Roger Federer is in full preparation in this off season of continuing his assault on the tennis history books. He is one major singles title shy of equaling the all-time men’s record of 14 major singles title set by Pete Sampras from 1990 to 2002. The Australian Open, which begins January 19, 2009 in Melbourne, is Federer’s next target as he looks to win his fourth title “Down Under.” The following excerpt from the book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY, QUEST FOR PERFECTION, details Roger’s 2005 Australian campaign and how his coaching relationship at the time with Tony Roche began. For more information on THE ROGER FEDERE STORY, QUEST FOR PERFECTION, written by Rene Stauffer, please go to www.rogerfedererbook.com. (It makes for a great holiday gift for the tennis fan!)
Because of his success in the 2004 season, Roger Federer found himself in an interesting dilemma with regard to his coaching situation. He was without a coach for the entire year, making him the exception on the professional tour, yet he completed one of the greatest individual years in the history of the sport. Despite his success, he still sought new impulses. He still felt he had an even greater untapped potential and he wanted to continue to improve- especially his serve, his backhand and his net game. He knew that if he rested on his laurels and stayed stagnant, his game would regress.
However, he also knew the dangers that taking on a new coach would have not only for him, but for the coach as well. “If a player loses a few times, then they’ll say that it was the coach’s fault,” Federer said in Bangkok. “As long as I don’t have a coach, I don’t think too much, and as long as I play well, I also don’t have to change anything. That is the case right now, but I am also aware that there are going to be times when things won’t run as smoothly. Then it would be better to have a coach.”
Since the beginning of the 2004 season, rumors swirled that Federer was pursuing Darren Cahill as his coach. Cahill, who was actually a childhood school friend of Roger’s deceased coach Peter Carter, was a standout Australian player who reached the semifinals at the 1988 US Open and was the former coach of Lleyton Hewitt. At the time, he was working with Andre Agassi and Federer was quick to deny the rumor at every opportunity.
Truth be told, Federer had his eye cast on another prominent Australian of an older generation-Tony Roche. The unflappable man with the sun and wind-burned complexion was born in 1945 in Wagga Wagga-a city located between Melbourne and Sydney whose meaning is “the city of the many crows.” He was one of the greats in tennis history, but won only one Grand Slam tournament title in singles, mainly due to the fact that the competition of his era consisted of legends such as Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Ken Rosewall and John Newcombe.
In his prime, the left-hander was an imposing figure with a treacherous serve and brilliant net game that helped him secure 13 Grand Slam men’s doubles titles and guided him to four Davis Cup titles representing Australia.
In singles, he reached six Grand Slam tournament finals, including the Wimbledon final in 1968 and the US Open final in 1969 and 1970. His only Grand Slam triumph in singles came in 1966 on the slow clay courts at Roland Garros, where aggressive players like Roche are usually at a disadvantage.
Roche is a gentleman and when asked about his victory in Paris, he immediately emphasized that he was only able to win the tournament thanks to the fairness of his final-round opponent, a Hungarian named Istvan Gulyas. “I injured my ankle and, without a doubt, would not have been able to play in the final if he had not allowed me to have an extra day off to rest,”
Roche said. “It was an incredible gesture of sportsmanship.”
Roche is considered to be one of the world’s premier tennis tacticians. He is a polite, quiet, extremely modest and very discreet. Even Australian journalists who meticulously cover the sport admit that there’s a certain mystery to Roche. “He prefers to stay in the background when working with players,” said Australian radio reporter Craig Gabriel. Even during his glamour years as a player, Roche preferred ceding the limelight to Newcombe, his long-time doubles partner. Roche won 12 of his 13 Grand Slam doubles titles with “Newk”-five at Wimbledon, four in Melbourne, two in Paris, and one in New York. Newk and “Rochey”-as he is referred to in Australian circles-led the Australian Davis Cup team as captain and coach respectively from 1994 to 2000.
But Roche didn’t always manage to keep out of the headlines. At 29, following a series of unsuccessful treatments for serious shoulder and elbow problems, he consulted a miracle healer in the Philippines, who used acupuncture to treat his ailments and allow him the opportunity to achieve further accolades on the tennis court. Three years later in 1977, Roche starred in the Davis Cup Final when he upset Adriano Panatta of Italy to help Australia win the Davis Cup title. The win over Panatta, next to his French Open triumph 11 years earlier, was his most celebrated victory in singles in his career.
As a mentor, “Coach Roche” led New Zealander Chris Lewis to his unexpected run to the Wimbledon final in 1983. In 1985, he teamed with Ivan Lendl and steered the Czech to seven of his eight Grand Slam singles titles, but unfortunately, not the elusive Wimbledon title that Lendl so desperately desired. After Lendl’s retirement, Roche worked with fellow Australian Patrick Rafter, who won the US Open twice and became the No. 1 player in the world briefly in 1999. After the death of his coach Tim Gullikson in 1996, Pete Sampras even offered Roche a job as his personal coach, but Roche preferred to stay with Rafter. After Rafter’s retirement, he worked primarily in Australia, working in women’s tennis with the Australian Fed Cup team and also promoting up-and-coming Australian junior talents.
Both Lendl and Rafter still rave when asked about Roche and his influence on their tennis careers and their lives. When once asked who the most important person was in his career, Rafter answered without hesitation, “Rochey is my hero above all as a human being and not just as a tennis coach.”
In October of 2004, Roche first trained with Federer in Dubai on a trial basis, but the Aussie legend didn’t think the timing was right for him to start working with the No. 1 player in the world. He was approaching his 60th birthday and no longer wanted the excessive global travel that a full-time career in tennis demanded. Nonetheless, he offered to help Federer prepare for the new season. Just before Christmas in 2004, Federer traveled to Australia to train with Roche where he lived in Turramurra, a suburb of Sydney. He assumed this was going to be their last training session together and was saddened at the prospect of not having the full opportunity to work with the man he felt was best suited to help him. “Roche would have been a person who could have improved my game,” he said at the time.
However, the personal chemistry between Federer and Roche clicked during the 10-day training camp. Despite the 36-year age difference, Federer and Roche got along fabulously. Federer made one last attempt-he told Roche he would be happy no matter how much or how little time Roche could dedicate to him as coach, he would take advantage of every opportunity. The Australian was impressed by Federer’s persistence and was flattered that Federer traveled so far to Australia-and sacrificed celebrating the Christmas holidays at home-just to train with him. Roche relented. They shook hands on the deal without any sort of formal contract. The intention was that they would work together for about 10 weeks during the 2005 season.
After Christmas, Federer flew from Sydney to Doha, Qatar in the Middle East where he made his 2005 tournament debut at the Qatar Open. Federer chose the tournament as the stage for publicly announcing his agreement with Roche. “I’m glad that Tony changed his mind,” he said. “I now have somebody who I can fall back on if necessary. Roche was a great serve, volley and return player in his day. He won’t change my basic game but he will try to help me in certain areas. We also mutually respect and appreciate one another too which is great.”
“If I were ten years younger, I would have jumped at the opportunity,” Roche explained later on the eve of the Australian Open. “The fact that Roger made the sacrifice to come to me in Australia before Christmas demonstrated the great respect he has for me. That convinced me.” For Roche, respect and trust were the most important elements for a partnership. As with Federer, Roche’s previous deals with Lendl and Rafter were also sealed with simply a handshake.
Roche had a vision of how Federer could get stronger and become more efficient-improving his volleys and playing more at the net. By coming to the net more often, Federer could end points quicker and save energy. “He’s a good athlete who can volley well and he has good reflexes,” Roche said.
“He could be even better. He should take more advantage of this. He already dominates from the baseline. I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be as dominant at the net.”
The fact that Federer approached Roche demonstrated the great respect he has for tennis history. Federer knew that there was very little from a tactical and technical standpoint that was a mystery to Roche and that the Aussie had over 40 years of global experience in the sport. Like John McEnroe, Federer was fascinated by the rich history of his sport and held former champions in high regard. Who would be a better person to tell him about the strengths of Laver, Emerson, Borg, Lendl or Rafter than Roche, who had intimate knowledge of the minds and talents of the all-time greats.
Roche constantly pointed out the similarities between Federer and Laver as a person and as a player. Federer, like Laver, is an easy-going, relaxed person who likes to laugh and doesn’t seem to be easily rattled. This attitude, he said, is an important base for success. The two agreed to travel together during the eight-week stretch between Hamburg in May and Wimbledon, but as the year developed, there would be down times where the two would hardly communicate with each other for several weeks. It was a strange player-coach relationship, but mutually agreeable.
As the 2005 season commenced, the relationship began auspiciously. Federer opened the 2005 season in Doha, losing just 23 games in five matches to win his fourth tournament in a row. To add to Federer’s domination of the field was the fact that for the first time in his career, he won a title without having his serve broken. “I thought a lot about this stat and concentrated on not losing a service game,” he said after dominating Croatian Ivan Ljubicic 6-3, 6-1 in the final.
Federer immediately flew back to Australia, where he also won the Kooyong Classic, an exhibition tournament featuring some of the bigger names in tennis held at the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club, a previous site of the Australian Open. There was no question that the Australian Open favorite was Federer, who entered the event with a 21-match winning streak stretched over a five-month period. An Australian sports bookie reduced the odds of Federer winning to 1-8. Even Pete Sampras had not reached such odds for a Grand Slam tournament during his greatest days on the circuit. Approximately two thirds of the gambling public placed bets on the man from Switzerland to win the 2005 Australian Open.
En route to the semifinals, Federer did not lose a set, including a dominating 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over four-time Australian Open Andre Agassi in the quarterfinals. Marat Safin-and his coach Peter Lundgren-awaited Federer in the semifinals. Just like their second-set tie-break in Houston, their semifinal match became an epic and turned into the match of the year. Federer led two sets to one and by 5-2 in the fourth-set tie-break and had Safin in a virtual stranglehold. Federer held a match point at 6-5 and rushed the net, only to see Safin counter with a superb lob over his head. In his confident manner, Federer attempted an aggressive and risky between-the-legs retrieval of the lob, only to have his trick shot land in the net. Two points later, Safin won the fourth-set tie-break to even the match at two sets apiece. Before the start of the fifth set, Federer’s foot was worked on by the medical staff, but the conclusion of the match was still a long way from being determined. Unlike the US Open, where a tie-break is played in the fifth set, the Australian Open, as well as the other two Grand Slam tournaments, play out a deciding set until one player wins by two games. Federer and Safin duked it out in a fifth set for another 80 minutes-almost as long as a full soccer game-before the winner was determined. After four hours and 28 minutes, the result was a bitter pill for Federer as Safin finally broke through on his seventh match point to register the shocking and unexpected 5-7, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (6), 9-7 upset victory.
In the wee hours of the morning, after Australian fans sang “Happy Birthday” to Safin who was minutes into his 25th birthday, Federer faced the fact that many of his winning streaks ended. His 26-match winning streak-his personal best-ended as well as his 24-match win streak against top 10 players. For the first time since Madrid in 2003, he lost a tournament after reaching the semifinals. His attempt to become the first player since Pete Sampras in 1993/1994 to win three consecutive Grand Slam tournaments also came up short.
Nonetheless, Federer seemed composed when he showed up at 1:30 in the morning for his post-match press conference. “I can only blame myself,” he said. “I gave it my best. It was a good fight between two good men and in the end, the best man won.” He did not mention that he entered the match with a painful left foot that became worse as the match progressed. In trying to favor the foot, he put extra stress on his back. In the fourth set, when he could have closed out the match, a pinched nerve radiated pain to his pointer finger, which adversely affected his forehand.
The loss dented Federer’s armor. His point total in the world rankings sank by 550 and his advantage over the No. 2-ranked Lleyton Hewitt dropped as much as 1,000 points. His lead was still equivalent to two Grand Slam titles-but the year was still young and many things could happen. Although Federer achieved his second-best result ever at the Australian Open and narrowly missed reaching the final, fundamental questions were being asked.
Was Tony Roche the wrong man for the job as coach? Could Marat Safin, who won the title, threaten Roger and take his spot as world No. 1? Had Roger lost the aura of invincibility?
WASHINGTON, D.C. – New Chapter Press has announced the publication of its latest book – On This Day In Tennis History -a calendar-like compilation of historical and unique anniversaries, events and happenings from the world of tennis through the years – written by Randy Walker, the sports marketing and media specialist, tennis historian and former U.S. Tennis Association press officer.
On This Day In Tennis History ($19.95, 528 pages), is a fun and fact-filled, this compilation offers anniversaries, summaries, and anecdotes of events from the world of tennis for every day in the calendar year. Presented in a day-by-day format, the entries into this mini-encyclopedia include major tournament victory dates, summaries of the greatest matches ever played, trivia, and statistics as well as little-known and quirky happenings. Easy-to-use and packed with fascinating details, the book is the perfect companion for tennis and general sports fans alike and is an excellent gift idea for the holiday season. The book features fascinating and unique stories of players such as John McEnroe, Don Budge, Bill Tilden, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Jimmy Connors, Martina Navratilova, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Anna Kournikova among many others. On This Day In Tennis History is available for purchase via on-line book retailers and in bookstores in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. More information on the book can be found at www.tennishistorybook.com
Said Hall of Famer Jim Courier of the book, “On This Day In Tennis History is a fun read that chronicles some of the most important-and unusual-moments in the annals of tennis. Randy Walker is an excellent narrator of tennis history and has done an incredible job of researching and compiling this entertaining volume.” Said tennis historian Joel Drucker, author of Jimmy Connors Saved My Life, “An addictive feast that you can enjoy every possible way-dipping in for various morsels, devouring it day-by-day, or selectively finding essential ingredients. As a tennis writer, I will always keep this book at the head of my table.” Said Bill Mountford, former Director of Tennis of the USTA National Tennis Center, “On This Day In Tennis History is an easy and unique way to absorb the greatest-and most quirky-moments in tennis history. It’s best read a page a day!”
Walker is a writer, tennis historian and freelance publicist and sports marketer. A 12-year veteran of the U.S. Tennis Association’s Marketing and Communications Division, he served as the press officer for the U.S. Davis Cup team from 1997 to 2005 and for the U.S. Olympic tennis teams in 1996, 2000 and 2004. He also served as the long-time editor of the U.S. Open Record Book during his tenure at the USTA from 1993 to 2005.
More information on the book can be found at www.tennistomes.com as well as on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1627089030&ref=name and on myspace at http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=428100548
People mentioned in the book include, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, Goran Ivanisevic, Andre Agassi, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Monica Seles, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic, Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, Amelie Mauresmo, Anna Kounikova, Jennifer Capriati, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Martina Hingis, Gustavo Kuerten, Svetlana Kuznetsova, James Blake, Wilmer Allison, Mal Anderson, Arthur Ashe, Juliette Atkinson, Henry “Bunny” Austin, Tracy Austin, Boris Becker, Kark Behr, Pauline Betz, Bjorn Borg, Jean Borotra, John Bromwich, Norman Brookes, Louise Brough, Jacques Brugnon, Butch Buchholz, Don Budge, Maria Bueno, Rosie Casals, Michael Chang, Philippe Chatrier, Dodo Cheney, Henri Cochet, Maureen Connolly, Jimmy Connors, Jim Courier, Ashley Cooper, Margaret Court, Jack Crawford, Allison Danzig, Dwight Davis, Lottie Dod, John Doeg, Laurence Doherty, Reggie Doherty, Dorothea Douglass Lambert Chambers, Jaroslav Drobny, Margaret duPont, Francoise Durr, James Dwight, Stefan Edberg, Roy Emerson, Chis Evert, Bob Falkenburg, Neale Fraser, Shirley Fry, Althea Gibson, Pancho Gonzalez, Evonne Goolagong, Arthur Gore, Steffi Graf, Bitsy Grant, Darlene Hard, Doris Hart, Anne Jones, Gladys Heldman, Slew Hester, Bob Hewitt, Lew Hoad, Harry Hopman, Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman, Joe Hunt, Frank Hunter, Helen Jacobs, Bill Johnston, Perry Jones, Bob Kelleher, Billie Jean King, Jan Kodes, Karel Kozeluh, Jack Kramer, Rene Lacoste, Bill Larned, Art Larsen, Rod Laver, Ivan Lendl, Suzanne Lenglen, George Lott, Gene Mako, Molla Mallory, Hana Mandlikova, Alice Marble, Dan Maskell, Simone Mathieu, Mark McCormack, John McEnroe, Ken McGregor, Kitty Godfree, Chuck McKinley, Maurice McLoughlin, Frew McMillian, Don McNeill, Elisabeth Moore, Angela Mortimer, Gardnar Mulloy, Ilie Nastase, Martina Navratilova, John Newcombe, Yannick Noah, Jana Novotna, Betty Nuthall, Alex Olmedo, Rafael Osuna, Frank Parker, Gerald Patterson, Budge Patty, Fred Perry, Nicola Pietrangeli, Adrian Quist, Patrick Rafter, Dennis Ralson, Vinnie Richards, Nancy Richey, Cliff Richey, Bobby Riggs, Tony Roche, Mervyn Rose, Ken Rosewall, Elizbeth Ryan, Gabriela Sabatini, Pete Sampras, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Manuel Santana, Dick Savitt, Ted Schroeder, Gene Scott, Richard Sears, Frank Sedgman, Pancho Segura, Vic Seixas, Frank Shields, Pam Shriver, Stan Smith, Fred Stolle, Bill Talbert, Bill Tilden, Tony Trabert, Lesley Turner, Jimmy Van Alen, John Van Ryn, Guillermo Vilas, Ellsworth Vines, Brian Gottfried, Virginia Wade, Holcombe Ward, Watson Washburn, Mal Whitman, Mats Wilander, Tony Wilding, Helen Wills Moody, Sidney Wood, Robert Wrenn, Bob Bryan, Mike Bryan, Todd Woodbridge, Marat Safin, Leslie Allen, Sue Barker, Jonas Bjorkman, Mahesh Bhupathi, Donald Dell, Albert Costa, Mark Cox, Owen Davidson, Pat Cash, Mary Carillo, John Isner, Roscoe Tanner, Vijay Amritraj, Mark Woodforde, Tim Henman, Richard Krajicek, Conchita Martinez, Mary Joe Fernandez, Cliff Drysdale, Mark Edmondson, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Zina Garrson, Roland Garros, Wojtek Fibak, Tom Gullikson, Andres Gimeno, Vitas Gerulaitis, Fernando Gonzalez, Tim Henman, Goran Ivanisevic, Andrea Jaeger, Ivo Karlovic, Richard Krajicek, Petr Korda, Luke Jensen, Murphy Jensen, Rick Leach, Iva Majoil, Barry MacKay, Ivan Ljubicic, Cecil Mamiit, David Caldwell, Alex Metreveli, Nicolas Massu, Todd Martin, Gene Mayer, Thomas Muster, Tom Okker, Charlie Pasarell, Mary Pierce, Whitney Reed, Leander Paes, Renee Richards, Helen Sukova, Michael Stich, Betty Stove, Ion Tiriac, Brian Teacher, Wendy Turnbull, Richards, Fabrice Santoro, Ai Sugiyama, Patrick McEnroe, Camille Pin, Phil Dent, Jelena Dokic, Mark Edmondson, Gael Monfils, Xavier Malisse, Dinara Safina, Barry Lorge, Stefano Pescosolido, Fabrice Santoro, Roscoe Tanner, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Roger Smith, Erik van Dillen, Gene Mayer, Tamara Pasek, Stefan Koubek, Jie Zheng, Gisela Dulko, Kristian Pless, Chuck McKinley, Marty Riessen, Brad Gilbert, Tim Mayotte, Andrea Petkovic, Klara Koukalova, Bobby Reynolds, Dominik Hrbaty, Andreas Seppi, Christopher Clarey, Casey Dellacqua, Anders Jarryd, Janko Tipsarevic, Nadia Petrova, Christian Bergstrom, Ramesh Krishnan, Emily Sanchez, Marcos Baghdatis, Mark Philippousssis, Wally Masur, Paul McNamee, Daniela Hantuchova, Gerry Armstrong, Younes El Aynaoui, Thomas Johansson, Pat Cash, Lisa Raymond, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Chanda Rubin, Tony Roche, Alex O’Brien, Petr Korda, Karol Kucera, Amelie Mauresmo, Juan Gisbert, Pablo Cuevas, Jim Pugh, Rick Leach, Julien Boutter, Larry Stefanki, Chris Woodruff, Jill Craybas, Sania Mirza, Mike Leach, Maggie Maleeva, Guillermo Canas, Guillermo Coria, Donald Young, Dick Stockton, Johan Kriek, Milan Srejber, Zina Garrison, Slyvia Hanika, Karin Knapp, Laura Granville, Kei Nishikori, Scott Davis, Paul Goldstein, Alberto Martin, Nicolas Kiefer, Joachim Johansson, Jonathan Stark, Jakob Hlasek, Jeff Tarango, Amanda Coetzer, Andres Gomez, Richey Reneberg, Francisco Clavet, Radek Stepanek, Miloslav Mecir, Jose-Luis Clerc, Colin Dibley, Mikael Pernfors, Martin Mulligan, Robbie Weiss, Hugo Chapacu, Victor Pecci, Charlie Bricker, Greg Rusedski, Robin Finn, Kimiko Date, David Nalbandian, Goran Ivanisevic, Mikhail Youzhny, Nicole Pratt, Bryanne Stewart, Novak Djokovic, Rennae Stubbs, Corina Morariu, Marc Rosset, Kenneth Carlsen, Kimiko Date, Ryan Harrison, Richard Gasquet, Jimmy Arias, Jim Leohr, Felix Mantilla, Cedric Pioline, Annabel Croft, Brooke Shields, Jaime Yzaga, Slobodan Zivojinovic, Alberto Mancini, Peter McNamara, Andrei Chesnokov, Fabrice Santoro, Bud Collins, Mardy Fish, Sebastien Grosjean, Donald Dell, Petr Kuczak, Magnus Norman, Hicham Arazi, Nduka Odizor, Lori McNeil, Horst Skoff, Karolina Sprem, Ros Fairbank, Linda Siegel, Chris Lewis, Kevin Curren, Thierry Tulasne, Guy Forget, Fred Tupper, Jaime Fillol, Belus Prajoux, Ricardo Cano, Georges Goven, Ray Moore, Charlie Pasarell, Paul Annacone, Tomas Smid, Dmitry Tursunov, Elena Dementieva, Arnaud DiPasquale, Carl Uwe Steeb, Bill Scanlon, Jose Higueras, Jay Berger, Jana Novotna, Bill Dwyre, Lisa Dillman, Sean Sorensen, Paul McNamee, Jiri Novak, Benjamin Becker, Ion Tiriac, Neil Amdur, Tim Gullikson, Jan-Michael Gambill, Taylor Dent, Bryan Shelton, Vijay Amritraj, Martin Verkerk, Brian Gottfried, Carlos Moya, Jacco Eltingh, Adriano Panatta, John Feinstein, Aaron Krickstein, Wilhelm Bungert, Derrick Rostagno, Torben Ulrich, Daniel Nestor, Ray Ruffels, Cliff Drysdale, James Reilly, Andy Murray, Leander Paes, Alicia Molik, Barry MacKay among others.
New Chapter Press is also the publisher of The Bud Colins History of Tennis by Bud Collins, The Roger Federer Story, Quest for Perfection by Rene Stauffer and Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli and the soon to be released title The Lennon Prophecy by Joe Niezgoda. Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press is an independent publisher of books and part of the Independent Publishers Group. More information can be found at www.newchapterpressmedia.com