WASHINGTON, January 9, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
Throughout much of his storied career, Roger Federer has been known for his display of cool demeanor and emotional control on the court. You won’t see the 37-year-old future Hall of Famer smash rackets or spew expletives during a match, especially at a Grand Slam.
At last week’s Hopman Cup mixed-team competition in Perth, Australia, Federer won all four of his singles matches without dropping a set, displaying a happy and playful persona throughout. His on-court selfie with Serena Williams, which immediately went viral after Switzerland’s 2-1 victory over the United States, has been one of the biggest highlights of the new tennis season.
“It was great fun. I really loved it,” said Federer.
“I am happy that the hype lived up to what the match was about afterwards. It was a great sportsmanship from all four players. We all enjoyed it and the crowd was really into it. There were no injuries so that was great. To be able to face off against Serena, seeing what her game is about and how she is a champion, how she reads the game and her thought process, you can see how she thinks.
“You see why she has won so many matches and it was a big thrill for me. I really enjoyed it.”
Federer showed an irresistible sense of joy after he and Swiss teammate Belinda Bencic defeated Germany’s Alexander Zverev and Angelique Kerber 2-1 in the Hopman Cup final by capturing a winner-take-all championship point before a sellout crowd Saturday night. The outcome was a repeat of the 2018 Hopman Cup final and it marked the third time Federer has been crowned Hopman Cup champion.
Afterward, Federer said, “It’s been an absolute blast.. I loved every second about this Hopman Cup. … I had a great time, a wonderful time with my family, my team, and Belinda’s team. … Perth is a fun city. It’s been a wonderful stay for us.
“It’s a place that’s given me some good feelings for the rest of the season and I love playing in Australia.”
Federer’s attitude is a sharp contrast to his early years when he was prone to an occasional outburst. Today, his lack of emotional frustration, which has always served him well at major tournaments like the Australian Open, gives Federer an advantage over less controlled opponents like the mercurial Nick Kyrgios.
Federer once declared, “I don’t get the anxiety during a match so much anymore. You know, to throw racquets, to toss balls out of the court, scream and stuff. I almost laugh (on the inside) about it a little bit today when an opponent does it. But that’s something for me that’s not a problem any more.”
Now, as the six-time Australian Open champion readies to go after his third straight title in this year’s first Grand Slam, beginning Monday in Melbourne, Federer is in a comfortable state of mind – not to mention that he’s also undefeated (22-0) in Australia the past two years.
Earlier this week, during a sit-down interview with CNN Sport, Federer got emotional when he talked about Peter Carter, his inspirational former coach, who died in a car crash on his honeymoon in South Africa in 2002.
“It’s actually a really nice story,” said Federer in revealing the depth of his feelings. “He came to play club tennis in my club back in Basel at the Old Boys Tennis Club when I was little. He was also one of the star players on the team. I was able to have coaching lessons with him. He was from Adelaide in Australia.
“Peter was a really important person in my life because I think if I can say thank you for my technique today, it’s to Peter.”
Sadly, disaster struck before Federer could show his mentor what he was capable of achieving professionally. Carter passed away a year before Federer won the first of his 20 Grand Slams, at Wimbledon in 2003. His death played a seminal role in Federer’s development as both an effective baseline hitter and as a deft volleyer.
Now, Federer’s all-court game and versatility in his shot-making and efficiency in his foot work are all characteristic of his seemingly effortless quality of play.
When asked by the CNN interviewer what Carter might have thought of Federer’s career achievement of winning 20 Grand Slams, Federer’s eyes moistened and his voice broke briefly. He said, “I hope he would be proud. I guess he didn’t want me to be a wasted talent. I guess it was somewhat of a wake-up call for me when he passed away and I really started to train hard.”
A few moments later, Federer’s face brightened when he was asked if there’s anything he would like to say about Carter “in the context of where you’re at in your life right now?” As Federer responded, his mood brightened. He said, “I think what I would like to say is that I’ve been incredibly fortunate to having had the right people at the right time, the right coaches at the right time. Sure, you could argue I made those decisions, but I also got lucky along the way.”
Roger Federer’s inspirational former coach died in a car crash on his honeymoon in 2002.
Nearly two decades on, Federer still gets emotional when he talks about Peter Carter.
— CNN Sport (@cnnsport) 7. Januar 2019
Following his Hopman Cup triumph, with an eye toward Melbourne, Federer admitted he was happy to maintain a high quality of tennis all week long. He beat two Top 20 players (No. 15 Stefanos Tsitsipas and No. 4 Zverev).
“This has been a confirmation of my off-season. I’m pleased with where I’m at,” said Federer. “You adjust your game on your opponent’s game. You’re only as good as your next match.”
During the 2019 Hopman Cup, Federer beat Cameron Norrie, Frances Tiafoe, Tsitsipas and Zverev. “I’m glad I was able to bounce back from London. I was hoping to play good tennis, enjoy myself and play good serve and volley,” he said.
According to Federer, winning back-to-back Australian Open titles (2017 and 2018) in his mid-thirties has been “one of my favorite things I’ll look back on in my career. I didn’t think it would happen.
“I have two great coaches (Severin Luthi and Ivan Ljubicic) – two of the best in the game – who give me their fair assessment. They are open and honest with me. I don’t want any sugar-coating. I want it real and straight, that’s it. It’s very clear with my team where I stand and I’m happy with where I’m at. I’m in a great position.”