Roger this! Paul Kimmage of The Times, U.K. did a fantastic interview with Roger Federer at last week’s Basel tournament. Click here to read the entire piece, which was published this weekend. Here are some of the highlights.
The theme of the interview is Roger’s positive attitude and the way he uses this cheerful way of thinking to stay on top of the tennis world. To underline how unique Federer’s mentality is for a tennis Champion, the piece begins by stating what Federer is not:
How did Roger Federer become the greatest? He was not born in Sweden (Bjorn Borg). He was not shaped by a dominant parent (Ivan Lendl). He is not fuelled by rage (Jimmy Connors) or tortured by demons (John McEnroe). He has never had sex in Nobu (Boris Becker), smoked crystal meth (Andre Agassi) or been afflicted with odd sleeping habits (Pete Sampras). He is as affable as Tim Henman. . . He did not marry a supermodel (Roddick). He does not make fun of his rivals (Novak Djokovic) or pick continually at the crack in his backside (Nadal). He has worse fashion sense than Andy Murray. How does he explain it?
Now wait just a second, here, Mr. Kimmage! Roger Federer’s fashion sense – with the exception of a certain figure skating outfit – is infinitely better than Andy Murray’s! But I’ll use Roger as my inspiration and refrain from going negative.
Here’s Roger explaining how his sunny disposition keeps him motivated:
“I’m a positive person, a very positive thinker. That’s why I like the more positive approach of ‘I love winning’, because to hate losing, to me, is a bit negative. I guess my love for the sport started as a little boy watching Becker and Edberg facing off in the Wimbledon final. I dreamed about it but I never thought it would happen to me. It’s so difficult to keep winning and to keep your love for the game because of all the travelling and the sacrifices, but I just said, ‘I’m not going to let that happen to me. I’m going to take a positive approach that travelling is great and that I’m going to see different cultures and places I would never see if I wasn’t a tennis player’. My wife loves it. I love it, so ‘let’s have a good time because it’s not going to last until I am 70’. And so far that approach has worked for me.”
This positive attitude leads to friendly relations with even his fiercest rival, Rafael Nadal:
“I’m surprised myself by the degree to which we (he and Nadal) actually get along because we’ve had a very intense rivalry and you could say he has hurt my career and that I’ve hurt his career, but we’ve actually helped each other become the players we are today. And the rivalry has helped the game. It’s nice that the two greatest players in tennis, or in a sport, actually get along well, because normally there is all this hate and it’s so negative, and I don’t like that. We’ve had enough controversy in recent years with athletes and it’s a welcome change.”
But what about after the Australian Open, when Roger stood on the podium and said losing to Nadal was “killing” him?
“The thing that was killing me was having to talk while crying. What I meant was, ‘I wish I could stop crying and could talk normally and give Rafa the stage he deserves and not make everybody feel so bad’. This was upsetting me more than having lost the match. The last thing I wanted was for people to feel bad for me. I played a great tournament. I was happy with the way I played. I wish I would have won, but I had to accept, and accepted without a problem, that Rafa was better on that day. So it was [misinterpreted].”
What it felt like to claim his GOAT status later in the year:
“It’s a big relief, especially getting first [the win in] Paris and then the 15 [Grand Slam titles] at Wimbledon within a month. I was shell-shocked that it happened so quickly. To go from being criticised [at the Australian Open] for not being the same anymore to being called the greatest ever was a very fast turn.”
On Mirka’s positive influence:
“It goes way beyond what I thought as a teenager that marriage would be. And the babies . . . phew [exhales], that just gives a different dimension to life. To see the fire in the eyes of my wife, waking up 15 times a night if she has to . . . to see that and knowing what she would do for me, knowing what she would do for them, is very emotional.“
The piece ends with some great news for Fed fans:
“You can definitely play your greatest tennis until 32 or 33, it’s just a matter of how you look at it. . .Many people were asking me, ‘When are you going to retire?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’m definitely going to play until the 2012 Olympics’, but that was to shut them up, really. It depends how fit you are, but I would like to play beyond that, and Mirka has said that she would like our two daughters to see me play. So they need to grow a little bit and I need to play a little bit, but we’ll see where it takes us.”
Roger’s next chance to win comes at the season-ending World Tour Finals, which run from November 22-29 in London. I hope he finishes the year smiling!