His drive, grace and elegance on and off the tennis court have led many to call him one of the greatest athletes of all time. And the star’s influence goes far beyond sports. GC talks to Roger Federer.
In an age where so many of the world’s top athletes have been marred by scandal, Roger Federer has emerged as one of the most well rounded stars. The 31 year old Swiss tennis champion has racked up more titles than any other tennis player. Federer sat down with Global Citizen’s Editorial Director, Ritu Upadhyay, to discuss the game, family life, his charitable foundation and plans after retirement.
What does it feel like to be called the “greatest tennis player of all time”?
(Smiles) The expectations create a lot of pressure. Just being an athlete is a lot of pressure because you’re judged by so many people…the fans, the coaches, the team, yourself. But trying to live up to that can actually help you to play your very best and reach levels you never thought you could before.
I like to be under the lights and under pressure. The fans support in a full stadium can create that kind of atmosphere. During practice I can never play so well; the thrill of the matches is amazing. I’ve always been more of a match player than a practice player.
How do you manage to stay calm?
It took some years before I was really relaxed on the court because I was somewhat of a hothead early on in my career, but I eventually learned that controlling my emotions and staying relaxed and focused during a match helped me to conserve energy and allow me to focus on each and every point.
In the beginning as a teenager I used to be crazy on tennis courts. Today I’m more grounded, have a family…
What would you say has been your most spectacular point?
I’ve been a part of a lot of spectacular points, but I think the shot between my legs at the 2010 US Open against Novak Djokovic, which set up match point, was my best.
Do you have a favorite tournament?
You were recently named brand ambassador for Moët & Chandon. That seems an appropriate association for someone who has a lot of success to toast…
(Laughs) I always believe there are many moments to celebrate in life…not only when you win. I recently lost the world tour finals, but it was after a great year and a great tournament. I’m not just going to go to bed sad and disappointed. I got together with friends and celebrated the year. For me it’s very important to celebrate friendship, success, great moments.
You are the highest paid player in tennis, much of which comes from endorsements. How do you choose which brands to work with?
In the beginning of your career you don’t know how much success you’re going to have. You just want enough to have a good life on tour, be able to afford a coach. As you become more successful, you know yourself more as a person. In the beginning as a teenager I used to be crazy on tennis courts. Today I’m more grounded, have a family, have been around the world so many times. I know who I am, so it is easier to feel if I fit with a brand. The first thing is I have to like the brand so that I can believe in it and help that brand.
Do you enjoy that side of your work?
It’s nice to jump in and out of tennis a bit. It’s stuff I never thought I would do…a bit of acting, taking pictures, doing more interviews.
How long will you play tennis?
You have to have a short term plan and then what happens in the next year. Next year I’ll play a little less than the past. I haven’t decided when I will stop. The less I think about it, the longer I can play. I’m eager and motivated to play for many more years to come.
Do you get tired of the travel?
I love traveling around the world and experiencing different cultures, surrounded by friends and family.
What are your plans post retirement?
When I am done with the ATP Tour, I hope to be able to stay involved with the sport, as I love it so much, but I also will become more hands on with the Roger Federer Foundation.
Tell us about your foundation.
I feel very fortunate to do what I love most…play tennis. I never thought I could make this my life. Now I see how fortunate I was that my parents educated me the right way, I had opportunities. Giving back is the only thing to do. It’s a big passion for me. Both my parents taught me at a young age that sharing my success and giving back to those less fortunate was not only an obligation, but an enjoyable ideology. Generosity means being kind and giving to others, both momentarily and with your time and your compassion.
Does the foundation have an area of focus?
I started the Roger Federer Foundation in 2003 with a focus on helping young children in the continent of Africa. My mum is from South Africa, I would travel a lot when I was younger.
Any celebrity you’d like to work with one day?
Nelson Mandela, as he has done so much and since I’m half South African, this would be a real wonderful occasion.
You have a home here in Dubai. What led you this way?
I came on vacation after my second Wimbledon victory. It was super hot, 45 degrees every day. But I didn’t mind the heat so much for leisure and then I realized maybe I could come here and practice in this heat. It worked wonders for me. I’ve never had a problem playing in the heat ever since I came here. I bought an apartment in Dubai a bit later. For me as a tennis player it’s really nice to have two separate hubs. One in Switzerland and one here in Dubai. It facilitates traveling. I always have a place I can leave my stuff and come back to. It’s beautiful. It has the beach. It is great for my kids. For practice in particular-that’s why I’m here-it works extremely well.
it’s really nice to have two separate homes. One in switzerland and one in Dubai. It’s beautiful here…Has the beach, It’s great for my kids…
Has living in Dubai enhanced your game?
Absolutely. Like all my coaches along the way, also all the places I’ve played in add a lot. As an athlete, it might sound funny, but we do need inspiration. When you can practice in a place where after you finish you feel like you’re on vacation it feels great. Sometimes in other places you don’t quite have that so you have to make it fun for you in order to be successful on tour.
You are the father of three year old twin girls? How do you manage balancing family life with your career?
I try hard to be there with them. I see them every night before they go to bed. When I don’t have practice or a match we spend a lot of time together. Now the girls are bigger, they are not babies anymore, so when they go to bed we have time to ourselves as well. My wife and I can go to dinner to get some time alone.
Are the girls budding tennis players?
No, not at all yet. They are swimmers. I think any sport is a good thing. It’s great school of life.