Universidad Europea Escuela Real Madrid

Master in Communication and Sport Journalism


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Famous sportsmen. Roger Federer

Author: Vladimir Grankin


When you hear the phrase «the best tennis player in history», Roger Federer involuntarily comes to mind — and this is not without reason, because it is this Swiss that many experts, players and fans label with this unofficial title. Roger Federer is by far the most titled tennis player in history. His championship path began with a victory at Wimbledon in the junior tournament in 1998. Then there was a victory in doubles at the Hopman Cup in 2001, another victory at Wimbledon in the same year, and then victories in the Grand Slam tournaments in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007. In total, he has won 20 victories in the Grand Slam tournaments, 6 victories in the ATP Final tournament, is the owner of the Davis Cup, is an Olympic champion in the men’s doubles (2008), and a silver medalist in the men’s singles (2012). In total, he has won 111 ATP tournaments, 103 of which are singles. Federer also has an unbeaten record: for 310 weeks he has been the first racket in the world, with 237 of those being consecutive. To date, no one else has been able to achieve this. In addition, he was recognized as the best racket in the world five times. Federer is also the oldest player ever to top the ATP singles rankings.

His playing style is universal. Unlike most of the players, Federer plays on both ground and fast surfaces, his playing technique has a rich arsenal of strikes with open and closed rackets, and he does not expend a single extra movement. His play, though quite tough, is at the same time elegant.
               In addition to his tennis career, Federer is also involved in charity work. In 2003, he founded a charity fund to help schoolchildren in African countries, and in 2006 became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
               Roger Federer proved by personal example that you can be not only a great athlete, but also a great person. And I believe that few can compare with him in the scale of both sports and personal achievements.

I admired his will power and “good” stubbornness from childhood: he would always reach his aims, no matter how much pain or work it would take. Federer’s example was always helping me not to give up, constantly reminding that no result can be achieved without an effort.

I hope that this essay will open this athlete to those who know nothing about him, and remind those of us who have known him for a long time.

Like everyone who became a great person, Federer took most of his life to get to that point, and had many ups and downs before getting there.

Roger Federer was born on August 8th, 1981 to Robert and Lynette Federer. His parents met in Johannesburg, where Roger’s father was on a business trip. After they married and moved to Basel, they had a daughter, Diana, and then a son, Roger. The childhood of the future idol of millions was spent in Munichstein, a southern suburb of Basel. From a young age, he was very fond of outdoor games with a ball, including table tennis, badminton, basketball, and football. His father had attempted to teach him golf, yet the sport was too unexciting for a temperamental boy.

For the Federer seniors, tennis was a favorite pastime, and they passed this love onto their son. Robert and Lynette participated in club and regional tournaments, and Lynette even became a children’s coach at a local tennis club. She would also take her young son to the courts quite often, and at the age of three and a half, Roger held a racket in his hands for the first time. Initially trained in the game by his mother, Roger quickly learned to keep the ball in play and was well coordinated.

Shortly after entering school at the age of six, Federer became the best in his age group and trained three times a week. Roger’s mother Lynette became his initial mentor; however, she found training her son to be a difficult task. Though not an amateur by any stretch, she considered herself insufficiently competent to continue his education in the sport past a child’s level. Moreover, Roger, while gifted, was a troublesome youth who often fooled around, and would throw temper tantrums if he didn’t get his way. So, when her son was 8 years old, Lynette took her son to a professional; Adolf Kacovski, the head coach of the Old Boys Tennis Club in Basel. Roger quickly proved to be a remarkable student, mastering new skills and techniques in as little as three to four attempts, while other students required at least a week to show the same progress. At the age of 9, he was assigned an individual coach; Peter Carter, a former professional player from Australia. Improving on the techniques taught by Kacovski, the young 26-year-old specialist began to teach Roger the tactical and psychological aspects of the game, as well as the English language, which they spoke during training and competition.

Two weeks after Roger’s 10th birthday, the Regional Championship was held at the Grüssenhölzli tennis complex in the suburbs of Basel. Federer was initially assigned to play in the 10 year old and younger matches, but as there were too few members in that category, he was reassigned to an older age group, pitting him against players two to three years his seniors. Regrettably, the difference in years made the difference, and Roger was defeated in his first set. The following year, he won the Swiss Winter Championship in his age group in Lucerne, besting Marco Chiudinelli in the finals. Six months later he defeated competitor Danny Schneider and took the Summer Championship in Bellinzona. However, Schneider enacted his revenge soon after, beating Federer in a tournament in France.

In October of his 11th year, Roger became a finalist in the Swiss National Championship among 12-year-olds. This prompted the Swiss tennis magazine «Smash» to publish a small article about the 11-year-old Federer, the first (and certainly not last) of its kind. This news coverage was a bittersweet victory for Roger, as he lost to the elder Jun Kato in the finals.

In 1994, young Roger saw his first-time participation in the “Les Petits Princes”, the world’s largest tournament for 13 years old, held in the French city of Annecy. By the end of the competition, he had placed in the top eight. Later that same year, the Swiss Tennis National Association named Federer the best player in the 13-14 age groups, awarding him a personal watch for the achievement.

In July of 1995 Federer won the singles and doubles for 14 year olds in the Swiss Championship. Later that year, he entered a program called “Tennis Etudes”, which was taught at the Swiss National Tennis Center in Ecublens. Those admitted into the program were provided with free housing, training, and school study, which helped his family who were struggling with the financial burden of Roger’s professional training.

The year of 1996 proved to be a remarkable year for Roger Federer, seeing take wins and successes including his first international success at the prestigious Orange Bowl in Key Biscayne, a national title in the 16-year-old category, and became the winner of the Old Boys Tennis Club, a Swiss championship held among tennis clubs. He also played in five international tournaments across four countries, and defeated noted youth player Australian Lleyton Hewitt at the World Youth Cup in Basel. This phenomenal string of successes earned him a sports scholarship from Swiss Tennis, the governing body for the sport in Switzerland, and he finished the season as the 86th ranking player in the Swiss Tennis League.

In January of 1997, Roger became the Swiss Junior Champion in the 18 and under category; a major achievement, given that Federer was only 15-16 years old. This was his last year to perform in domestic junior tournaments, as he began frequenting foreign competitions. He won the winter and summer youth championships in Switzerland and traveled to several tournaments in Venezuela, Italy, and the USA. He journeyed alone to Prato, Italy, there taking second place together with Japanese competitor Jun Kato in the Italian Junior Championship. In July, Roger unsuccessfully tried to qualify for the Suisse Open (ATP 250) in Gstaad. Later in September, he got a wild card to the main draw of the Switzerland 1 Masters Satellites, where he made it to the semifinals, earned 12 rating points, and was included in the ATP rating for the first time at 803.

The year 1998 was an intense and revealing season for young Federer. Early in the year he either won or placed highly in tournaments across the world, including winning the singles and doubles at junior Wimbledon. Then in July, the ATP tournament began the «Suisse Open Gstaad» in the alpine Gstaad (Bernese Alps), which became Federer’s first professional competition. Unfortunately, Federer’s debut into the world of professional tennis did not go as well as he would have liked, as he was defeated in the first round. This was followed by two more defeats in other professional tournaments, prompting Federer to adjust his attitude and playstyle. This allowed him to move up the ranking from 878th to 396th. But then, a series of late year tournaments caused him trouble. He was defeated in tournament by the great player Andre Agassi (8th in the world ranking), and in a second tournament, his match against a low-rated player caused him to play extremely poorly, for which he was penalized. Yet, by the end of the year, Federer fixed his playing and attitude again, and ended the season as the leader in world junior rankings.

From 1999 to 2019, Federer played the bulk of his professional career, scoring an impressive number of wins and the titles for which he is currently known. In 1999, he played a variety of tournaments against mature, titled players. By the end of that year, he had moved incredibly from rank 302 to 64 in the ATP ratings, becoming the youngest player ever to reach the ranks of the top 100. The year 2000 saw Federer take his first professional win in the Australian Open. And despite still being uncomfortable playing on clay courts, he moved into the ranks of the top 50 players, and by year’s end was among the top 30. 2001 marked the start of the new millennium, and began with a win in the Hopman Cup doubles, multiples wins in the US and Europe, and moving into the top 20 ranks. But then came an embarrassing moment in Hamburg, Germany, where Federer lost his composure and smashed his racket on court, which became a moment of deep self-reflection for the man. He also suffered several defeats and couldn’t enter the ATP Masters due to a strained muscle.

From 2002 to 2010, Federer’s professional career was a roller coaster of wins, defeats, rivalries, and moving back and forth across the ATP ratings, mostly in and out of the top 10 spots. He won (and lost) matches across Europe, the United States, and Asia, winning 65 of his eventual 103 professional titles in those years alone. He faced, defeated, and was defeated by his professional rival, Rafael Nadal multiple times, and grieved the passing of Peter Carter, his oldest mentor and friend. Federer also became a parent, as he and his wife welcomed their twin daughters into the world in 2009.

From 2011 to 2020, Federer had a large number of losses, but also a great many victories, of moving around the top ranks, and with the realization that his professional career was coming to an end. In these years Federer won the last 30-40 of his career titles. He also stayed with the rank of one of the top 10 best players in the world, and was even number one for some time. Sadly, he also had many health problems, including issues with his spine and a knee surgery that required two different surgeries to try to correct. By the later years, Federer had declined to compete in many tournaments, yet he also still won most of his matches, and stayed at the number 2 spot in the ATP rankings for many weeks.

As of 2021, Federer has slowed down considerably in his career as a professional tennis player, but has not yet officially retired. Instead, he has been focusing on continuing his charity work, which he started almost two decades before. In 2003, he founded a charity to help schoolchildren in African countries, and in 2006 he became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

Part of what makes Roger Federer a great player is that he continually trained, becoming better and better. But it’s not only his playing that he needed to train. His attitude has also changed over time thanks to his constant efforts to become a better person. As a young boy, Roger was gifted but troublesome. He would often exhibit problematic behaviors. He was prone to fooling around, and would also throw temper tantrums if he didn’t get his way. He also suffered from incontinence and mental instability. He would occasionally escape from the court during training, and during matches he would often self-criticize, even going so far as label himself an “idiot.” He would also cry if he lost a match. From the ages of 10 to 13 years old, Federer spent more time with his coach Peter Carter than with his family, training to control his emotions and not waste his energy and stamina on the court. Eventually, this behavioral training helped young Federer mature and become a more professional player.

Yet, despite this training, Federer still had instances of immaturity. In 1998, Federer entered the first tournament in the Swiss qualifying series, in the city of Küblis. In the 1st round, he faced a low-rated Swiss player, Armando Brunold. The match went poorly, to say the least. In the first set he lost on the time-break. At the beginning of the second, he lost his nerves; he began to hit the balls without zeal, was swearing at everyone and everything and for the most part missing. He also made several apathetic double mistakes. The referee of the tournament, Claudio Greter, drew attention to Federer’s behavior, and as a result Federer was fined $100 for not doing his best, as per the Tennis Player’s Code of Conduct. The next day, the Swiss daily newspaper «Blick» called out Federer for his behavior.

Then in 2001, the Swiss had another instance of bad behavior in Hamburg. After losing a set to what appeared to be a weaker player, Federer lost his composure and smashed his racket. This was a massive faux pas in professional tennis, but more importantly a moment of self-reflection for Roger Federer. After that, he swore a personal vow to restrain his emotions and compete with greater grace and sportsmanship. For many years afterwards, he was considered a model of friendliness and endurance in relation to his rivals. It is for this reason that he has been repeatedly awarded the ATP Stefan Edberg Award for Athletic Behavior and Fair Play. Moreover, Roger Federer has been elected President of the ATP Players’ Council numerous times.

Alongside becoming a friendlier player, Roger Federer has also had to learn to handle losing with graciousness. As a pre-teen player, he would become very upset when lost and would even cry hysterically. Early in his professional career, when he lost, he would become very angry, often throwing his rackets and even breaking them, like in Hamburg in 2001. It was a constant process for the Swiss to learn to mature and handle his emotions. The turning point in this process was the sudden death of his longtime friend and coach, Peter Carter, in 2002. When faced with mortality and grief, which Federer had never had to do before, he was forced to grow up very quickly. He sought to combat his “fire”, or the desire to compete, with the “ice” of calmness and facing his mistakes. Over time, his constant emotional practice worked, which contributed to his triumphant career.

At the very beginning of this work, I mentioned why Roger Federer was always an example for me to follow: his determination, hard work, dignity and kindness to the others are hard not to inspire.  One Russian poet, Nikolai Zabolotskiy, once said: “Your soul must not be idle, it must ever be working- day and night, day and night”. And although Fedrer may be far from poetry, it seems like he followed that statement all his life. He evolved from a troublesome, emotionally unstable teenager to a smooth-tempered, intelligent tennis legend, and all this thanks to his never-ending self-improvement.

Many forget about this part of life nowadays, working mostly on their bodies or caring only about medal-winning. But a real sportsman is not just a person who can run fast, jump high or dive deep; it is also a person with an iron will, self-discipline, and the ability to win and lose with dignity.

These qualities are valuable not only in sports. And maybe it would be a good idea to inform a larger audience about such people as Roger Federer: hard-working, intelligent, and kind. Every generation needs heroes, and I believe this great Swiss perfectly fits for the role.

Works cited:

1) Christopher Clarey (2021). The Master: The Long Run and Beautiful Game of Roger Federer. Twelve. ISBN-10: ‎ 1538719266

2) L. Jon Wertheim (2010). Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played. Mariner books. ISBN-10: ‎ 0547336942





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