From Wooden Racquet To Global Superstar: Federer's Dream Continues
Roger Federer has won 103 tour-level titles, 20 Grand Slam championships, and spent a record 310 weeks atop the FedEx ATP Rankings. The Swiss' strokes have become iconic.
However, Federer wasn't always the legend with countless eyes glued to his every move.
“My first memories go back to playing with a wooden racquet. Instead of the neon yellow tennis balls I started off with the white tennis balls. In Switzerland, we used a lot of pressure-less tennis balls as well. I don’t know how many players of this generation today could say that,” Federer told ATP Uncovered presented by Peugeot, cracking a laugh. “I remember playing against the wall and at the cupboards and the garage doors for hours.”
Federer was just like every other kid, falling in love with the sport for various reasons. He famously was a ball boy at the Swiss Indoors Basel, an ATP Tour event that he has won 10 times, including in each of the past three years.
“[I collected] a lot of the stickers as well. There was a year, I guess it was the beginning of the 90s, when all the old tennis players were in [a book],” Federer said. “It was about the tournaments, about the trophies, about the players, so I got to know them all. And then eventually also became a ball boy in my hometown event in Basel.
“I used to chase the players for autographs, which at the time was not a big deal, as the selfie didn’t exist. So those are my memories really from back then.”
Federer has won 1,242 tour-level singles matches, earned 224 Top 10 victories, and lifted an ATP Tour trophy in 18 of the past 19 years. But he never dreamt that big as a kid.
“Thinking back on how it used to be, you have a dream and a hope that one day you’ll become a Top 100 player and maybe play on some of the [big] courts. Next thing you know, it’s normal to play on centre court, it’s normal to play in front of 15,000 people,” Federer said. “Sometimes you tend to forget what a privilege that is. I feel like I never did forget. I enjoyed every single time it does happen and I try to enjoy it as much as I can.”
When Federer was young, his parents didn’t exclusively groom him to become the next tennis superstar. In fact, Lynette Federer and Robert Federer were concerned about far more than sports.
“The original mindset in Switzerland is of course education always goes first. That was the same that my parents also taught me, but I do believe it’s starting to happen more and more that people actually believe that also sports can be a future and a career and a path,” Federer said. “I hope that through what I do on a tennis court that I show them, maybe also I lead the way a little bit. That’s also going to be helpful for the next generation of superstar athletes from Switzerland.”
That doesn’t mean that Federer grew up in a country where sports weren’t prevalent. He has long supported FC Basel, his hometown’s football club.
“I think the Swiss really love their sports,” Federer said. “They might show a little bit less craziness about certain athletes or clubs [than] maybe in Latin countries or other places. But at the end of the day, we love our sports.”
Federer is 38, and he has experienced all tennis has to offer. But he takes nothing for granted.
“I try to give my absolute best effort every single day I walk on a practice court or on a match court and I try to interact with the fans and let them know how thankful I am,” Federer said. “It’s definitely been a hell of a ride. I’ve enjoyed every moment of it.”