||05-21-2010 03:06 AM
90 Minutes with Roger Federer
From Credit Suisse’s E-Magazine
May 19, 2010
An Interview in Three Parts
In February 2010, Credit Suisse was given the opportunity to accompany Roger Federer on a visit to a school project in Ethiopia that was supported by his foundation. The following interview took place on the following day in the lobby of the high-rise apartment building in Dubai Marina, where Roger, as he introduced himself the day before, has a second home. As the interview lasted around one-and-a-half hours, we have divided it into three sections.
Interview with Roger Federer, Part I: Mental Strength
Interview with Roger Federer, Part II: Private Life
Interview with Roger Federer, Part III: Role Models
Daniel Huber: I somehow imagined that you would have a villa on one of the elevated palm islands here in Dubai, like Michael Schumacher.
Roger Federer: In terms of maintenance, apartments are much more practical, especially when, like us, you’re hardly ever home. We live in an apartment in Switzerland too.
So where do you go to train in the middle of all these high-rises?
Just around the corner in a hotel with a tennis court and fitness center. The training conditions there are ideal.
How freely can you move around here in Dubai?
We actually lead quite a normal life here, going for walks on the beach, shopping in the malls and eating out in the restaurants. Sure people recognize us and every now and then someone will ask for an autograph. But I can still pretty much do everything I want to.
After hundreds of interviews, is there one question that you would prefer not to hear again and certainly never want to answer?
Not really. I am still quite well motivated when it comes to interviews and I am always happy to meet new interviewers.
With around ten hours of tennis lessons under my belt, I never got beyond beginner level. But one thing I do know is that I probably wouldn’t be able to return a single one of your shots.
Tennis is a difficult sport, and coordination is particularly challenging. In any case, it is not the kind of sport where you would be able to play a little after taking a two-day course. It would take much more than that. The later you start, the lower the level you will be able to reach.
So when is the ideal time to start learning to play tennis?
At the age of ten at the latest; earlier would be better. At that age, learning the basic coordination skills and how to move with the ball is still very easy.
I know a publican in St. Gallen who was considered a major tennis talent in his younger years and actually has a positive record against you. Apparently, when he was 18 years old he beat a 14-year-old Roger Federer. At what age did you run out of opponents in Switzerland?
I suppose I made my greatest progress, both physically and technically, between the ages of 14 and 16 when I went to the Swiss National Tennis Center in Ecublens. At 16 I was already in the Swiss top 10 and at that time there were few who could beat me. In that respect, 14 was still a good age for people to beat me as a relatively unknown player.
Yet nobody in Switzerland was beating Martina Hingis by the time she was 14.
No, definitely not, but then girls physically mature earlier than boys. My serve didn’t become sufficiently powerful until I was 15 or 16.
Where do you get the mental strength to win those all-important points in the decisive moments of a tennis match?
You just have to keep things as simple as possible in your head. You say to yourself, I’m going to give 100 percent for every point, and just try to play well at that moment. At very important times, you then try to consciously use your strengths to exploit the weaknesses of your opponent. Of course, this isn’t always that easy to do in practice, especially as your opponent is trying to do the same, but you have to have a clear goal for yourself in your mind’s eye and make every effort not to let your opponent control your play. Of course, in tennis you constantly have to adapt your game. At the end of the day, it is a reaction sport. There is only one shot that you have complete control over, and that is the serve. All other shots require you to react, but there should ideally be a plan behind the reaction.
Aside from the speed aspect, on a mental level, tennis seems to have a lot in common with chess. But in chess, the player plans a number of moves in advance. How does this work in tennis?
In tennis, you can plan perhaps one-and-a-half shots in advance. I serve the ball to a particular point, a point where I know the ball will generally be returned in a particular way, and then I have a number of options. If you plan too far in advance, you inevitably start to get surprised, and that’s a bad thing.
How closely do you observe your opponent on the court during the match?
Hardly at all. Now and then people say to me after a game: Did you see what the other guy did? I’m not aware of that sort of thing at all. I immediately turn away after each point. I’m just not interested in what my opponent is doing or how he might be feeling. I prefer to concentrate on myself. Of course, if I see that my opponent is injured during a match, I’ll check it out once or twice. But something like that shouldn’t change your game, because if it then turns out to be nothing at all, you will be surprised again.