John McEnroe said it best: There is no more beautiful tennis player than Roger Federer.
On this sport of tennis that I’ve been playing since 1986, no one has impacted the game more than the Swiss maestro. The profoundness of Roger’s career goes beyond the records that he’s amassed. If we speak purely of numbers, he has accumulated plenty of hardware and highlights.
World No. 1 for 237 straight weeks (310 weeks total). Eight Wimbledon trophies to go with five from the US Open, one from the French Open and six from the Australian Open.
The longevity of the Federer Express is a hallmark of his legendary career: He reached the Grand Slam finals in 21 of 28 majors from 2003 to 2009 and ended up winning a total of 20 majors.
He pocketed over $130 million in prize money and hundreds of millions more of Euros from sponsorships that many call him the “Billion dollar athlete,” like MJ, Tiger and LeBron.
And while you’d think that his opponents would hate him for endlessly beating them, the opposite has happened. He has been presented the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award (voted upon by the ATP players on that player with the utmost fairness and integrity) a record 13 times! Roger won the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year trophy a record five times.
IN PERSON. I have had the opportunity on three occasions to see Roger Federer. The first was in 2007 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — with Michelle So and Mrs. Chinggay Utzurrum, among others — during his “Clash of Times” exhibition with Pete Sampras. I got to within a few feet away from both legends during an exclusive meet-and-greet session.
The year after in Beijing, Roger won a gold medal in Olympic men’s doubles (with Stan Wawrinka) — a match my wife and I got to witness with our bare eyes.
Then in 2018, with doctors Ronnie and Stevee Medalle, we witnessed the Shanghai Masters with the Swiss as the star attraction.
Back in 2015, my wife Jasmin, our daughter Jana, and I had the opportunity to visit “The Old Boys Club.” It’s a tennis center filled with red-clay courts in Basel, Switzerland where Federer first learned his tennis and became a top junior.
My take on his game and having observed him up close? If Nadal is physical and Djokovic is clinical, Federer is classical.
Tennis is an artform for RF. His Wilson racket is his fountain pen and he writes poetry while in motion.
Roger glides to his left, skating as much as sprinting, and he effortlessly feathers a slice backhand. His 125-kph serve is relaxed and easy. When he drifts to hit a forehand, he is unrushed — floating, sailing, drifting. He dances like a danseur. He strolls like a knight.
Rushing the net to stab a volley, his stroke is fluid. His movement is painless; to the opponents, it’s painful.
Roger is classy and fashionable. He walks with distinguished steps — like a Swiss guard gliding on a tennis rectangle. He looks dashing, off and on the court. (He was GQ’s Most Styling Man of the Decade.)
RF is a role model, much like his BFF from Spain. Well-behaved and always polite, Roger’s mantra reads, “It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.”