We’ve often chatted here at GTT about Mirka – her cardigans, her stamina in the players’ box, her addiction to chewing gum. Today it was The Oregonian‘s Douglas Perry, author of quite a few recent pieces on Roger Federer, who decided to take up the GOAT’s better half. He correctly points out that she’s a major presence in the tennis world yet remains relatively mysterious and inscrutable to the tennis-loving public. Unlike some other tennis wives and wives-to-be, Mirka Federer doesn’t have a blog, a Twitter account or even an SI swimsuit issue to her name.
Click here to read Perry’s piece on Mirka Federer (thanks, Judy, for the tip!) – it includes some great anecdotes that you may or may not know re: her early mentoring by Martina Navratilova, her accomplishments as a player and the Olympian beginnings of her romance with Roger. And then there was the story of Mirka’s first and only media feud! Of course it was Pat Cash who started it, writing a piece in the January 21, 2004 edition of the Evening Standard that accused Mirka of having “a Svengali-like grip over the Wimbledon champion.”
Perry records Mirka’s public response to Cash’s bizarre allegations:
“I think that Cash should just shut up,” she told the press.
She wasn’t done. “No one can understand what his problem is and I don’t know why he is writing this stuff,” she added. “It hurts when someone says things like this and I don’t know where he got these ideas because I don’t know him and I haven’t met him.”
Mirka later had more to say on the matter:
“I have been with Roger for four years,” she said. “Maybe if I was a crazy, disco-dancing girl who dragged him away to go shopping all the time after having known him for just a year then Cash’s comments may have been understood. But I am the complete opposite of that. I book the hotels and flights and look after the perfume business but his parents manage his affairs. Having played tennis I know what it means to be fit and well for the game and I can be a help for him.”
Still not done:
“Maybe Cash had some bad people around him during his career and that’s why he is saying these things. I think he is just jealous and that’s why these comments have been made.
“He has also said things about Greg Rusedski and Lleyton Hewitt, yet he still goes into the players’ zone.
“He must be unhappy with his own life to say these things. It shows so little respect.
“Roger is only at the beginning of his career and you would have thought that someone like Cash, who has achieved a lot, would want to give young players help and advice, not these kind of comments.”
Not that Mirka’s rebuke stopped the Yoko yarns from spinning. Here’s Peter Bodo from just under a year ago:
As an enormous international superstar from a small nation, (Federer) has a great deal of personal power. And while TMF (that’s “the Might Fed”) is at heart a live-and-let-live guy who’s intensely and fully dedicated to his career and tennis self-interest, he also appears to be, to use a direct quote, “a control freak.” A less charitable analyst suggested that Federer is surrounded largely by courtiers or, if you prefer, “yes” men. And in Mirka, he has a unique and powerful gatekeeper.
For the record, Mirka hasn’t handled Roger’s media requests for quite some time now – Roger says he didn’t like putting her in the awkward position of saying no all the time. Here’s Roger talking at last year’s Roland Garros about Mirka’s role in his life:
Q. I have another question that has nothing to do with this match. Mirka is very important in the life of Federer. How important is it to have such a wife as a player?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, Mirka, you know, the first two years we were together she didn’t really travel that much with me because she had her own career. We met in Miami and the Grand Slam tournaments or matches, and then unfortunately she was seriously injured. She had to wait.
You know, there was a period of rehabilitation. Then when she had to go through the surgery or operation, it was not easy for her. But frankly, she decided very quickly to dedicate or to give up her career to focus on mine, even though today she still hurts.
I mean, her foot operation didn’t go on really nicely, so it was easy for her to give up and say, Okay, I’ll stop my career and I’ll have my husband.
Now I think she is supporting me at the right moment, because, you know, I won Wimbledon in 2003, and that’s when she didn’t really know what to do with her career. She didn’t know if she would try it or not.
That’s when she started helping me with the hotels, the plane tickets. I had no managers at the time. That’s when she started dealing with the press, as well. It was a lot for her, I know, but she would protect me from many things.
And now, afterwards, it was better. It was easier and she was with me day in and day out, throughout the world, and she helped me considerably, as a person, you know. I developed faster, grew faster with her. Thanks to her I was very calm in the important moments in my career. She was always here, always supportive. I owe her a lot. It’s normal.
There’s times where, you know, when I didn’t have a coach, didn’t have a manager, you just walk out on court. I spoke to Mirka a little bit, because she knows also a little bit about tennis. Today I don’t talk to her about it anymore, I talk to Severin. So it works really well.
And speaking of Wimbledon, I love this passage from Jon Wertheim’s Strokes of Genius, about the start of the 2008 Wimbledon final between Roger and Rafa:
The match had already been postponed by rain and the forecast was grim; why was Nadal taking his sweet time (to come to net for the coin flip)? Nadal seemed not to share the same sense of occasion, and clearly this was part of Federer’s annoyance. According to a member of the Nadal entourage, in the players’ box Federer’s girlfriend, Mirka Vavrinec, watched the Spaniard’s dallying and muttered, “Oh, come on.”
Though Mirka is not calling the shots on court, Roger says she still, well, helps call the shots:
Is it important to make the most important decisions from the gut or with the head?
I always have my feeling, and Mirka has her feeling, and if we unite our feelings, we usually have an idea what is good. Here in Basel, for example, I said to Mirka: “You know, I’d like to play doubles.” She said: “Then play doubles, but you don’t have to ask me.” But I think I have a family, so I have to ask now. If she had said no, I wouldn’t have played.
with him 365 days and nights a year. (Roger’s said they haven’t spent an evening apart in years.) While I wish Mirka would be a tad more accessible, if only because her role is so important in Team Fed, I also understand why she’s decided to step out of the spotlight. She’s just too busy to waster her time arguing with the Pat Cashes of the world.
(Hurting for ammunition, Mirka’s would-be critics have resorted to the occasional fat joke. Which is desperate, wrong, sad and juvenile – but heck, this is the media we’re talking about! I only bring up this nastiness to prove that despite her best efforts, Mirka can never be completely untouchable.)
Here are a couple fun Mirka vids.
A trip down memory lane, or Fashion Mishaps Past:
Roger and Mirka interviewed together at the 2002 Hopman Cup (it’s around the 7 minute mark):
Feel free to add your fave Mirka anecdotes below. . .
And don’t forget to check out Douglas Perry’s article here – the inspiration for this post.