In over two decades of his career, Roger Federer has amassed tennis trophies and records like few other players in any sport. Any mention of the Swiss veteran’s career is incomplete without recounting the numerous firsts – the first man to 20 Grand Slams, the first player to 300 weeks as world No 1, the first
Not that a career as storied requires any embellishment but such a force he has been on the tennis’ landscape that he has inspired some of the best writing on the sport. His game has been inspired poetry, the description of his serve, forehand and backhand slice has occupied streams of newsprint, the effortless grace he possesses has as much prose written about it as his tennis, his longevity has given writers the words for paeans, his second coming in 2017 was seen as an epic.
From being called something extra-special by Pete Sampras when he beat him as teenager at the 2001 Wimbledon to being hailed an inspiration by Novak Djokovic after beating him in a thrilling final in 2019, Federer has spanned a virtual generation of tennis and the writing reflects that.
At 38 years of age, he is not getting younger but the collection of thoughts and words on him and by him keeps getting richer with every passing year. You’d think there can’t be much to know about him after seeing him be at the sport for 15 years, but every new interview often brings out an angle hitherto unheard of and show the shades of the man he is.
Before this year’s Wimbledon – his 21st in a row – he took part in the Vogue’s popular 73 questions video and shared insights into personal and professional light that shed some more light on him as a player. He was in tears on camera as he spoke about the death of his childhood coach Peter Carter to CNN earlier this year, In 2017, he did a fashion shoot with GQ and revealed he loved the film ‘La La Land.’ The same year he went on an adventure with Bear Gryllis on Man vs Wild.
But as intriguing as the quotes from the man himself are, the observations of those that have watched him over the years add an extra layer of sheen to his legacy. As he turns 38 on Thursday, here are five must-read articles about Roger Federer.
Roger Federer as Religious Experience by David Foster Wallace (2006)
No Federer reading list can start without this essay from the American writer and novelist who played tennis at a junior level and wrote one of Time magazine “100 best English-language novels”. This was a piece written back in 2006, when Federer was only 25. The author watched him play Wimbledon and pegged the article around the final win over Rafael Nadal. But the piece has stood the test of time, with the sentiment and dynamics of his play still the same. Wallace tragically committed suicide in 2008 and his words on the kinesthetic beauty of Federer have acquired even more poignancy since.
The Sun Never Sets: On Roger Federer, Endings, and Wimbledon by Brian Phillips (2015)
His period of epoch-conquering dominance is years in the past, but he’s still a reliable top-five player, one who can compete for majors if the circumstances are right.
This was written in 2015, a year after he lost the final to Djokovic with the belief that he may never go past the 17 Majors he already had. Four years later, we know that the reports of his decline in the early part of this decade were greatly exaggerated. But the words still ring true, even more so now. He lost one more final on the Centre Court, but after winning his eighth title there at 35. In hindsight, this piece gets even better and helps understand why the 38-year-old who regularly wins big titles is such a big deal in tennis.
Letter to my granddaughter: I hope you have a Federer too, when you grow up By Rohit Brijnath (2017)
This is a piece that has struck a chord with readers for its raw emotion more than its technical analysis or impressions of a player. A veteran like Brijnath has painted pretty pictures with words for years but in this simple article written as an epistle, he captures the heart of what it is to watch a player like Federer and the lessons we can learn from. Written after the Swiss player’s 19th Major at 2017 Wimbledon, it is appreciation of art, a motivational book, a bedtime story, all at once.
What time is it, Roger? By Nirmal Shekhar (2014)
A piece written at the start of 2014, soon after the worst season of Federer’s career in 2013, could have been a tribute, a farewell address. Instead, it was a sign of things to come: the hunger and drive that sets Federer apart. The same qualities that made him transcend his age as he looks at his peak at 37 as he did at 27.
The story of how men’s tennis’ greatest became a centurion By Patrick Scott (2019)
Earlier this year, the 38-year-old became only the second man to win 100 ATP titles. (He went on to win two more and is now at 102). This interactive piece looks at his career, his incredible success and breaks down the numbers to show why he is one of the greatest players there is.
What are some of the best pieces about Roger Federer that you have read? Share it with us on Twitter @thefield_in