leafHISTORICALACCOMPLISHMENTS  09.17

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Roger Federer

The History-Making

Qualities of a Class Act:

Story by Diana Addison Lyle

#8 became a resounding piece of historical history in July 2017. Roger Federer, who was born on the 8th day of the 8th month became the only person in history to win a record 8 Wimbledon singles tennis titles – placing him in the realm of legends – and deservedly so.  He beat both Pete Sampras’ and William Renshaw’s record of 7 Wimbledon titles but even more impressive is that Federer accomplished this feat so effortlessly as he was approaching his 37th year.  This was his 19th Grand Slam singles title as he beat Marin Cilic in straight sets 6-3, 6-1, 6-4. He also became the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1976 to win Wimbledon without dropping a set.

 

But it is the Swiss maestro’s conduct both on and off the tennis court that should be a life lesson to any burgeoning athlete who has wondered about what really matters in life.  The answer is simple:  Human decency matters a great deal, and Roger Federer is the shining proof of that.  While his massive talent is undeniable and his work ethic is rock solid – it’s his other sterling characteristics that have made him the supreme champion that he is.

Brad Gilbert put it so eloquently when he said, “greatness is defined when the stakes are highest.” Emotional maturity, civility, and the ability to slow things down in the most pressurized circumstances so that clear-headed clarity supersedes temper tantrums and poor choices – are the solid character traits that separate the greats from the rest of the players.

John Mc Enroe commented that oftentimes players try to rattle other players before a game or during a game so that they can gain a competitive advantage, but in Federer’s case, it’s impossible to rattle a man who is not only ultra composed but who is also so likeable.  Everybody who plays against him respects him so much that it becomes almost impossible to resort to some of the dirty tactics that are often used in sport.

Federer was born in Basel, Switzerland to a Swiss father and South African mother. He speaks Swiss German, Standard German, English and French fluently.  His ability to speak multiple languages fluently has only enhanced his popularity with audiences internationally He grew up supporting F.C. Basel and the Swiss National Football Team. He credits his hand-eye coordination skills to the range of sports he played as a child.  Basketball and badminton were some of the other sports he played before concentrating on tennis.

In a saturated media market where the giants in sport are scrutinized and their every move monitored and reported on, there has never been any dirt to find on Federer. He has consistently conducted his life with integrity and avoided the pitfalls of fame. Untainted by any hint of scandal, this tennis icon exemplified all the qualities of true sportsmanship and human decency.

A devoted husband and family man, Federer married his long-time love, Mirka Federer, in 2009. She was a former Women’s Tennis Association player and they met while both were competing for Switzerland in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Mirka retired from the tour in 2002 because of a foot injury. They were married at Wenkenhof Villa in Riehen near Basel on April 11, 2009, surrounded by a small group of close friends and family. In July 2009, Mirka gave birth to identical twin girls, Myla Rose and Charlene Riva. In 2014, the Federers welcomed another set of twin boys named Leo and Lenny. Twins run in the Federer family.  Roger’s older sister, Diana, also has a set of twins.

Roger Federer has also proven his lack of selfishness in the enormous good that he does with the Roger Federer Foundation, which he established in 2003.  277,000 poverty-stricken children in Africa and in his home country of Switzerland benefit from the work of his Foundation, and he personally visits these children whenever he can to inspire, encourage and guide them. {continued on page 24}

{continued from page 22} He says, I believe in the power of people. They might only need some initial empowerment. We know that a good education empowers children by allowing them to take their future into their own hands and play an active part in shaping it. And we trust in the best will of parents that they want to insure the best possible opportunities for their children. For more than 12 years, my Foundation has therefore been committed to enable parents and local communities in providing these children with the opportunity for a good education. We aim to reach a million children by 2018.”

Since May 2004, citing his close ties with South Africa because that is where his mother was raised, he started supporting the South Africa-Swiss charity IMBEWU which helps children better connect to sports and social and health awareness and, in 2005, Federer visited South Africa to meet the children that had benefited from his support. In 2005, he auctioned his racquet from his US Open Championship to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina. 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. In December 2006 he visited Tamil Nadu, one of the areas in India most affected by the tsunami. He was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador by UNICEF in April 2006 and has appeared in UNICEF public messages to raise public awareness of AIDS.

In response to the 2010 Haitian earthquake, 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 Haitian earthquake victims. He participated in a follow-up charity exhibition during the 2010 Indian Wells Masters which raised $1 million. The Nadal vs Federer “Match for Africa” in 2010 in Zurich and Madrid raised more than $4 million for the Roger Federer Foundation and Fundación Rafa Nadal. In January 2011, Federer took part in an exhibition, Rally for Relief to raise money for the victims of the Queensland, Australian floods. In 2014, the “Match for Africa 2” between Federer and Stan Wawrinka, again in Zurich, raised £850,000 for education projects in southern Africa.

After winning the Australian Open Tennis title in January 2017, this year has been a tour-de-force for a man who in 2016 had to take some time off to give his body a chance to recover from injuries and setbacks. He made the right choices and he came back focused, determined and able to play the kind of game that suits him: risk-taking tennis with assertive shots and a freedom that allowed his astounding flair and prowess to shine.

And the inimitable Roger Federer humility was clearly evident in the post Wimbledon press conference where instead of gloating, he said, “I was just a normal guy growing up in Basel Switzerland, and I had a dream.”

Roger Federer is an exemplary ambassador for sport.  Long may his example last.

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Roger Federer: The History-Making Qualities of a Class Act
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Roger Federer: The History-Making Qualities of a Class Act
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Roger Federer won a record 8 Wimbledon singles tennis titles – placing him in the realm of legends
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