SOHAM BANERJEE :The eponymous king of the modern Tennis era, Roger Federer, of Swiss-German descent by birth, has been mesmerizing our generation with his exploits on tennis courts all over the world; it is undoubtedly something that we have been so very fortunate to witness. It is ironic to note that despite subjected to compulsory military service in the Swiss Armed Forces, in 2003 he was ruled “unsuitable” and was subsequently not required to fulfill his military obligation. Instead, he served in the civil protection force and was required to pay 3% of his taxable income as an alternative. He credits his famed hand-eye coordination and versatility to the wide range of sports activities he used to take part in.
He has been married to former Women’s Tennis Association player Miroslava Federer, whom he met while they were both competing for Switzerland at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Usually called Mirka, mother of their identical twin girls and twin boys, she retired from the tour in 2002 because of a foot injury.
Federer’s main accomplishments as a junior player came at Wimbledon in 1998 and four ITF junior singles tournaments, ending 1998 with the No. 1 junior world ranking. He entered the top 100 ranking for the first time on 20 September 1999. His international breakthrough came at the 2001 Wimbledon Championships, where the 19-year-old Federer faced the four-time defending champion and all-time Grand Slam leader Pete Sampras. Federer beat the No. 1 seed in a five-set match to reach the quarterfinals. The first final he reached at the Masters level came at the 2002 Miami Masters event, where he lost to former and future No. 1 Andre Agassi on hard court.
During 2004, Federer won three Grand Slam singles titles for the first time in his career and became the first person to do so since Mats Wilander in 1988. His first major hard-court title came at the Australian Open over Marat Safin, thereby becoming the world No. 1 for the first time.
The 2006 season was statistically the best season of Federer’s career, where he became the first man in history to achieve the Wimbledon-US Open double for three consecutive seasons. Holding off young rivals…Federer was coined “Darth Federer” by fans and commentators at the 2007 US Open. Federer entered the 2009 season, perhaps the most historically relevant of Federer’s career, with 13 Grand Slams, only one behind Pete Sampras’ all-time record, in which he won the French Open, and completed the career Grand Slam. This victory also tied him with Pete Sampras for the most Grand Slam singles titles at that period.
The emergence of countryman Stanislas Wawrinka as a Grand Slam singles champion in 2014 renewed hope for Federer in his Davis Cup quest, and the pair both committed to playing each tie that year. Federer defeated Gasquet in straight sets and in doing so handed Switzerland its first (and only to date) Davis Cup title. At the Olympic Games, Federer and Stan Wawrinka won the gold medal in doubles.
He slipped from the top echelons in 2016; in which he failed to win a single title since 2000; after continuing to suffer from knee and back injuries and talks started emanating from various sources about his possible downfall as he was looking at a long recovery hiatus. But quashing the negative talks around his longevity and proving his mettle yet again, he made his comeback, all thanks to his supreme skills, that upon deciding to skip the entire clay-court season, he won his fifth Australian Open and eighth Wimbledon in 2017, which was unprecedented to say the least. And following that up, in 2018 he won his career 20th Grand Slam title and returned to the coveted numero uno position.
Over the years, he had some fantastic rivalries on the court with Rafael Nadal (who only got the better of Federer in French Open almost consistently barring other Grand Slam events mostly), Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt to name a few. Federer is one of the founders, via his management company TEAM8, of the Laver Cup; the annual team tennis tournament which pits Europe against the rest of the world. He co-founded the tournament in honor of tennis legend Rod Laver and the inaugural edition was played in 2017. Other than this, he has doubled up with several players for Doubles Matches as well over the years.
Roger Federer has huge popularity in the world of sport, to the point that he has been called a living legend in his own time. He has been voted by his peers to receive the tour Sportsmanship Award a record thirteen times and voted by tennis fans to receive the ATP Fans’ Favorite award for fifteen consecutive years. He is also the only individual to have won the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year award four times. He helped to lead a revival in tennis known by many as the Golden Age. This led to increased interest in the sport, which in turn led to higher revenues for many venues across tennis. During this period rising revenues led to exploding prize money. He is one of the highest-earning athletes in the world. As of 2018 Federer holds the world’s highest number of Guinness World Records within one discipline, a total of 27, which include 22 performance based records.
He has also been instrumental in spreading his philathropical outreach to myriad places – In 2003, he established the Roger Federer Foundation to help disadvantaged children and to promote their access to education and sports. At the 2005 Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, Federer arranged an exhibition involving several top players from the ATP and WTA tour called Rally for Relief. The proceeds went to the victims of the tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. He was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador by UNICEF on a number of occasions too. In response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake too, Federer arranged a collaboration with fellow top tennis players for a special charity event during the 2010 Australian Open called ‘Hit for Haiti’, in which proceeds went to Haiti earthquake victims.