Grand Slam titles and the tour championships in the same season on three occasions.
“You don’t want to see something happen like it happened to Novak at the end of the year,” Federer said. “But in the end, we’re all just human, and it does happen that we can’t win everything, and you know how it is at the top. The margins are so small, but still Novak is by far the player of the season.”
That does not mean Federer has given up on being the player of next season. Currently No. 3, he would relish a return to No. 1, which would help him take care of some unfinished business in that he is remains just one week short of tying Pete Sampras’s men’s record of 286 weeks atop the rankings.
“Exactly,” Federer said with a laugh. “Well, that’s a long way to go, but who knows? One day maybe I’ll get there. We’ll see. I had to just kind of ignore it at the moment because I know that Novak with his unbelievable year has kind of put that very far from me, but then again, all of the sudden you play well and you win 17 matches in a row and you’re back where you at least feel if you win a Slam or something, you’re right in the conversation again, so that’s interesting and that excites me.”
Posted by Safwan Umair
December 6, 2011
This latest win marks the Swiss maestro’s second successive ATP world tour final’s triumph and a record sixth ATP tour final win in all. PHOTO: AFP
In the last few years, men’s tennis has undergone a revolution of sorts. Quality and competition are two aspects that have literally gone through the roof. One of the main catalysts has been the consistent arrival of outstanding young talent. In this regard, Roger Federer is perhaps a front runner of sorts. His skill, athleticism and freakish fitness levels mark the beginning of a new era in tennis.
Last weekend, at London’s visually futuristic O2 arena, Federer delivered a timely reminder of his inimitable quality and composure.
This latest win marks the Swiss maestro’s second successive ATP world tour final’s triumph and a record sixth ATP tour final win in all. As is the case with many other sporting legends, records just cannot seem to stop tumbling for Roger Federer.
Many tennis analysts and critics, former and present players consider Federer to be the greatest tennis player of all time. Former world number one and eight time grand slam champion Andre Agassi was recently quoted as saying:
(Federer has) changed the game of tennis, he’s raised the standard. To me he’s the best of all time now - maybe Nadal has a chance in his career to prove differently, but right now I think Roger’s the all-time best.
Agassi made a fair comment. Amongst contemporary players, Nadal and Djokovic will most probably challenge Federer’s stake as the greatest player of all time. They are both young with significantly more time left in the game than Federer. Yet there is no doubt that “Fed Express,” as he is fondly known, fully deserves all the accolades and praise generously showered upon him.
In recent months, Federer’s ATP ranking has intermittently slipped below Nadal, Djokovic and even Andy Murray. Yet the massive fan following never dips. Mainly because Federer’s poise and grace on and off the court remains unparalleled. There arguably has never been a better one-handed backhand played in the game, and his exceptionally fluid and forceful forehand has been labeled by John McEnroe as the greatest shot in tennis.
Talking about records, Federer has written and re-written men’s tennis record books. He has the highest number of grand slam victories in men’s tennis history (16), the most grand slam finals ever played (23), most consecutive grand slam finals, semi-finals and quarter finals played (10, 23 and 30 respectively). And the highest number of successive match wins in grand slam history (27 on two separate occasions). He is also the only player in men’s tennis history to have won three slams in a year thrice.
Federer has appeared in all four grand slam finals in a calendar year on three separate occasions (06, 07 and 09). His streak of appearing in all four grand slam semi-finals in the same year on five different occasions is unheard of in tennis annals. He has won more successive ATP finals (24 between 2003 and 2005) than any other player in history.
He is also the only male player ever to reach the finals of each of the nine ATP Masters 1,000 tournaments (which are considered to be the most prestigious tennis events after the four grand slams and the ATP World tour finals). And after his sizzling victory at the O2 arena in London last Saturday, Federer has also overtaken Pete Sampras’s previous joint-record of most ATP World tour final victories.
The brilliant Swiss has stayed as world number one for an incredible 285 weeks in total; including a record 237 consecutive weeks as the top ranked player. His career prize money totaling 66 million USD is the highest in tennis history. To add to a stellar list of mind-boggling achievements, he also added the small matter of an Olympic gold medal to his burgeoning trophy-cabinet at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
No matter how you analyse and decipher these records. They make for an incredible reading and will stand the test of time. Yet, despite such an amazing career record that oozes ruthless class, 2011 was an average year compared to the dizzy “Roger-arian” standards. For the first time in many years “FedEx” failed to win a single grand slam title. There was also a significant power shift in men’s tennis towards the new world number one Novak Djokovic. The 24-year-old Serbian motored along to three Grand Slam wins. In the process playing a level of tennis many believe has been scarcely attained in tennis history.
Federer has not won a grand slam event since his Australian open victory over Andy Murray in 2010. As a result, murmurs regarding a perpetual decline have been scaling a feverish pitch. Since that win, he has been beaten regularly in the semifinals and finals of grand slam events at the hands of his old nemeses Nadal and Djokovic. Yet more alarmingly, he also lost out in the quarters and the semis to lower ranked players such as Tsonga, Berdych and Robin Soderling.
In this context, Federer’s win at the season ending World Tour Finals carries great significance. Especially the straight sets ‘group-match’ demolition of Rafael Nadal which was reminiscent of the great man in his pomp. 2012 will be another immensely competitive year in men’s tennis. However, what remains to be seen is whether Federer can lay down another successful challenge for grand slam victory number 17.
Irrespective, from the legion of his ardent fans you will only hear one chant: “Come on, Roger!”
RICOH ATP MatchFacts
Federer's Rise Reflected In RICOH ATP MatchFacts
by Matt Fitzgerald
Roger Federer showed he still has the game to compete with the world’s best by finishing the 2011 season with a 17-match winning streak. Following a heartbreaking defeat to top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the US Open semi-finals, Federer played his best tennis of the year in the final weeks of the season. His improvement can be measured with the RICOH ATP MatchFacts, which indicate significant upgrades in first serve points won and break points converted during his undefeated reign. After triumphing in Basel and winning his first BNP Paribas Masters title in Paris, Federer hoisted a record sixth Barclays ATP World Tour Finals crown to return to the Top 3 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings.
Analysing Federer's Win Streak
For the season, Federer ranked second behind leader Milos Raonic for first serve points won with 78.7 percent, but the Swiss has done more damage since the US Open, winning 83.2 percent of those points in his 17 match victories, a 4.5 percent difference. Additionally, Federer, this year's top dog in second serve points won with 57.1 percent, maintained his level by winning 58 percent of those points since the US Open. His success on serve during this period has resulted in an improved service games won percentage, as Federer held serve 93.1 percent of the time. This is 4.1 percent higher than his season average of 89.6 percent, which ranks the 30 year old in second place behind John Isner, who claimed 90.7 percent of his service games.
The 16-time major champion has also been more opportunistic with his return game throughout the win streak. Placed outside of the season-long Top 10 in return games won at 28 percent (11th), Federer increased this figure to 31.4 percent. But his most compelling return statistic was a dramatic improvement in break points conversion percentage. Ranked in just 29th position for the season with a 41.5 percent success rate, Federer was far more proficient during his title run, converting 49 percent of his break point opportunities, a 7.5 percent differential. Had he been this effective throughout the year, Federer would rank first in this category, ahead of Xavier Malisse, who converted 48.5 percent of his break point chances.
Below is a table comparing Federer’s RICOH ATP MatchFacts throughout the year with numbers from his 17-match win streak.
MatchFacts Win Streak 2011 Season Differential
1st Serve Points Won 83.2% 78.7% +4.5%
2nd Serve Points Won 58.0% 57.1% +0.9%
Service Games Won 93.7% 89.6% +4.1%
Break Points Saved 67.7% 64.8% +2.9%
1st Serve Return Points Won 31.2% 33.0% -1.8%
2nd Serve Return Points Won 54.2% 51.3% +2.9%
Break Points Converted 49.0% 41.5% +7.5%
Return Games Won 31.4% 28.1% +3.3%
While Federer did not win at least one major title in a season for the first time since 2002, it’s interesting to note that his first serve points won percentage of 78.7 in 2011 is better than what he registered in the years he tasted Grand Slam glory, with the exception of 2009:
2010-78.2%; 2009-79.3%; 2008-76.9%; 2007-77.3%; 2006-76.7%; 2005-76.3%; 2004-78.2%; 2003-78.5%.
The Rest Of The Big Four
In contrast to Federer, who has relied on strong service numbers to stay at the top, the rest of the Big Four have depended on their return games. World No. 1 Djokovic, second-ranked Rafael Nadal and World No. 4 Andy Murray marked themselves as the elite returners in 2011, placing inside the top four in three return categories.
Djokovic is at the front of the pack in return games won.
Novak Djokovic 38.8%
Andy Murray 36.1%
Rafael Nadal 34.5%
Murray topped Djokovic in first serve return points won.
Andy Murray 37.1%
Novak Djokovic 35.6%
Juan Ignacio Chela 34.4%
Rafael Nadal 34.2%
Djokovic leads all players in second serve return points won.
Novak Djokovic 57.5%
Rafael Nadal 56.7%
Andy Murray 56.0%
Lynette Federer: "Soon, Roger wanted to give some back"
17. December 2011, 10:12 p.m.
The Sunday Morning
Originally from South African Lynette Federer has always had "their eyes open to the world, on the other." Today, she combines the roles of both supporter present during most of the matches of his son, grandmother caring for four grandchildren and wife very involved in the charity founded by Roger Federer.
According to Lynette Federer, Roger inherited his African origins an "easy going next."
Mrs Federer, considering your schedule, we say it is too soon loaded as your son!
Since my daughter also has twins, I love being with them, as with Roger and his family. And it's true that sometimes I think it would be better if I had less work, I could spend more time with my grandchildren and my children. But I am very involved in the foundation and I love to go to Africa to visit our projects. In the field, I see the real needs of individuals and communities and make sure that our funds are used wisely. It's so gratifying to see that our support for these children in need is bearing fruit.
How do you act in practice?
The aim of the Foundation is to enable disadvantaged children to access quality education so that they can shape their future. Therefore, our strategic priority is to support the existing structures, but without financial resources - care centers for children, schools and kindergartens for children aged 3 to 12 - and improving their effectiveness. The quality of this early support and basic education is crucial, because it is the foundation of all learning.
Do you feel that fatherhood has made Roger even more aware of the importance of this action?
Yes, definitely. His daughters were nearly two and a half years and he is aware of their progress daily. For example, they learn two languages at the moment and they retain so much. Why? Because they are talking about. But in Africa, if a woman has to take care of a class of 30-40 children, she can not take the time to talk to everyone. Schools also lack of teaching materials. Roger has more and more the importance of helping pre-schools. And I am very proud to say that we started with 200 children and today they are more than 10 000 to benefit from our support. This is an opportunity to carry out this major project.
Do you remember the first time that Roger mentioned the idea of creating a foundation?
Yes, his desire was born in 2003. That year, he played very well and began to make money. He said, "Mom, I'm very lucky when I give a little back." I told him why, he "enough" to create his own foundation.
Helping children to him emerged as the obvious?
He could be committed to many causes, so we took the time to think. Finally, I advised him to go where his heart was. And it was clear. Roger loves children, so he decided to help the most disadvantaged, enabling them to access education. It give them a chance in life. The Roger Federer Foundation was thus born at Christmas 2003 and we launched the first project in 2004 in Port Elizabeth. We knew the situation well, the needs on the spot because I am from South Africa and my husband and I went there twice a year. The family has a strong bond with that country. Roger and his sister have spent many holidays.
Roger did something South African in him?
Yes, its "easy going", it really comes from my side of Africa. And disciplined aspect comes from his father. That's what he said.
And his sense of humor?
His father is a big joker, he must take it from him. No, probably both of us because I like to laugh. We laugh a lot as a family.
As a child, have you ever thought that Roger would one day become a great champion?
No, no. I never considered that. When he was little, people were telling us how talented he was. But it was also good at football to table tennis to squash. In fact, no matter that he had the ball in his hands, he made something good. But talent alone does not lead to success. It depends on what you do. With Roger, that was amazing is that while being very ambitious for his career, he was a child who loved above all the fun aspect of sport. Of course, the drives were not always funny. But late in the day, he realized that his heart always, his passion was the game And when he was mature enough to understand why it was necessary to work his gift, it became a pleasure. And I think it proves that passion every time he steps on court. If it has accumulated so successful is because he likes very much this game.
Is great pleasure that makes it so radiant now?
Yes. It was not easy for him to lose the place of No. 1 in the world, but keep going on the court having the passion and love of the game, I think that's what ultimately counts. This is why it is so happy.
At first, you may remember having had it back in its place, for example, when breaking rackets, remind him that he was privileged to play tennis to have this gift?
Oh yes! When I drove one hour from Basel to see him play and he was making a great first set, before a complete change of behavior in the second, where we had the impression that he had just nothing to do, he did not play. And in the third set when he realized he had to win this game because it was better, it was too late, he had lost. On the way back, I said: "Roger, I'm sorry. I work and I can not agree to an hour away to come to these tournaments and see you to behave well, do not give the best of you. Here, you tell your opponent, "Hey! I ask you to fight, you can beat me. "My husband and I have continued to repeat it until clicks into place. Until he understands that it would be more calm on the court, he would play better. It's like we have to repeat hundreds of times a child to brush his teeth before he realizes himself as a good thing to do.
When did it change?
By 17, he sometimes they still had "ups and downs" and coaches suggested he sees a mental coach. What he did for a period. He stopped when he felt good. But after these sessions, it has become almost too quiet, too passive, it was the opposite of him. He then had to find the right balance and I think it was between 19 and 21. 17 to 19 years, he has experienced, tried and, at age 21, he beat Sampras ... He worked hard to find. Thus Roger works.
Works Does this still daily self-control?
No, it's become a ritual. It is quiet - even if it's a bad day and loses, he is not going crazy - it was his routine, and the benefit of long experience.
Your son is revered around the world admired model of perfect man. How do you live?
As parents, you do not need to see your child on stage, on center court, or put a coat doctor to be proud of him. I would have been proud and happy that Roger is not necessarily as gardener or any other business as long as it feels good at what he does, he is confident. Personally, I do not see Roger as a model. It is my son and he comes home tomorrow, I can always say, "Sit down properly." He will laugh, but I would stay until my mother died, I would have always the privilege ... But I admit of course that it touches me to know that it performs well, it is taken as a model. We get such beautiful letters. Sometimes people write: "He saved my life." Or: "Thanks to you, your personality, I started to believe in me." The influence he has is incredible.
Is it not too hard for a mother to her son having to share with the world?
No, it's not a problem.
Having given birth to the best player of all time, it must sometimes be confusing.
People call and since the few years and I imagine it will last a while, but for me it is not important. He has done so, so much for tennis, then I would be happy just to play it as long as they wish. What matters to me is that he is happy, healthy, he's fun to play and be a good father.
You have given the election of the Swiss sportsman of the year that the role of supporters is not easy for your husband, Robert, and you. Are you nervously prepared to continue? Because Roger is seen to play a long time.
All parents of athletes are nervous in the first game of their child. He plays tennis, football, whatever. It is. Now, if Roger wants to become No. 1, we know that other games will get very tense. As the semi-finals of the US Open where he missed the match against Djokovic. He lost two matches this year as if he had won, he would have been another great year. But it happened. Life goes on and he is back on top. It is important that he has not resigned face of these defeats. No, he works hard on his game, everything.
How much of his wife, Mirka, in his fantastic career?
Mirka has a very, very important. Essential. But that's not necessarily obvious to her. To return to what you said, it is certainly easier for me to share my son with the rest of the world for her, as a wife. Remains that it is always there to support, advise. When we had not a manager, we work the two together with Roger and my husband. This has made us stronger as a team. Since it has itself been a professional player, she knew the workings of the circuit and she knew which way to go. Much of the success also goes to Roger Mirka.
With it, Roger reached the top sports has become an icon - of fashion as under - and now the father of twins, Charlene and Myla.
This new role is a huge happiness, even if it is not easy to travel with such a team. But small is already used to that. Fly for them is like riding in a car. That's incredible. I recently traveled on their side and, except if they are really tired, they are very quiet at the airport, the plane. It's great that Roger can take them with him to see them every day. They have the chance to grow up with their father, because the time they spend together is quality.
Lynette Federer asked us if we could see, rather than in a hotel in Basel, in the family home of Bottmingen, early Tuesday afternoon. In arriving at his door, wide open, the rickshaw two places and a few tears on the floor why. The mother of Roger Federer is also grandmother and, on that day, she keeps her daughter's twins. Time to make a nap and she invites us to have a coffee in his living room. The three paintings on the wall - "these are the works of a Swiss friend whom I met in South Africa" - launching forty minutes of discussion. And we discover a woman warm, attentive and smiling. Moved quite sure when it discusses this giant that will remain forever a child. And we say that Roger is definitely a lot of his class. His humor and his features are those of Robert. The patriarch awaits the end of the interview and just say hello. He must go to town and offers to take us back to the station. Simplicity, sympathy, now where does Roger Federer.
Fresh from his 70th title in his 100th final, the Swiss ace is already setting his sights on further records. In the Australian Open, where he is likely to play his 1,000th match, he can become the sole record-holder by winning his fifth title.
"Have you heard the news? Roger Federer is back!" That was what US website tennis.com proclaimed to its readers in December. Almost simultaneously, the London "Times" declared: "Federer's 30th birthday was supposed to have brought his reign to a halt. Now we can see that it was not the end, nor even the beginning of the end." Meanwhile, Britain's "Daily Mail" trumpeted: "Roger sends warning to top two." His commanding sixth win in the ATP World Tour Finals at London's O2 Arena – setting a new record – puts Federer in an excellent position ahead of the 2012 season. This will be a year in which the challenges and high points follow in quick succession, and in which the additional highlight of the Olympic Games will see the world's best tennis players return to Wimbledon's All-England Club at the end of July.
The Sky's the Limit
For the Swiss maestro, who for the first time since 2004 is also due to play for the Swiss team in the first round of the Davis Cup, against the USA in Fribourg in February, the year 2012 will therefore provide opportunities galore to set milestones, equalize records, and continue to write tennis history. Ironically, after ending his first year since 2002 without a single Grand Slam trophy, he is in such good form again that the sky would seem to be the limit. The way in which he bounced back after his self-appointed, six-week sabbatical in the fall (thus forgoing the tournaments in Asia), by winning the tournaments in Basel, Paris-Bercy and London in succession, and returning to the World Group with Switzerland in the Davis Cup, was music to the ears of his fans and gives him every reason to believe he can fulfill his dreams.
Dream of Number-One Record Revived
"I've never ended a year so strongly," said Federer, as the season came to a close for him with 17 victories in succession, "and I can now even return to being the number one if I also start winning Grand Slam tournaments again." If he does indeed return to the top of the world ranking list, it would be a triumphal culmination in the autumn of his career. This would mean Federer achieving his 286th week as the number one, thereby enabling him to catch up with record-holder Pete Sampras and very probably supplant him. He himself is fully aware that "There's a long way to go, but who knows? Perhaps I'll get there one day." Assuming he can maintain his strong form, winner's mentality, and good health over Christmas and the New Year, the Australian Open in January will give him a good opportunity to return to the group of Grand Slam winners after a dry period of two years. In a poll on tennis.com, 47 percent of armchair forecasters tipped him as the winner. It would be Federer's 17th Grand Slam title and his fifth in Melbourne – making him the sole record-holder of the professional era (1968 onwards), ahead of four-time winner Andre Agassi.
1,000th Match Beckons in Melbourne
It was at the 2010 Australian Open that Federer notched up his last major title, against Andy Murray. At this first important tournament of the season, he will in all probability achieve another significant milestone anyway: His seventh game in the new season will be his 1,000th outing on the professional tour – just a few weeks after he participated in his 100th final in London, where he picked up his 70th title. Federer's career tally now stands at 807 wins and 186 defeats. Only five players have won more frequently in the professional era: Jimmy Connors of the USA (1,242), followed by Ivan Lendl (1,071), Guillermo Vilas (923), John McEnroe (875), and Andre Agassi (870). Federer begins the new season armed with the same roadmap as last time: A brief vacation and training camp in Dubai will be followed around the turn of the year by an invitational tournament in Abu Dhabi, followed by the Qatar Open in Doha, where he will be defending his title.
Melbourne Is "Big Four" Territory
The "Big Four" have had the Australian Open largely to themselves in recent years. Federer won it in 2004/06/07/10, Novak Djokovic in 2008/11, and Rafael Nadal 2009 (in the final against Federer), with Andy Murray making it to the last two finals. The tournament bills itself as offering the biggest prize money in tennis history: A total of nearly 25 million Swiss francs, 2.2 million of which go to the winners of the singles events. At 2.5, UK bookmakers in December rated title defender Djokovic slightly stronger than Federer and Nadal (both 4.0), followed by Murray, with Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro trailing far behind. It looks very likely that Federer will be able to continue his momentum into the new year. For the Basel native is not only a master of planning but also an outstanding analyst.
Significant Realization behind His Revival
Federer's "golden" fall stemmed from the realization that during the long months in which he failed to win a tournament, from January to November 2011, he had become too negative to some extent, that he allowed himself to be distracted too much, that he allowed too much room for doubt – but that his performance in no way justified such a high degree of worry. Quite the opposite: In terms of his game, he was in good form (even) at all four Grand Slam tournaments. What he lacked were the killer instinct and a strong belief in himself – both of them factors that he was particularly well known for in his best years. Since the US Open, where in the semi-final against Novak Djokovic he lost two match points on his own service, Federer is now unbeaten and consequently self-confident once again. Even before the ATP World Tour Finals in London, he told a reporter from "The Times:" "I've got the feeling that I've rediscovered that one percent that makes the difference between victory and defeat." He noted that in 2011 he had come close to another fantastic season but was repeatedly upset by narrow defeats that followed one another, thus multiplying the doubt and provoking further setbacks.
Ever More Popular, Despite No Longer Dominating
Federer now believes he has broken free from his shackles. His "golden November" shows just what the consequences of that might be. "He's the most resilient player in the game," acknowledged US website tennis.com. "He stays healthy not just physically, but mentally." But at the end of what has been a difficult year for him, it is also evident that Federer's popularity continues to grow as he gets older, even though he no longer dominates the sport in the way he did in his best years. Fans around the world voted him "Fan Favorite" for the ninth time in succession in 2011, far ahead of Djokovic and Nadal. For the seventh time, he was chosen by his fellow players to receive the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award, which in the previous year went to Nadal. There's no question about it: Federer's ever-growing army of fans can look forward to another exciting year with plenty of highlights.
Two days after his first-ever victory at Paris Bercy, Credit Suisse caught up with a satisfied Roger Federer on November 15, 2011, in Zurich for an informal chat about his children, his foundation, the mystery of motivation, the Olympic Games in London and what life might bring after tennis.
Daniel Huber: Congratulations on your victory in Paris! Though you apparently managed to catch a cold from your children. Any improvement there?
Roger Federer: Yes. On Sunday and Monday I had a rather sore throat and congestion. But I'm OK now.
What do you take when you come down with something like that?
I only reach to the medicine cabinet in extreme situations. If things get really bad, I might take a flu remedy and occasionally something for the nose. But generally speaking, I'm extremely cautious about taking medication. You have to be so careful given the long list of banned substances.
But that doesn't leave you with much time to get completely fit for the ATP Finals in London.
That's true. Having played the final in France on Sunday, it was only yesterday and today that I've been able to relax a bit, and tomorrow I'm off to London, where I have a few more commercial commitments as well as training sessions. But actually I have no great concerns about not being fit in time for the tournament. Apart from anything else, my body is still benefiting from the six-week break I took before the tournament in Basel.
And the twins are now better, too?
They had rather bad ear infections and one of them even had to be prescribed antibiotics. But they've now bounced back.
Your family spends almost the whole year living out of a suitcase. Are you always prepared for these things and armed with the standard medications and household remedies?
Mirka is amazingly well-organized in that respect. We carry all the important meds from Switzerland around with us for the children, for ourselves and indeed the entire team.
You've booked into a Zurich hotel for three nights between the tournament in Paris and the one in London. But haven't you got your own apartment just a few kilometers away from here?
It's just not worth our while returning home for such a brief period. It's much more relaxing to be in a hotel with all the services they provide. We did the same last year and it was the right thing to do.
And for your home tournament in Basel, were you with your parents?
No, we were in a hotel there, too. Somehow it works better for me to be in a hotel during a tournament. When I stay at home, it feels a bit too much like I'm on vacation. And I lose that edge of positive tension. And then I start doing this and that – things that I wouldn't otherwise do. By contrast, it's much easier to focus on tennis when I'm in a hotel, and I play better. Even in Dubai I book into a hotel during the tournament, although it's virtually next door.
Is there anywhere that you can really call home? Where do you feel home truly lies?
For me, it's Basel, no question about that. After all, I speak "Baseldütsch," (the local Basel dialect) I was born there, and grew up there. I know my way around by heart – by bus, car, bike or on foot. I've also lived elsewhere in Switzerland and always felt very comfortable and at home there, too. But nothing could ever quite replace Basel.
And yet you spend almost more time in your second home in Dubai than you do in Switzerland.
Dubai is ideal for me simply from a training perspective. It's pleasantly warm there throughout the winter. Admittedly, it's something of an artificial world and has the slight feel of a large holiday resort, but our life there is extremely simple and uncomplicated. It's also perfectly positioned geographically, being halfway to Asia and Australia. That makes it an ideal training base for me. You can't build up a training regime in December in Switzerland before going out to play in 40 degrees of heat in Australia in January. That just won't work.
But to return to the theme of being at home: Where do you keep personal stuff like photos, souvenirs and books?
They're all in Wollerau.
And how does that work for the children? What about their favorite toys?
It's true that moving constantly between different hotel rooms is not as easy when you have small children. So we do end up traveling around the world with a great deal of personal stuff. We like to create a bit of a feeling of home even when we're far away. Of course, we also have to be a bit more aware now – perhaps there's a nice vase that we need to watch out for, or something potentially dangerous sticking out that the girls could hurt themselves on. But that's just part of life. The first year was certainly very difficult. Now they're a little bigger, which makes things easier. We can increasingly do more things together, which is terrific fun. But basically we're already trying to spend a bit more time in Switzerland so that they can get a feel for the seasons. And of course, this is where a lot of our friends and relatives live, particularly the grandparents.
But the feeling of a typical Sunday afternoon with Mom and Dad must be something of an unknown to them.
It's pretty rare. Except when I'm knocked out of a tournament at a relatively early stage and am given a few free days. And then when I take a long break like I did this fall, I suddenly have a great deal of time for them. For sure, it's not as straightforward as it might be for fathers with a more steady job, but all in all I spend a great deal of time with them.
What will you do when the girls get to school age?
That's actually not something we have given serious thought to just yet. For some reason, I feel it might unsettle me unnecessarily right now. Because there are so many different options to con-sider. When we're on tour, we occasionally hand them over into playgroups so that they can have contact with other children. And of course they always have each other, which is very nice. But you're right, things like this will soon have to be addressed.
Children's education is also the theme at the heart of your foundation. And a lot has happened with that in the past year.
The Match for Africa last year was a really important milestone. Thanks to our sponsors – particularly Credit Suisse, Rolex, Lindt and National Suisse – and other benefactors, as well as the spectators in the arena and those watching at home, we managed to raise a huge amount of money for the foundation. That was unbelievable and I was obviously delighted and found it very touching. After the event, all of us at the foundation sat down to discuss how we would deploy these substantial funds and what new projects we could commit to. In addition, thanks to our long-term partnership with Credit Suisse, we were able to launch our largest project so far in Malawi. This will run for 10 years and benefit more than 50,000 children. That's a huge number in itself. But some of the revenue from the Match for Africa also went to the foundation assets with a view to guaranteeing the sustainability of various projects. Purely from a general point of view, the options open to the foundation are now much greater, which opens up completely new perspectives. And that's very exciting.
But won't the foundation then demand more of your time?
No, I wouldn't say that. The foundation has now evolved into a highly professional organization with Janine Händel as managing director. But I'm delighted to be able to acquire a great deal of knowledge in this area even during my active tennis career. And people grant me a lot of goodwill and respect for the work that I do.
From a strategic point of view, the foundation is now looking to focus even more strongly on Southern Africa in the future. How did that come about?
There are so many countries and regions around the world that could benefit from our support. But it's not possible to be actively involved everywhere. And by focusing on a particular region, we make many things easier – for our managing director, our benefactors, and not least for me, too. For example, we can visit several projects as part of the same field trip. There are also a number of cultural similarities throughout this region that help us to gain a better understanding.
In an international survey conducted by the renowned Reputation Institute, you were rated as the personality with the second-highest reputation – behind Nelson Mandela but ahead of the likes of the Dalai Lama and Bill Gates. Doesn't being such a role model bring its own burden?
To a certain extent yes, but I'm happy to be a role model for young people. Particularly if I can be of help to parents too. For example, if they can say: "That's the kind of thing Roger would (or wouldn't) do." And of course I couldn't resist a smile at finding myself so high up on a list of so many great personalities. Particularly as meeting some of these people would be a kind of dream come true for me. At the same time, it shows me that I have credibility, and that people are happy to listen to me and watch me play. Of course, that's something I experience out on the tennis court too.
Which was something we saw in the final in Paris too, where your opponent Tsonga had home advantage and was able to play in front of his own crowd. Even so, the spectators cheered you very warmly at the end.
But that affection springs from something mutual. I'm very fond of French crowds, who always give me very warm support at the French Open. Which is wonderful, because the French have enough good players of their own and don't need to take a foreigner to their hearts.
In his biography "Open," Andre Agassi describes how he felt a great hole open up after reaching the number one spot. He had finally reached his goal, and he felt the motivation draining away. Over the course of your career so far, you've already achieved more than anyone else. Where do you keep finding the motivation to stay right at the top over such a long period of time, while not allowing the flame to occasionally burn lower?
Every career has its downs as well as its ups, so motivation is a massive factor. How many times do you want to win Wimbledon, how many times Basel? But wanting to do something and being able to do it are two different things. What's more, reaching a final but not winning it is also not that easy. Then suddenly the whole thing feels like a lost week. Of course, in one sense it's been great. You've had a good tournament, amassed important ranking points, earned decent money and all the rest of it – but ultimately a defeat in the final is a bitter blow that you have to get over. No one remembers the loser. So you have to pick yourself up and motivate yourself all over again.
How did it feel when you took over the number one ranking in February 2004 after winning the Australian Open?
That really was a crossroads in my career. I had to ask myself the question: Am I satisfied with having won Wimbledon, the Tennis Masters Cup in Houston, the Australian Open and being the top-ranked player, or do I want more? There was no question in my mind that I wanted to achieve more. But equally, I couldn't start accepting every good offer that came my way. Money was always secondary for me. I wanted to make the most of my momentum and plan my career intelligently so that it wouldn't be derailed by unnecessary injuries. I have always set myself both short-term and long-term targets. And that's enabled the fire to keep burning. But of course you also need some good luck and the right environment, and I've been lucky enough to have all of that.
But let's talk specifics: What motivating goal did you set yourself when you took your six-week break following the US Open and the Davis Cup?
Well, first of all I focused on replenishing my energy level. I was very drained, and needed to let a few minor injuries heal, take myself away from the hustle and bustle of the circuit, spend time with my little ones and with my wife Mirka; basically just take everything more calmly and step back from being the focus of attention. So that was what mattered to start with. Later on, in a second phase, I got back my desire to become quicker and stronger, or at least to find my way back to my full potential. And by the end I even felt I was playing better than before the break, which gives you a great sense of reassurance that you've done the right thing.
The final against Tsonga in Paris was actually a much closer thing than what the result shows on paper. Tsonga's break point, for example, in which he missed the line by a hair's breadth, could have been a turning point in the match.
Indeed. Bad luck for him perhaps, and good luck for me. Had it crept in, we would probably have gone to a third set, and then who knows what might have happened? But at the top level of tennis, the line between victory and defeat can be an extremely fine one. There's a saying in English: "It's windy at the top." Momentum can change very quickly from one side to the other. Matches at this level are extremely tight, and the players have to push themselves to the limit. And part and parcel of that for me is the pressure you are exposed to from the public and the press – both before and after the game.
But of course you actually ended up winning that game.
Because at the decisive moment I was just a tiny bit more focused and 100 percent convinced of my ability to win. I was sure that I was doing the right thing. Ultimately, I also believe that with a great deal of hard work you can shift luck just that little bit in your favor.
Was the victory in Basel just as important for you?
It was simply a great feeling to finish a tournament as the winner once again. Ninety-nine percent of players get defeated, and only one player can be victorious. Tennis can be an enormously frustrating sport and can really play on your nerves. At the end of the day, nothing beats winning.
Didn't you also feel a certain sense of satisfaction? Because again you bounced back so strongly despite having been written off in many quarters.
Perhaps a little. But basically I'm much more relaxed about that kind of thing than I used to be. I've reached the point in my career where I can focus on what really matters: playing tennis, having fun on court, and enjoying being in Basel. Of course, it's nice to read complimentary reports about my performance rather than peevish remarks to the effect that I would do better to retire. But if I can still be up there in two or three years, then hopefully most people will see things rather differently and be pleased for me. That was also the case with Agassi, of course.
But tell us in all honesty: At your age, can you really set yourself the target of reaching the number one spot again?
I wouldn't perhaps articulate that goal formally as such, but the fire for this kind of achievement simply has to keep burning inside. Otherwise it's really tough. Rankings in tennis can change with remarkable speed. You can amass a large number of points in a very short space of time, only to lose them all again just as quickly the following year. The fact that I was able to hold on to the number one spot for so long between 2004 and 2008 was a remarkable thing in itself. But if I succeed again in playing at the top of my game for a prolonged period, anything is possible.
One of the things that fascinates me about major tennis tournaments is the extreme loneliness of the players on the court, surrounded by thousands of spectators. Indeed, you're not even allowed to talk to anyone for the entire match. How do you deal with that?
It's a very special thing. There's no helmet in which we can hide away. We're exposed for all to see, wholly reliant on ourselves. At the same time, even the smallest emotion or expression is mercilessly captured by TV cameras in close-up. You're aware of that, of course. So when you go out on court it's like going into a kind of virtual world – but one that is at the same time also very real, as you get to do exactly what you do best. And then you get to experience the applause of the public – or the lack of it – very directly.
Do you ever seek eye contact with those close to you?
Occasionally, particularly in Basel. But rarely with someone from my team. I wouldn't like to be too heavily dependent on my team members for support. Ultimately, I need to be able to perform on court without them. Of course, it's important to feel that they support me and analyze my game, but at the same time I think everyone should have enough self-confidence to be able to walk through the fire without any help at key moments.
Let's now look ahead to London 2012. This Olympic tournament seems to be particularly important to you.
Yes and no. I can't prepare specially for this tournament, because my schedule is already laid out beforehand. First the tournament in Halle, then Wimbledon, and then the Olympics three weeks later back in Wimbledon. So there's even a little bit of time off in between. But that preparation format is actually ideal, and luckily it doesn't involve a great deal of travel. Normally I would be in top shape after that, injury aside. If I were to get injured, say, before the French Open, that would be disastrous. I would suddenly miss out on three big highlights. So I need to be extremely focused on things next year and to do everything the right way. But everyone else is in the same situation. So my fourth Olympics are the most straightforward from the preparation side, but at the same time the most special.
Because it's at Wimbledon, which occupies such a special place in tennis. But I've always found the Olympic Games a very special experience. At my first games in Sydney I met Mirka, and also came fourth, which no one expected. And then I had the honor of leading out the Swiss team in Athens and in Beijing, where I also won gold in the doubles.
Is there a chance that you might team up with Martina Hingis at the Olympics for the mixed doubles?
I haven't spoken to her personally about it, and will have to give it some serious thought in the near future. For her it would certainly be a bigger effort than for me, because it would mean a brief return to competitive tennis. And whether she still wants that at the age of 31, I don't know. But if it doesn't come about, neither of us would see it as a disaster.
You're now 30 years old yourself. It's quite clear that you still enjoy tennis and compete at the very highest level, but surely you are gradually starting to reflect on what life will bring after tennis?
Well, I naturally view life through slightly different eyes than I did five years ago, when tennis took up 100 percent of my daily routine. Certainly, I'm thinking more about life after tennis now. But a number of fascinating challenges are already starting to emerge – not least work with my foundation and my sponsorship partners.
Not news but a Christmas message from Roger's website:
Celebrating the perfect end of the season has been absolutely fantastic and I am very proud to have made another dream come true.
I'd like to send out my sincere thanks to all of you for your support over these last weeks and months. So many wonderful presents, greeting cards, letters and kind posts are reaching our whole family these days - thank you so much! I am really looking forward to the coming season with plenty of exciting moments and encounters with you guys all over the world.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you!