Marc Rosset

Caroline Wozniacki’s Fantasy World; Bernard Tomic’s Vicious Cycle — The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Fantasy World

One of the bigger casualties of Week 1 at the French Open was Caroline Wozniacki, who was dumped out in the second round by Bojana Jovanovski. The sad part is her loss wasn’t even a surprise. Her results this clay court season – and for the better part of the year – have been dismal. What’s even sadder is she seems blind as to how to reverse the trend. “It’s all about just momentum, I guess. Hopefully it will turn and I’ll start winning some more.” What she doesn’t seem to comprehend is that, as a general rule, that doesn’t just happen. And if it did, shouldn’t we have seen better results from her following her finals appearance at Indian Wells? The crux of the problem still remains that she needs a real coach to teach her how to better utilize her strengths and hide her weaknesses. But until she commits to that, cuts the strings with her father, and commits to re-tooling her game, she’ll continue her slump, and we’ll likely be hearing the same line again at the conclusion of the grass court season.

Vicious Circle

Bernard Tomic is another young player unwilling to part ways with his father/coach. Perhaps mercifully given all of the off court drama he faced coming into Paris, the young Aussie was forced to retire in his opening match thanks to a small tear in his right leg muscle. But his early exit didn’t allow him to completely avoid the topic of his father, who has been banned from attending a slew of professional tennis events for his alleged misconduct against Tomic’s hitting partner prior to Madrid. Tomic insists that his father will always be his coach, and it’s understandable how hard it can be to cut ties with a family member, especially a parent. But Tomic also doesn’t have to look far to see how past overbearing and abusive fathers have interrupted, hampered and sometimes completely derailed promising careers. At least Tomic is willing to add another voice to his camp, though he may have a tough time finding someone willing to step in as a second fiddle John Tomic. Hopefully for his sake the right person will come along to join his team and fix more than just his game. If not, his career may be over before it even gets off the ground.

Food for Thought

Former pro Marc Rosset didn’t mince words earlier this week when he declared men’s tennis “boring.” He felt it was too much about the Big Four, and that a large part of that was due to the current seeding system and homogenization of the playing surfaces. While suggesting that men’s tennis is boring is an opinion that likely goes too far, he does raise some valid points. The standardization of the surfaces has meant less variety in today’s game, with virtually the same game style getting it done on all surfaces (though the greats do make minor adjustments). But the current seeding system hasn’t really come under fire since they first opted to seed 32 at the majors, and maybe it’s time to revisit that decision. Seeding 16 instead of 8 at the Masters is acceptable. Those fields are already loaded due to the smaller draw size, which means a fair number of intriguing matchups early in the tournament. But also seeding just 16 at the majors might be a better way to go than the current 32. With a singles draw of 128, there are too many early matches that feel like mere formalities. Seeding only 16 would likely add some excitement early but still protect the higher-ranked players in their attempt to reach the business end of things. More often than not, the cream will continue to rise to the top, but making some of the suggested changes might make watching them do so a little more fun.

Straight Shooter

Say what you want about Ernests Gulbis, but one thing he’s not is dishonest. Of course, he’s not always wise either. In his interview following his loss to Monfils, the Latvian called out the Big Four for being boring interviews. Granted, Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Nadal may have a tendency to play it overly safe for some, but it’s an approach that beats taking the risk of crossing the line from refreshingly honest to outright obnoxious. Furthermore, in case Gulbis hasn’t noticed, being blunt doesn’t yield success. In some cases, it can hamper it. Just look at the difference in Djokovic form when he first arrived on the scene to where he’s at today. Yes, his game and mental strength have evolved, but he also helped his cause by becoming more diplomatic to avoid generating off court drama for himself. It’s a fine line to walk, and Gulbis would be well served to take a few pointers from the Big Four to strike a better balance in his approach to the media and fans.

The Absurd

They often say fame comes with a price, and for Sergiy Stakhovsky, the price tag was $2,000. In his losing effort to home favorite Gasquet, Stakhovsky pulled out his phone to take a picture of a disputed ball mark. Instantly, the Ukrainian’s image was plastered all over the Internet and various sports shows. Unfortunately for him, the officials weren’t amused and hit him with a fine for “unsportsmanlike conduct.” He may have carried on longer than appropriate, but considering some of the other stuff that goes unpunished, the $2,000 seemed a bit steep. It amounted to roughly 7% of his overall prize money, which for a player of Stakhovsky’s caliber is a sizeable chunk. Talk about learning a lesson the hard way!

How The Federers Met: Roger and Mirka 10 Years Ago at the Olympics

It was 10 years ago on September 27, 2000 that Roger Federer concluded his participation at the Sydney Olympic Games when he was defeated by unheralded Arnaud DiPasquale of France 7-6 (5), 6-7 (7), 6-3 in the bronze medal match in men’s singles.

Despite losing this important match – the only time Federer has been this close to winning and Olympic medal in singles (he did win Olympic gold in 2008 in doubles) – the 2000 Olympic Games was a pivotal point in Federer’s life. It was at these Sydney Games 10 years ago this week where Federer and his now wife Mirka met and became a couple. Rene Stauffer, in his book ROGER FEDERER: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com), describes Federer and his “Olympic Experiences” in this exclusive book excerpt.

The Swiss Olympic tennis team was in shatters at the start of the Sydney Games. Martina Hingis and Patty Schnyder both withdrew from the women’s competition at the last minute. Marc Rosset, the 1992 Olympic champion was also a late withdrawal, costing Federer an opportunity to play Olympic doubles. The Swiss Olympic Committee was furious. Tennis players were depicted as pampered and spoiled athletes who didn’t appreciate the true value of the Olympic Games.

The Swiss tennis team shared living quarters, socialized and dined with fellow Olympians from the Swiss archery, judo and wrestling teams in the Olympic Village, where Federer had the privilege of occupying a single room.

“That was the best event I ever attended,” Federer said years later as he embellished his long-time fascination of the Olympic Games. The contrast to the monotony of life in the hotels could hardly be bigger. The Opening Ceremonies, the interaction with athletes from other sports, the atmosphere in the Olympic Village and the feeling of belonging also made an impression on Mirka Vavrinec, a member of Switzerland’s women’s Olympic tennis team. “The Olympics are fantastic, unbelievably beautiful, unparalleled,” Vavrinec gushed of the Olympic experience courtside following a practice session. She also had nice things to say about Federer, the youthful star of the Swiss team, who was three years her junior—“I had no idea he was so funny.”

Mirka was born an only child in Bojnice, in the Slovakian part of Czechoslovakia in 1978. Her parents fled the Communist country with her when she was two-years-old to make a new life for themselves in the Swiss border city of Kreuzlingen on Lake Constance. Her father, Miroslav, a former javelin thrower, and his wife, Drahomira, ran a jewelry shop. In the fall of 1987, when Mirka was nine, Miroslav took his family to nearby Filderstadt, Germany where Martina Navratilova happened to be competing in a WTA Tour event.

The Czech-born Navratilova dominated women’s tennis and, like the Vavrinecs, defected from Czechoslovakia. When in Filderstadt, she warmly greeted the Vavrinec family. “We got to stay a few days with her,” Mirka said of the trip. Navratilova asked her if she played tennis. Mirka said no, “I do ballet.” The eight-time Wimbledon champion (she would go on to win her ninth title in 1990) advised her to try tennis. She said that Mirka’s good physique

and athletic talent would serve her well on the tennis courts. Navratilova put out feelers and asked the former top Czech player living in Switzerland, Jiri Granat, if he could test and coach the girl.

Navratilova’s instincts were correct. Mirka immediately showcased great skills with a tennis racquet. But not only that, she also had grit and endurance. Tennis instructor Murat Gürler, who tutored her in her early years, recalled that she was “completely into it” when it came to tennis. Mirka told the Swiss tennis magazine Smash in 1994, after winning the Swiss juniors’ title for 18-year-olds at the age of 15, “Tennis is my life, but it certainly can’t be easy to work with me because I can be really stubborn.”

Her ambition and her uncompromising nature were tremendous. In 1993, following a tournament in the city of Maribor in Slovenia, she convinced her coach to take her to a tournament in Croatia. The trip required travel through a part of Croatia where there was still fighting in the Balkan civil war. The two passed through destroyed villages, tanks and burned cars. She was afraid, but her ambition was greater.

Mirka ranked among the top 300 in the world by the time she was 17. A protracted heel injury in 1996 kept her off the circuit for months, causing her ranking to fall over 300 places. She valiantly fought back to No. 262 in the rankings by the end of 1997 and looked euphorically to the future. “I really want to place in the top 30 in the world rankings,” she said.

Mirka meanwhile obtained a Swiss passport. The only connections she still had to her native land were a few relatives still living in Slovakia as well as the confused mix of German and Slovakian spoken at home. She maintained loose ties to Navratilova and was fortunate to find a patron, the Swiss industrialist Walter Ruf, who helped her to survive financially on the women’s tennis circuit.

Thanks to her ambition and her endurance—as well as to her backhand that some even considered the best in the world—Mirka cracked the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time in 2000. She luckily received a wildcard

entry to play at the Olympic Games in Sydney, even though her ranking did not qualify her to play.

While Mirka won only two games in her first-round match against eventual silver medalist Elena Dementieva of Russia, Federer began to rack up victory after victory. Benefiting from an Olympic men’s field without Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, and upset losses by US Open champion Marat Safin, Tim Henman and Michael Chang in his half of the draw, Federer won four straight matches and found himself in the semifinals. It was his best result of his career to date and surprisingly, it came at an outdoor event

At age 19, Federer was in position to become the youngest Olympic gold medalist in modern tennis. However, he played cautiously against the German Tommy Haas, ranked No. 48 (12 places behind Federer) in the semifinals and decisively lost. He did, however, still have a chance to win the bronze medal, but instead of registering a lifetime achievement of winning an Olympic medal, Federer suffered one of his greatest disappointments, losing to Arnaud DiPasquale of France, ranked No. 61 in the world. Despite being up 3-0 in the first-set tie-break, Federer lost seven of the next nine points to lose the tie-break 7-5. In the second set, Federer fought off a match point in the tie-break at 6-7 and won the tie-break two points later. Federer broke DiPasquale, who began suffering from cramps, to take a 2-1 lead in the final set, but the Frenchmen rallied to win the two-and-half-hour match 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7), 6-3.

“Considering how the match was going, I should never have lost,” Federer said, hardly able to hold back the tears. “I really wanted to be standing on the podium. Now I have nothing to take home except my pride.” But Federer, who had recently said “I would choose tennis over a girlfriend” would leave Sydney with more than his pride. His friendship with Mirka blossomed into romance. Mirka said at first she wasn’t aware that he had taken a romantic interest in her. “He didn’t kiss me until the last day of the Olympic Games,” she admitted.

They parted ways for now. She followed the women’s tour to Japan and then to Europe. However, the relationship became more intense over the next few months. The public still had to wait a long time until stories and official pictures of the new “dream couple” surfaced. When a newspaper disregarded Federer’s request to please keep his new relationship under wraps, he reacted angrily. “I don’t think that this has to come out in public,” he complained. “I spoke with my girlfriend and she didn’t want this exposed either, because then we would both just have to talk about our relationship and not about our tennis anymore.”

Mirka’s career, however, didn’t work out as hoped. She managed to reach the third round of a Grand Slam tournament at the 2001 US Open, losing to future world No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne, but the price she had to pay for her victories was high. Like her Swiss colleague, Martina Hingis, Mirka encountered problems with her feet—despite several operations and rest. Her career-high ranking was achieved on Sept. 10, 2001 when she ranked No.

76 in the world, but a torn ligament in her right foot prevented her from further improving and forced her into a hiatus that lasted for months. The 2001 US Open was her last great success on the tennis tour—with the exception of the Hopman Cup in Perth in January of 2002 where she was able to celebrate a victory over Argentina alongside her boyfriend. Shortly afterwards, at the age of 24, she played her last match on the WTA Tour in Budapest. She was forced to have another operation and was once again on crutches. It was still quite some time until she finally realized that her career was really finished. Her record as a professional concluded with 202 victories and 159 defeats—including the lower-level challenger and satellite events—with overall earnings of $260,832.

The abrupt and premature end of her career cast her into a depression. “It’s not easy when you do something you like your entire life and then have to quit it from one day to the next,” she said later in an interview at Wimbledon. “I fell into a deep hole. The most difficult part was when I was home for eight months and couldn’t do anything. I had a lot of time to think and watch tennis on television. Roger was my greatest support back then. He gave my tennis life back to me. When he wins, it’s as if I win as well.”

Federer’s Business

Media reports out of Europe have indicated that Roger Federer’s fragrance and cosmetics company “RF” will cease operations. Started in 2003 by Federer’s then-girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec, “RF” was one of the Federer initiatives during the entrepreneur management phase of his career, before re-signing with the International Management Group. Rene Stauffer, in his book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY, QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com), outlines Federer and his business career in this book excerpt below.

Lynette Federer was astonished to read one of her son’s first interviews in a Swiss newspaper when he was still a youngster. The question to Federer was “What would you buy with your first prize money paycheck?” and the answer actually printed in the paper was “A Mercedes.” Roger was still in school at the time and didn’t even have a driver’s license. His mother knew him well enough to know that the answer couldn’t be correct. She called the editors of the paper and asked to hear the taped conversation. The mother’s intuition was correct. He had really said, “More CD’s.”

Roger Federer never had extravagant tastes. Money was never the main incentive for him to improve. It was rather a pleasant by-product of his suc­cess. It is a fact that the most successful tennis players are gold-plated and are among the highest-paid individual athletes in the world. Normally, the top 100 players in the world rankings can make ends meet financially without any difficulties—but nationality plays a crucial role in this. The best player from Japan, a country that’s crazy about tennis and is an economic power house, may be only ranked No. 300 but he could still be earning substantially more than the tenth-best Spanish player even if the Spaniard is ranked 200 positions ahead of the Japanese player. Profits from advertising, endorsement contracts as well as other opportunities that arise for a top player in a particu­lar nation sometimes greatly exceed their prize money earnings.

Anybody who asks a professional tennis player how many dollars or euros they win in a tournament will seldom receive an exact answer. For most, the total prize winnings are an abstract number on a paper and when it has finally been transferred to a bank account, it doesn’t look too good anyways after taxes. By contrast, every player knows exactly how many ATP or WTA points they accumulate and how many are still out there to be gathered and where. These points ultimately decide where a player is ranked, which in turn determines the tournaments a player can or cannot compete in.

While tennis, for the most part, is an individual sport, it’s hardly an indi­vidual effort when it comes to the daily routine. Nobody can function without outside help to plan and coordinate practice sessions, to get racquets, strings, shoes and clothes ready, to make travel arrangements, to apply for visas, to work out a tournament schedules, to field questions and inquiries from the media, sponsors and fans, to maintain a website, to manage financial and legal matters, to ensure physical fitness and treat minor as well as major injuries, to maximize nutrition intake and—something that is becoming in­creasingly important—to make sure that any sort of illegal substance is not mistakenly ingested.

Tennis professionals are forced to build a team around themselves that are like small corporations. This already starts in junior tennis, although sometimes a nation’s national association will help with many of a player’s duties—as the Swiss Tennis Federation did with Federer.

Virtually all top players are represented by small or large sports agencies, where agents and their staff offer their services—not always altruistically—to players. The reputations of agents and sports agencies are not always positive as many put their own financial goals ahead of what is best for their client.

The International Management Group or IMG—the largest sports agency in the world—signed Martina Hingis when she was only 12 years old. Federer also drew the attention of the company’s talent scouts at a very young age. IMG signed a contract with the Federer family when Roger was 15 years old. Régis Brunet, who also managed the career of fellow Swiss Marc Rosset, was assigned to work with the young Federer. Lynette and Robert Federer invested a great deal of time and money in their son’s career but were also in a rela­tively privileged position because Roger was able to take advantage of the assistance of local and national structures early on. For years, Swiss Tennis picked up the bill for his travel and accommodations at many of his matches and also provided opportunities for training and sports support care.

From an early age, Federer began to earn more money in the sport than his contemporaries. By age 18, he already won $110,000 in prize money on the professional tour and by 19, he had earned over $500,000. As Federer became a top professional, his prize money earnings catapulted. At age 20, his earnings soared to $1.5 million. By the time he was 23, his official winnings surpassed $10 million and at 24, the $20 million mark was eclipsed. At the end of 2005, Federer was already in seventh place in the all-time prize money list for men’s tennis and was almost half-way to earning the $43 million that Pete Sampras earned as the top-paid player of all-time before his retirement.

At the age of 17, Federer already signed endorsement contracts with sport­ing good giants Nike (clothes and shoes) as well as Wilson (racquets). Babolat supplied him with one hundred natural gut strings each year while Swisscom picked up the bill for his cell phone use—which the teenager found pretty cool considering his numerous calls.

Federer did not care much for the details of his early business dealings. “I don’t even want to know if I am receiving money from Head and Wilson or just equipment, because if I care too much about things like that, it could change my attitude towards tennis,” he said in an interview at that time. “The prize money is transferred to my bank account and will be used later when I begin to travel even more.” He then added somewhat hastily that “I will never buy anything big. I live very frugally.”

Federer was never a player who would do anything to earn or save extra money. He also didn’t move to Monte Carlo—the traditional tax haven for tennis players—to save on his taxed earnings like many professional tennis players such as his Swiss countrymen Marc Rosset, Jakob Hlasek and Heinz Günthardt. In 2002, he told Schweizer Illustrierte, “What would I do there? I don’t like Monaco. I’m staying in Switzerland!”

He was less tempted to chase after the quick buck for several reasons. First, he was already earning considerably more money than his peers at such an early age. Second, as a Swiss citizen, there were fewer corporate opportunities than players from other countries such as the United States and Germany. Third, his creed was always “Quality before Quantity” and he wanted to con­centrate on the development of his game in the hope that his success would reap larger rewards later in his career.

Federer, however, was always very aware of his value. He slowly but steadily moved up the totem pole of pro tennis and he observed the type of oppor­tunities that opened up for the top players. When I asked him in Bangkok in the fall of 2004 if he was tempted to earn as much money as quickly as possible, he said, “I’m in the best phase of my life and I don’t want to sleep it away. I have a lot of inquiries but most importantly, any new partners have to conform to my plans. They can’t take up too much of my time and their ad campaigns have to be right. I’m not the type of person who runs after money. I could play smaller tournaments, for example, where there are big monetary guarantees, but I don’t let it drive me nuts. The most important thing for me now is that my performance is right and that I have my career under control.”

The fact that Federer does not go for the quick, easy dollar shows in his tournament schedule. After he became a top player, he only played in a very few number of smaller tournaments on the ATP Tour where players can be lured to compete with large guaranteed pay days (this is not permitted at the Masters Series and the Grand Slam tournaments). At these events, the going rate for stars the caliber of a Federer or an Andre Agassi could reach six digits. Federer is considered to be a player who is worth the price since he attracts fans and local sponsors and is certain to deliver a top performance. He won all ten tournaments in the “International Series” that he competed in between March, 2004 and January, 2006—an incredibly consistent performance.

Federer’s strategy of looking at the big picture has panned out. He has de­veloped into the champion that he is today because he hasn’t been sidetracked by distractions and has remained focused on the lone goal of maximizing his on-court performance. His successes and his reputation as a champion with high credibility have increased his marketability over the years.

The number of Federer’s advertising contracts was always manageable—in contrast to Björn Borg, for example, who had to keep 40 contract partners satisfied when he was in his prime. At 20, Federer signed a contract with the luxury watch maker Rolex—the brand that is also associated with Wimbledon. In June of 2004, Federer’s contract with Rolex was dissolved and he signed a five-year contract as the “ambassador” for the Swiss watch maker Maurice Lacroix.

This partnership was prematurely dissolved after two years. Since Rolex became aware of the value Federer had as a partner, they signed him to an­other contract in the summer of 2006, replacing Maurice Lacroix.

In addition to this, he signed contracts with Emmi, a milk company in Lucerne (which seemed appropriate for someone who owns his own cow), as well as with the financial management company Atag Asset Management in Bern (until July, 2004) and with Swiss International Air Lines. All of the contracts were heavily performance-related in general and have increased substantially in value with Federer’s successes.

Federer is a very reliable partner for companies. He was associated with his sporting goods sponsors Wilson (racquets) and Nike (clothing and shoes) since the beginning of his career and probably will be forever. His agree­ment with Nike was renewed for another five years in March of 2003 after the contract expired in the fall of 2002. The new contract was at the time considered to be the most lucrative ever signed by a Swiss athlete. Like almost all of Nike contracts, it contains a clause forbidding additional advertising on his clothing—or “patch” advertising—which is something that Nike also compensates Federer for.

But the renegotiation of the Nike contract was a long and tiresome process, which was one of the reasons that Federer dissolved his working relationship with IMG in June of 2003. In the spring of that year, he said that “one thing and another happened at IMG. Those are things that I can’t and am not al­lowed to go into.” It was a matter of money, he said, but not just that. “There were too many things that I didn’t like.”

From that point forward, Federer only wanted to work with people who he trusted implicitly. He noticed that the best control doesn’t work if there is no trust. He gave his environment a new structure that became known as “In-House Management,” based on his conviction that family companies are the best kind of enterprises. John McEnroe’s father—a lawyer—frequently managed business affairs on behalf of his son—and it all worked out well for him. Federer’s parents became the mainstay of his management and estab­lished “The Hippo Company” with headquarters in Bottmingen, Switzerland to manage their son’s affairs. “Hippo,” of course, was chosen in association with South Africa, the homeland of Roger’s mother. “My wife and I had often observed hippos during our vacations to South Africa and have come to love them,” Robert Federer explained once.

After 33 years, Lynette Federer left the Ciba Corporation in the fall of 2003 and became her son’s full-time help (she doesn’t like to be called a manager). “We grew into this business,” she said months later. “If we need expert opin­ion about a specific question, we’re not afraid to ask professionals.” The two main goals for their son were to “build Roger into an international brand name” and to “maximize profits over a lifetime.” The native South African, who, in contrast to Mirka Vavrinec, only occasionally traveled to the tourna­ments, worked very much in the background, which is exactly what her son wanted. It’s important, Federer said in 2005, that his parents go about their private lives in peace despite their business connections to him. “I don’t want them to have to suffer because of my fame,” he said. “I also pay close atten­tion that they are not in the center of media attention very often and only rarely give interviews.”

Robert Federer continued to work for Ciba until the summer of 2006 when he took his early retirement at the age of 60. Robert, however, was always part of the core of his son’s management for years. “I view myself as working in an advisory capacity and try to disburden Roger wherever possible,” he said in the summer of 2003. “But even if we have a great relationship that is based on trust and respect, we still sometimes have trouble.”

In 2003, Federer’s girlfriend officially assumed responsibility for coordinat­ing his travels and his schedule, especially with the media and with sponsors. Mirka’s new role and responsibility gave her a new purpose in life following the injury-related interruption of her own professional tennis career. While mixing a business relationship with a personal relationship can sometimes cause problems, both Roger and Mirka say balancing the two has been easier for the couple than they first anticipated. Mirka treats both roles indepen­dently as best as she can and soon decided “not to get stressed any more” when requests and requirements of her boyfriend/client pile up.

“I’ve made everyone realize that they have to put in their requests a long time in advance and it works great,” she said in 2004. She makes sure to ex­peditiously bring the most pressing matters to Roger’s attention while seeing to it that he is not unnecessarily disturbed by what she believes to be trivial matters.

Nicola Arzani, the European communications director of the ATP Tour, ex­tols the working relationship he has with Mirka. “I work regularly with Mirka and it works great,” he said. “We coordinate all inquiries and set Roger’s schedule according to priorities—usually a long time in advance.” Federer, like all players, is supported by the communications professionals on the ATP Tour or with the International Tennis Federation at the Grand Slam events.

Mirka took up additional activities in 2003 as the driving force behind a Roger Federer branded line of cosmetics and cosmetic care products that were introduced during the Swiss Indoors in Basel. RF Cosmetic Corporation was thus born and Federer actively helped create the scent for his perfume called “Feel the Touch.” Even if this perfume was generally met with wide ac­ceptance, experts in the business believe that launching this line of cosmetics was extremely risky and premature, considering Federer’s youth.

Federer had hardly replaced IMG with his In-House Management when his breakthrough months in 2003 and 2004 followed and provided many op­portunities and requests for him—and a lot of work for his entourage. Within seven months, Federer won at Wimbledon, the Tennis Masters Cup and the Australian Open and then became the No. 1 ranked player. All of his suc­cesses and its consequences subjected the structure of his management to a tough stress test. “We were all taken by surprise, no question,” Federer said. He admitted that he wanted to be informed about all activities and perceived himself to be the head of the In-House Management.

On July 1, 2004, Thomas Werder joined the team as new “Director of Communications” responsible for trademark management, public and media relations, as well as fan communication. This working relationship, how­ever, was soon terminated nearly a year later. The German consulting agency Hering Schuppener with headquarters in Düsseldorf was then introduced as a partner to manage international public relations. But it remained mostly in the background.

With the exception of Maurice Lacroix, new sponsorship agreements were not initially announced. In February, 2004, when his son became the No. 1 ranked player in the world, Robert Federer said that while they were engaged in negotiations with various businesses, space for other partners was none­theless “not infinite.” “We’re taking our time,” he said. “We don’t want to force anything. Roger can’t have 20 contracts because each contract takes up part of his time.”

According to marketing experts, the fact that Roger Federer’s attempts to take better advantage of his commercial opportunities did not initially lead to additional advertising contracts not only had to do with this restraint, but also with his team’s lack of contacts in the corporate advertising world. In addition, Federer was not the first choice for many international companies as an advertising medium, which specifically had to do with his nationality, his image, and—as absurd as it may sound—with his athletic superiority.

Federer had a limited corporate market at home in Switzerland from which to draw and, like all non-Americans, he had difficulties reaching into the financial honey jars of the corporate advertising industry. Such an undertak­ing, without the help of a professional sports marketing agency that knows the American market and that has the necessary connections, is nearly im­possible. Federer’s reputation as a fair, dependable and excellent athlete may also have made him not flamboyant or charismatic enough for many compa­nies. Federer doesn’t smash racquets or get into shouting matches like John McEnroe or Ilie Nastase used to. He doesn’t grab at his crotch like the street fighter Jimmy Connors and, at the time, he was not considered to be a legend like Björn Borg, who looks like a Swedish god. He doesn’t dive over the court until his knees are bloody like Boris Becker and he also doesn’t surround himself with beautiful film starlettes like some of this colleagues, for instance McEnroe, whose first wife was actress Tatum O’Neal and his second, the rock star Patty Smythe, as well as Andre Agassi, who married the actress Brooke Shields, before being settling down with fellow tennis superstar Steffi Graf.

Anybody who likes convertibles, safaris, playing cards with friends, good music and good food, sun, sand and sea, is too normal and unspectacular. Federer was still missing something. During his first two years as the world No. 1, Federer lacked a rival that was somewhat his equal. Tennis thrives from its classic confrontations between rival competitors. Borg had Connors and later McEnroe. McEnroe had both Connors and Borg and later Ivan Lendl. After McEnroe and Connors, Lendl had Boris Becker. Becker had Stefan Edberg and Andre Agassi had Pete Sampras. In the women’s game, there was no greater rivalry than Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. Roger Federer didn’t have anybody between 2004 and 2005 who could hold a candle to him. During the 2004 and 2005 seasons, Federer lost only 10 times to nine differ­ent players, seven of whom were not in the top 10. A real rivalry only grew starting in 2006 with Rafael Nadal.

When in July of 2005 Forbes magazine came out with its list of the world’s top-paid athletes, Federer did not make the list. His annual income (from prize money, start guarantees, advertising and sporting goods contracts) was esti­mated to be about $14 million. Forbes tallied only two tennis players on their list—Andre Agassi, who, at $28.2 million, came in seventh overall on the list, as well as Maria Sharapova, the attractive Russian Wimbledon champion of 2004 whose estimated annual income was at around $18.3 million due to various advertising contracts. The Forbes list was dominated by basketball and baseball players with golf star Tiger Woods ($80.3 million) and Formula 1 world cham­pion Michael Schumacher ($80.0 million) holding the top positions.

Given the undeniable need to play catch up to his fellow elite athletes on the Forbes list and gain more of a foothold in the commercial advertising space, nobody was surprised when Federer once again augmented his management with a professional international agency in 2005. It was a surprise, howev­er, when he chose to rehire IMG after a two-year hiatus, despite such offers made by Octagon, SFX and other top agencies. However, the world’s largest sports marketing agency was only announced as an addition to the In-House Management with the goal of “concentrating intensively on his economic op­portunities.” This was an optimal situation, Federer said, explaining that “I’m continuing to work with my present team, taking advantage of its lean struc­ture while at the same time having a world-wide network at my disposal.”

American Tony Godsick became Federer’s manager. A tennis insider who also managed the tennis career of former Wimbledon, US and Australian Open champion Lindsay Davenport, Godsick was also married to Mary Joe Fernandez, the former top tennis player who owned three pieces of hardware that Federer desperately envied—two gold medals and one bronze medal from the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.

Following the 2003 death of IMG’s founder, Mark McCormack, the com­pany was sold. The Cleveland, Ohio-based company then reduced its staff of 2,700 considerably, sold many of its properties and parts of its business, ap­parently to remedy its financial woes. IMG’s stake in professional tennis was also reduced as the company dumped its stake in events in Scottsdale, Ariz., Los Angeles and Indian Wells. The incoming IMG owner was Ted Forstmann, an investor who buys and sells companies at will, and made personal efforts to Federer to have his new company do business with him. The American was said to have paid $750 million for IMG and some insiders immediately speculated that Federer was signed to help increase the market value of the company and that he would share in the accruing profits if IMG were to be re-sold or listed on the stock market. No official comments came from either camp regarding this speculation.

Asked during the 2006 Australian Open if his new working relationship with IMG changed things for him and if he was now more active in off-the-court endeavors, Federer was unequivocal in stating that he was now in a new and much stronger position vis a vis IMG than before: “I don’t want much more to do because I’m booked pretty solid. I’ve made it clear to IMG that this is the reason that I’m coming back. It’s the opposite: IMG have to do more than before.”

IMG quickly became very active in order to optimize Federer’s economic situation and better exploit his potential. The goal was to find ideal partners and contracts that accurately reflected his status as a “worldwide sports icon.” In 2006, existing contracts were re-negotiated, cancelled (Maurice Lacroix) and new ones were signed (Rolex, Jura coffee machines). Federer also signed a lifetime contract with Wilson, despite attractive offers from rival racquet companies in Japan and Austria.

Early in 2007, Federer signed his first big endorsement contract with a com­pany that was not related to tennis or to a Swiss company. In Dubai, he was unveiled as the newest brand ambassador of the new Gillette “Champions” program, together with Tiger Woods and French soccer star Thierry Henry. “These three ambassadors were selected not only for their sporting accom­plishments, but also for their behaviour away from the game,” the company explained. “They are as much champions in their personal lives as they are in their sports.”

The highly-paid contract was a stepping-stone for Federer and reflected that he had become an international megastar. The multi-faceted marketing initiatives, including global print and broadcast advertising in over 150 mar­kets, helped him increase his popularity outside the sports world.

When I asked Federer in the end of 2006, if his relation to money had changed over the years, he said, “Suddenly, money turned into a lot of money, and in the beginning, I had problems with this.” He felt that some articles suggested the impression that top tennis players are a modern version of glo­betrotters who run after the money from town to town. He did not feel this was an accurate portrayal of his priorities. “It’s not true,” he said. “All I’m trying to do is fulfill my dreams as a tennis player.”

Federer’s Italian Catapult

Roger Federer is returning to Davis Cup duty this weekend to help lead Switzerland to victory against Italy in the Davis Cup Play-off in Genova, Italy. It was against Italy back in 1999 when Federer – then age 17 – made his Davis Cup debut. His performance against the Italians proved to be an early indication that Federer was indeed going to become one of the sports great talents. Federer’s experience against the Italians proved to be a catapult for the young star who would crack the top 100 in the world rankings later in the year. Rene Stauffer, author of the book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.NewChapterMedia.com), describes Federer’s Italian Davis Cup experience and what followed shortly thereafter in 1999 in this book excerpt.

Before the outdoor season—and his series of first-round defeats—Federer achieved another career highlight in April—his Davis Cup debut. Switzerland was slated to play against Italy in a first-round match in Neuenburg, Switzerland. However, the Swiss team experienced some tumultuous months leading into the tie as Marc Rosset, the No. 1 Swiss player, quarreled and separated from his coach of 11 years, Stephane Oberer, and threatened to quit the Davis Cup if Oberer remained the captain of the Swiss team. Luckily, Oberer resigned at the beginning of February and was replaced shortly there­after by Claudio Mezzadri, a former top-30 ranked Swiss player.

Federer’s Davis Cup debut could not have been better. He decisively beat Italian No. 1 Davide Sanguinetti, ranked No. 48 in the world, 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-4 in his first match in the 3-2 win for the Swiss. “It was unfortunate that Federer was playing for the opponent,” Italy’s team captain, Paolo Bertolucci, said afterwards, “but it was fun to watch him. There are not many people in the world who can play tennis so well.”

In July, the Swiss played Belgium in Brussels in the quarterfinals and Federer, not quite 18-years-old, found himself acting as the leader of the Swiss team in only his second match as a member of the team. The higher-ranked Rosset was with the team in Brussels, but was feeling ill during the week and, after much deliberation, declined to play singles in the tie. Federer was un­able to carry the Swiss team on his back as he lost two marathon matches to Christophe van Garsse and Xavier Malisse in the Swiss loss.

At the time, Federer was an inconsistent player with the fascinating reper­toire of strokes. He still had trouble concentrating and often couldn’t find his way to winning matches, despite his technical superiority. This was especially the case in matches that exceeded three sets, where stamina, patience and tactical maturity—not brilliance—were required. He became irritated when the wind and weather altered playing conditions and when fans moved in the grandstands.

However, he consistently proved that he had everything it took to compete with the pros—indoors or outdoors—regardless of court surfaces. This proved to be the case on the clay courts at Roland Garros, where the 17-year-old made his main draw Grand Slam tournament debut as the youngest competi­tor in the men’s field. In his first-round match, Federer drew Patrick Rafter, the Australian two-time US Open champion. He jumped out to win the first set against the world’s No. 3-ranked player who then was at the peak of his career. However, the sun came out and the conditions became warmer and faster. The clay courts dried out and balls moved much faster through the court. The Australian’s attacking serve-and-volley style seemed to run on au­tomatic and he won in four sets.

“The young man from Switzerland could be one of the people who will shape the next ten years,” the French sports newspaper L’Equipe wrote during the tournament. Rafter shared the same opinion. “The boy impressed me very much,” he said. “If he works hard and has a good attitude, he could become an excellent player.” Asked at a press conference what he was still lacking to beat such players, Federer said, “I just have to mature.”

Four weeks later, Federer made his main draw debut at Wimbledon and faced the experienced Czech, Jiri Novak. It was only Federer’s second ap­pearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament, but he once again showed that he could dominate a match over long stretches. It appeared he was on his way to a victory—leading Novak two sets to one—when his concen­tration began to fade and he became mired down in the first five-set match of his career. Federer’s inexperience showed as he was unable to capitalize on eight break points in the deciding set—and lost.

After the string of seven first-round defeats in Key Biscayne, Monte Carlo, Paris, Queens, Wimbledon, Gstaad and Washington, D.C.—as well as the Davis Cup disappointment in Brussels—Federer lost in the qualifying rounds at ATP events in Long Island and the US Open in New York. Federer’s crisis, however, suddenly vanished when the indoor season began in the fall of 1999.

With a first-round win over former Wimbledon and US Open finalist Cedric Pioline of France in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Federer reached the top 100 in the world rankings, and at the age of 18, he was the youngest player within the group. He beat another seven opponents on the ATP Tour by the end of the year and reached his first career ATP semifinal in Vienna. He ended the year by winning the challenger tournament in Brest, France in his last tournament appearance in a challenger or satellite-level event. From this point forward, Federer only competed on the ATP Tour and in the Grand Slam events. It took him only about a year to transition from an inexperienced newcomer into an established professional.

14 Majors For Federer, Sampras and…Woods

Roger Federer won his 14th career major championship at the 2009 French Open, which not only tied him with one Pete Sampras, but another “rival” in professional sports, Tiger Woods. Ironically, on the same day that Federer won at Roland Garros, Woods won his 67th career PGA Tour event at The Memorial as he heads into the home stretch to try and win his 15th career major golf title at the US Open at Bethpage Black in New York. The following excerpt from the book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION by Rene Stauffer (www.RogerFedererBook.com, $24.95, New Chapter Press) details Federer’s relationship with both Sampras and Woods.

When Tiger Woods achieved the “Tiger Slam” in 2000 and 2001-winning all four of golf’s major championships in a row-Roger Federer was not yet 20 years old. The way that Woods dominated golf and reignited interest in the sport certainly caught the attention of the young Federer. However, he never thought that he would ever be compared to someone as dominant as Woods. “His story is completely different from mine,” he said in the spring of 2006. “Even as a kid his goal was to break the record for winning the most majors. I was just dreaming of just once meeting Boris Becker or being able to play at Wimbledon some time.”

Despite their different developments and the differences between their sports, the commonalities between Woods and Federer became unmistakable through the years. Like the four-time Masters champion, Federer is in full pursuit of sports history. While Woods is pursuing Jack Nicklaus and his 18 major championships, Federer is chasing Pete Sampras and his 14 Grand Slam singles titles. Both Woods and Federer are amazing because of their mental resilience, which is evident from the fact that they manage to make the most terrific shots under the greatest of difficulties.

Unlike his parents, Roger Federer is not a passionate golfer, but he follows Woods’ career with great interest. “It would be interesting to meet him and to see what he’s like in person,” Federer said in Key Biscayne in 2006.

Both Federer and Woods are clients of the International Management Group (IMG) and Federer’s agent, Tony Godsick, is friends with Mark Steinberg, the agent of Woods. In the summer of 2006, Federer asked Godsick if he could arrange a meeting with Woods. “The next thing I heard was that Woods would be delighted to come to the US Open final,” Federer recollected. “At that time the tournament hadn’t even started. I would have preferred meeting him in a more relaxed atmosphere than on the day of the US Open final-and I still had to get there first.”

The public had no idea that a spectacular meeting was in the making behind the scenes at the US Open. After Federer defeated the Russian Nikolay Davydenko in the semifinals, he was informed that Woods was going to make good on his promise. He flew to New York from Florida on his private jet with his wife, Elin, to watch the US Open final in person. To everyone’s surprise, Woods took a seat in Federer’s guest box-which was quite noteworthy given the fact that Federer faced an American, Andy Roddick, in the final. “The fact that Tiger was sitting there put me under extra pressure,” Federer later admitted. “It was just like when I was younger when my parents or Marc Rosset watched me play in person. You want to play especially well.”

Woods’ timing was perfect. He watched and cheered as Federer won his third straight US Open title, defeating the resurgent Roddick 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. For the third year in a row, Federer won both Wimbledon and the US Open-a record that he didn’t have to share with anyone.

While Federer briefly met Woods before the final, the two spent well over an hour together in the locker room following the match, drinking Champagne and gazing at the US Open trophy that Federer just won. Woods even talked on the phone to Federer’s parents who were at home in bed as it was nearly three in the morning in Switzerland.

“I was impressed by how much we had in common,” Federer explained when Woods was on his way back to Florida. “He knew exactly what I was going through and I see what he has to go through. I’ve never spoken with anybody who was so familiar with the feeling of being invincible.”

“It was terrific for me to see him go into my player’s box, shake his fist, and enjoy himself,” he recollected a few weeks later. “He was the loudest one in my box. I was surprised how loose he was about it. He was happy as a kid to be able to watch the final. I think we’ll do things together more often.”

The appearance of Woods at the 2006 US Open final sparked more comparisons-and debates-between the two “athletes of the century” as to who was greater and more dominant. With all due respect to Woods, James Blake came out in favor of Federer. “In tennis, it’s a tournament where you have one bad day and you’re out,” said Blake. “That’s what we do every single week. Roger is winning every Grand Slam except for the French, winning every Masters Series tournament. That means he can’t have one bad day-that’s incredible. Not to mention he has to be out here for four hours running as opposed to walking while carrying one club-again not taking anything away from golf. Tiger’s proven himself every Sunday every time he has a lead. But look at Roger’s record in Grand Slam finals, too. In Grand Slam finals, he’s 8-1. That’s unheard of.”

The Woods camp and golf fans pointed out that the American, in contrast to Federer, already won all four major tournaments in his sport and instead of only having to defeat seven opponents at the biggest tournaments, Woods had to fight off around 150 contenders. Tennis aficionados emphasized that Grand Slam tournaments lasted two weeks and not just four days and that in tennis, having an off day is enough to get knocked out whereas in golf, players could always save the day in such a situation.

Still others highlighted the commonalities between the two. “Despite their total dominance, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer show a modest self-discipline that would have impressed the most chivalrous medieval knight,” The Daily Telegraph of Britain wrote. The Calgary Sun stated unequivocally which of the two super athletes it favored-”(Federer) is infinitely more human than Tiger Woods, more precise, more likable, more honest, less robotic, seemingly enjoying his place as a tennis player for the ages.” The Daily News of Los Angeles, by contrast, questioned all of these comparisons. “You say the Swiss dude is definitely the greatest tennis player of all time? Good, then we can switch back to the Bengals-Chiefs. Equating Roger Federer to Tiger Woods isn’t a backhanded compliment, it’s a forehanded insult. An athlete of Federer’s all-around refinement deserves better than to be defined in terms of another athlete.”

After his US Open victory, Federer returned home to Switzerland when he received a surprise phone call. Pete Sampras, whose legacy and records were now one of Federer’s biggest rivals, called to offer congratulations. “He had already text messaged me three days ago and now he was calling me to congratulate me personally,” said Federer shortly after the US Open. “He asked if I had gotten the message. I said I was just about to reply. It was almost embarrassing. Perhaps I should have replied quicker.” Sampras told Federer how much he liked to watch him play and emphasized that he now was more clearly dominant than he was during his prime. “To hear something like this from him was incredible,” Federer said. “It’s never happened to me before that my earlier idol called me to compliment me.”

Sampras and Federer continued their text message relationship, with Sampras offering more good wishes over the following few months. Before the tournament in Indian Wells in March of 2007, Federer then took the initiative and called Sampras, who meanwhile announced he was returning to competitive tennis on the Champions circuit run by his contemporary Jim Courier. Federer asked Sampras if he would like to hit some balls and train together. “I wanted to see how well he could still play because, after all, he was one of my favorite players growing up,” Federer explained. With a wink in his eye and devilish grin, he then said, “beating him in his backyard in Wimbledon was so special to me, so I wanted to try and beat him in his house.”

Federer and Sampras only played once during their careers-the memorable round of 16 match at Wimbledon in 2001. Late in Pete’s career, the two had one brief practice session together in Hamburg. “It started to rain,” Federer recollected. “I was so disappointed, but he was happy to get off.”

After their training session together in Los Angeles in the spring of 2007, Federer expressed his surprise at how well Sampras could still keep up during their practice session. “We played some great sets and tie-breaks. I’m glad to see that he’s actually still enjoying tennis.” The scores of these practice matches? “They’re secret,” Federer said. “Surprisingly, he was very good, but not good enough to beat me!”

Federer found that he and Sampras shared many commonalities and could talk in great detail of their respective lives and pressures on the tour, as well as common experiences, experiences at particular tournaments and even about players who they both played against. With Woods, this was not the case. “Pete and I played the same tournaments and even played against the same opponents,” Federer said. “I have much more in common with Pete than I have with Tiger off court.”

“When I was new on the tour, I hardly ever spoke to Pete,” he continued. “First of all, he was never around at the courts, and when he would come into the locker room, everything was quiet because he was respected so much by all the other players.” Several years later, Federer finally got a chance to find out what made Sampras so unique and what brought him so close to perfection.

Brits Play Historic Match, Big Day For McEnroes

Tennis history was made – well, sort of – last week when British players Chris Eaton and James Ward played in the longest recorded match of all time. Eaton and Ward battled for 6 hours, 43 minutes in a play-off challenge match set up by the Lawn Tennis Association and British Davis Cup captain John Lloyd to determine who would represent Great Britain against Ukraine in this week’s Davis Cup Euro-African Zone Group One match. Eaton, ranked No. 390 in the world, won the epic match 6-3, 6-2, 6-7, 2-6, 21-19 indoors at the LTA’s Roehampton headquarters. Since the match is not an officially “sanctioned” match, one cannot really classify this as the longest of all time.

The Eaton-Ward match lasted 10 minutes longer than Fabrice Santoro’s 6 hour, 33 minute win over fellow Frenchman Arnaud Clement in the first round of the 2004 French Open. The official time of the Eaton-Ward match was confirmed by Michael Morrissey of the Lawn Tennis Association. Morrissey, in an email to me, reported that the match began at 10:47 am and finished at 5:30 pm. Eaton was actually not named to the initial four-man British team (Andy Murray, Ross Hutchins, Josh Goodall and Ward getting the nod), but will travel to Glasgow with the team and could be added to the team since Murray pulled out of the series due to a virus. The 21-year-old Eaton made his debut at Wimbledon last year by advancing through qualifying and then beating Serbia’s Boris Pashanski in the first round, earning him headlines around Britain.

Meanwhile in New York, nearly a foot of snow fell Monday as the BNP Paribas Showdown tennis exhibition at Madison Square Garden featuring Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic took place. The snowy conditions harkened back memories of another snowy night in Manhattan with big time tennis being held at The Garden, when on December 26, 1947, Jack Kramer and Bobby Riggs entertained 15,114 fans who braved a blizzard in 1947 to watch Kramer in his pro debut. The following is the excerpt from my book “On This Day In Tennis History” ($19.95, www.tennishistorybook.com) that details that 1947 event.

December 26, 1947 – Jack Kramer makes his pro debut at Madison Square Garden against Bobby Riggs as a blizzard hits New York. With taxis, buses, commuter trains and private cars stalled and subways limping, 15,114 fans come to the arena on Eighth Avenue and 50th street. Riggs spoils the debut of Kramer, winning 6-2, 10-8, 4-6, 6-4. Writes Lincoln Werden of the New York Times, “The former amateur king pin piled up error after error throughout and indications that he lacked complete poise and control brought an occasional reassuring cry from the fans ‘Come On Jackie.’”

Today, March 3, is a big day for the McEnroe family as the following additional excerpt from “On This Day In Tennis History” details;

March 3

1991 – Brothers John and Patrick McEnroe play in the singles final of the Volvo Championships in Chicago, with No. 19th-ranked John defeating younger brother and No. 51-ranked Patrick 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 to win his 77th and what would be his final ATP singles title. Says the 32-year-old John following the match, “I have incredibly mixed emotions right now…every emotion you can imagine was there, from worrying how he’s doing, to worrying that he might beat you.” The final was the third ATP men’s singles final involving brothers. Gene Mayer beat Sandy Mayer at Stockholm in 1981 and Emilio Sanchez beat Javier Sanchez at Madrid in 1987.

1980 – John McEnroe becomes the No. 1 ranked player in the world for the first time, unseating Bjorn Borg. In all, McEnroe ranks No. 1 in the world in singles for a total of 170 weeks during his career.

2007 – Roger Federer wins his 41st straight match, tying Bjorn Borg for the fourth-longest streak in the history of men’s tennis, defeating Mikhail Youzhny of Russia 6-4, 6-3 to win the Dubai Open for a fourth time. “It’s nice to be playing against the history books,” Federer says after the match. “I never thought I would ever do such a thing.”

1993 – Taking a 23-minute commute via private jet from his home in Las Vegas to Indian Wells, Calif., Andre Agassi is defeated in the second round of the Newsweek Champion Cup by reigning Olympic champion Marc Rosset 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4.

1992 – Michael Chang comes back from 1-5 down in the third set to defeat Martin Jaite of Argentina 0-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3) in the first round of the Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells, Calif.

2007 – Belgium’s Justine Henin defeats Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 6-2 to win the Qatar Open in Doha. Henin’s win completes a “Gulf Double” – also winning the title in the Persian Gulf city of Dubai the week earlier. Says Kuznetsova on losing her 14th match in 15 meetings with Henin, “Maybe I have a mental block when I play Justine. She is just too tough mentally and I need to learn this from her.”

2008 – World No. 1 Roger Federer is dismissed in the first round of the Dubai Open in the United Arab Emirates, losing to Great Britain’s Andy Murray 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-4. Murray, who beat Federer in the first round of Cincinnati in 2006, moves to a 2-1 record in three career meetings with the world No. 1. Murray does not face a break point during the match.

1935 – Mal Anderson, one of the most underrated Australian tennis championships who won the 1957 U.S. men’s singles title as an unseeded player, is born in Burnside, Australia. Anderson was also an Australian and U.S. singles finalist in 1958 and helped Australia win the Davis Cup in 1957. After turning professional in 1959, Anderson re-emerged on the top of the tennis scene after in advent of the Open era and reached the Australian singles final again in 1972. A year later, at age 38, he won the Australian doubles and joined forces with Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and John Newcombe to bring the Davis Cup back to Australia.

Roger Federer as a 15-year-old

The following is the Prologue for the book “THE ROGER FEDERER STORY, QUEST FOR PERFECTION” ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.rogerfedererbook.com) written by Swiss tennis journalist Rene Stauffer, which documents Stauffer’s “Encounter with a 15-year-old” who would go on to become who many consider the greatest tennis player of all-time. THE ROGER FEDERER STORY, QUEST FOR PERFECTION makes for an ideal gift for the Holidays. To order the book, go to www.tennistomes.com.

It was September 11, 1996. I was on assignment for the Tages-Anzeiger and was supposed to write a story about the World Youth Cup, a sort of Davis Cup for juniors that was being played in Zurich, the location of our editorial office. I was skeptical. A story about a team tournament involving obscure 15 and 16-year-old tennis players-who would be interested in that? I viewed this assignment as a tiresome task, thanks to the Swiss Tennis Federation since they had charitably taken on the tournament for its 100-year anniversary. No, this certainly would not be an interesting assignment.

On this day, I met Roger Federer for the first time. He played on a far away court surrounded by wire mesh at a tennis and recreation facility called Guggach. Officials from the Swiss Tennis Federation told me that Federer was a pretty good player and that there was little to criticize except that he was sometimes very temperamental. He just turned 15 and was actually too young for this tournament, but his credentials were impressive-he had already won five Swiss national junior championship titles, was the best Swiss player in the 16-and-under age bracket and was already ranked No. 88 nationally.

On this day, he played against an Italian named Nohuel Fracassi, who since this encounter with Federer, I never heard from again. Fracassi was more than a year older, bigger and stronger than Federer and he had already won the first set when I arrived. The mood was reminiscent of an insignificant club tournament. There were three or four spectators, a referee and no ball boys. The players fetched the balls themselves. However, I was instantly fascinated by Federer’s elegant style. I had already seen some players come and go in my fifteen years as a tennis journalist but it appeared to me that an extraordinary talent was coming of age here in front of me. He effortlessly put spins on balls so that the Italian-even on this slow clay court-would often just watch the ball fly past him for winners. With hardly a sound, he stroked winning shots from his black racquet, moved fast and gracefully. His strokes were harmonious and technically brilliant.

His tactics were also quite unusual. There were no similarities to the safe and consistent “Swedish School” of baseline tennis that was very common back then and usually resulted in promised success on clay courts. Federer would have nothing of that. He looked to end points quickly at every opportunity. He appeared to have mastered every stroke, which was quite unusual for juniors in his age group. He dominated with his serve and his forehand, but his powerful one-handed backhand and the occasional volley also looked like something taken from a tennis textbook.

Roger Federer was a diamond in the rough, no doubt. I was astonished and wondered why nobody had yet seen him or written about him. Was it perhaps because the media had so often prematurely written in superlatives about talented young players only to discover later that they did not measure up to the task of international tennis? Not every Swiss tennis player could be a new Heinz Günthardt, Jakob Hlasek or a Marc Rosset, perhaps the three best Swiss men’s players ever. Perhaps because hardly anybody was scouting for new talent in Switzerland since our little country was already over-proportionately well-represented in professional tennis with Rosset, the 1992 Olympic champion, and the up-and-coming 15-year-old Martina Hingis, already a Wimbledon doubles champion and a semifinalist in singles at the US Open.

But perhaps the reason was also that Federer’s athletic maturity stood in stark contrast to his behavior. He was a hot-head. On this September afternoon, his temper exploded even from the smallest mistakes. On several occasions, he threw his racquet across the court in anger and disgust. He constantly berated himself. “Duubel!” or “Idiot!” he exclaimed when one of his balls narrowly missed the line. He sometimes even criticized himself aloud when he actually won points but was dissatisfied with his stroke.

He didn’t seem to notice what was going on around him. It was only him, the ball, the racquet-and his fuming temper-nothing else. Being so high-strung, he had to fight more with himself than with his opponent across the net this day. This dual struggle pushed him to the limit and I assumed he would lose despite his technical superiority. I was wrong. Federer won the match 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.

I found out later that Federer already won a hard-fought, three-set match the day before against a tenacious young Australian player by the name of Lleyton Hewitt, with Federer fighting off a match point to win by a 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 margin. This Federer-Hewitt match occurred in front of a crowd of 30 people who purchased tickets for the day-plus the four people who bought a tournament series ticket for all sessions. Nobody could have known that these two players would become two of the greatest players-both earning the No. 1 ranking and going on to compete on the greatest stages of the sport in packed

stadiums and in front of millions of television viewers around the world.

I wanted to know more about Federer and asked him for an interview. He surprised me once again as he sat across from me at a wooden table in the gym locker room. I feared that the young man would be reserved and taciturn in the presence of an unfamiliar reporter from a national newspaper and he would hardly be able to say anything useful or quotable. But this was not the case. Federer spoke flowingly and confidently with a mischievous smile. He explained that his idol was Pete Sampras and that he had been training for a year at the Swiss National Tennis Center at Ecublens on Lake Geneva. He

also said that he probably was among the 30 or 40 best in his age class in the world and that he wanted to become a top professional but still had to improve his game-and his attitude.

“I know that I can’t always complain and shout because that hurts me and makes me play worse,” he said. “I hardly forgive myself on any mistakes although they’re normal.” He looked in the distance and said almost to himself-”One should just be able to play a perfect game.”

Playing a perfect game-that’s what motivated him. He didn’t want to just defeat opponents and win trophies, even if he liked the idea of becoming rich and famous or both, as he admitted. For him, instinctively, the journey was the reward and the journey involved hitting and placing balls with his racquet as perfectly as possible. He seemed to be obsessed with this, which would explain why he could become frustrated even after winning points. He didn’t want to dominate his opponent in this rectangle with the net that fascinated him-he wanted to dominate the ball that he both hated and loved.

Federer had great expectations-too many at that time that he would have been able to achieve them. His emotions carried him away in this conflict between expectations and reality. He seemed to sense his great potential and that he was capable of doing great things-but he was not yet able to transform his talents into reality.

His unusual attitude towards perfection had a positive side effect in that he did not consider his opponents as rivals who wanted to rob the butter from his bread, as the sometimes reclusive Jimmy Connors used to say. His opponents were more companions on a common path. This attitude made him a popular and well-liked person in the locker room. He was social and someone you could joke around with. For Federer, tennis was not an individual sport with opponents who needed to be intimidated, but a common leisure activity with like-minded colleagues who, as part of a big team, were pursuing the same goal.

He became terribly annoyed at his own mistakes but he had the capacity to question things, to observe things from a distance and to put them in the correct perspective after his emotions had abated. He was also willing to admit weaknesses. “I don’t like to train and I also always play badly in training,” he casually observed during this interview. “I’m twice as good in the matches.”

This sentence surprised me as well. While many players choked under pressure, he apparently maintained a winning mentality. This strength that abounded in the most important matches and game situations really drove many opponents to distraction and enabled Federer to escape from apparently hopeless situations. It also helped Federer establish one of the most unbelievable records in sports history-24 consecutive victories in professional singles finals between July of 2003 and November of 2005-double the record held by John McEnroe and Björn Borg.

Federer’s triumphs at this World Youth Cup were in vain. The Swiss team, lacking a strong second singles player and an experienced doubles team, finished the tournament in defeat in 15th place. Roger Federer won but the Swiss lost-a scenario that was to repeat itself many times over years later at the actual Davis Cup. The hot-head nonetheless received a compliment from the coach of the Australian team at the World Youth Cup, Darren Cahill, the former US Open semifinalist, who was in charge of Lleyton Hewitt at the time. “He’s got everything he needs to succeed on tour later,” said Cahill.

I was able to return to the office with enough material for a nice story. It was to be my first about Roger Federer-but it would not be the last. The story’s title was “One Should Be Able To Play A Perfect Game.”

On This Day In Tennis History Is Latest Book Release From New Chapter Press

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 yearswritten 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

Olympic Gold, Experiences for Federer

Roger Federer is an Olympic gold medalist. While not the singles gold he aspired to, he does leave the Beijing Games with the top Olympic prize in doubles with Stan Wawrinka – the Swiss men defeating Simon Aspelin and Tom Johannson of Sweden 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3 in the gold medal match in men’s doubles. Why do the Olympics mean so much to Federer? Says the five-time Wimbledon champion, “This is the biggest sporting event in the world and you feel special to be in something so important.” Perhaps it was a great run and wonderful experience he had in his debut Olympics in 2000 in Sydney, where he fell one match shy of a medal and kindled his romance with girlfriend Mirka Vavrinek, who was a member of the Swiss women’s team. The following is an excerpt from the book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY, QUEST FOR PERFECTION (New Chapter Press, $24.95, www.rogerfedererbook.com) by Rene Stauffer that outlines Roger’s “Olympic Experiences” from the 2000 Games in Sydney.

Olympic Experiences

The Swiss Olympic tennis team was in shatters at the start of the Sydney Games. Martina Hingis and Patty Schnyder both withdrew from the women’s competition at the last minute. Marc Rosset, the 1992 Olympic champion, was also a late withdrawal, costing Federer an opportunity to play Olympic doubles. The Swiss Olympic Committee was furious. Tennis players were depicted as pampered and spoiled athletes who didn’t appreciate the true value of the Olympic Games.

The Swiss tennis team shared living quarters, socialized and dined with fellow Olympians from the Swiss archery, judo and wrestling teams in the Olympic Village, where Federer had the privilege of occupying a single room. “That was the best event I ever attended,” Federer said years later as he em­bellished his long-time fascination of the Olympic Games. The contrast to the monotony of life in the hotels could hardly be bigger. The Opening Ceremonies, the interaction with athletes from other sports, the atmosphere in the Olympic Village and the feeling of belonging also made an impression on Mirka Vavrinec, a member of Switzerland’s women’s Olympic tennis team. “The Olympics are fantastic, unbelievably beautiful, unparalleled,” Vavrinec gushed of the Olympic experience courtside following a practice session. She also had nice things to say about Federer, the youthful star of the Swiss team, who was three years her junior-”I had no idea he was so funny.”

Mirka was born an only child in Bojnice, in the Slovakian part of Czechoslovakia in 1978. Her parents fled the Communist country with her when she was two-years-old to make a new life for themselves in the Swiss border city of Kreuzlingen on Lake Constance. Her father, Miroslav, a former javelin thrower, and his wife, Drahomira, ran a jewelry shop. In the fall of 1987, when Mirka was nine, Miroslav took his family to nearby Filderstadt, Germany where Martina Navratilova happened to be competing in a WTA Tour event.

The Czech-born Navratilova dominated women’s tennis and, like the Vavrinecs, defected from Czechoslovakia. When in Filderstadt, she warmly greeted the Vavrinec family. “We got to stay a few days with her,” Mirka said of the trip. Navratilova asked her if she played tennis. Mirka said no, “I do bal­let.” The eight-time Wimbledon champion (she would go on to win her ninth title in 1990) advised her to try tennis. She said that Mirka’s good physique and athletic talent would serve her well on the tennis courts. Navratilova put out feelers and asked the former top Czech player living in Switzerland, Jiri Granat, if he could test and coach the girl.

Navratilova’s instincts were correct. Mirka immediately showcased great skills with a tennis racquet. But not only that, she also had grit and endur­ance. Tennis instructor Murat Gürler, who tutored her in her early years, recalled that she was “completely into it” when it came to tennis. Mirka told the Swiss tennis magazine Smash in 1994, after winning the Swiss juniors’ title for 18-year-olds at the age of 15, “Tennis is my life, but it certainly can’t be easy to work with me because I can be really stubborn.”

Her ambition and her uncompromising nature were tremendous. In 1993, following a tournament in the city of Maribor in Slovenia, she convinced her coach to take her to a tournament in Croatia. The trip required travel through a part of Croatia where there was still fighting in the Balkan civil war. The two passed through destroyed villages, tanks and burned cars. She was afraid, but her ambition was greater.

Mirka ranked among the top 300 in the world by the time she was 17. A protracted heel injury in 1996 kept her off the circuit for months, causing her ranking to fall over 300 places. She valiantly fought back to No. 262 in the rankings by the end of 1997 and looked euphorically to the future. “I really want to place in the top 30 in the world rankings,” she said.

Mirka meanwhile obtained a Swiss passport. The only connections she still had to her native land were a few relatives still living in Slovakia as well as the con­fused mix of German and Slovakian spoken at home. She maintained loose ties to Navratilova and was fortunate to find a patron, the Swiss industrialist Walter Ruf, who helped her to survive financially on the women’s tennis circuit.

Thanks to her ambition and her endurance-as well as to her backhand that some even considered the best in the world-Mirka cracked the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time in 2000. She luckily received a wild­card entry to play at the Olympic Games in Sydney, even though her ranking did not qualify her to play.

While Mirka won only two games in her first-round match against even­tual silver medalist Elena Dementieva of Russia, Federer began to rack up victory after victory. Benefiting from an Olympic men’s field without Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, and upset losses by US Open champion Marat Safin, Tim Henman and Michael Chang in his half of the draw, Federer won four straight matches and found himself in the semifinals. It was his best result of his career to date and surprisingly, it came at an outdoor event

At age 19, Federer was in position to become the youngest Olympic gold medalist in modern tennis. However, he played cautiously against the German Tommy Haas, ranked No. 48 (12 places behind Federer) in the semifinals and decisively lost. He did, however, still have a chance to win the bronze med­al, but instead of registering a lifetime achievement of winning an Olympic medal, Federer suffered one of his greatest disappointments, losing to Arnaud DiPasquale of France, ranked No. 61 in the world. Despite being up 3-0 in the first-set tie-break, Federer lost seven of the next nine points to lose the tie-break 7-5. In the second set, Federer fought off a match point in the tie-break at 6-7 and won the tie-break two points later. Federer broke DiPasquale, who began suffering from cramps, to take a 2-1 lead in the final set, but the Frenchmen rallied to win the two-and-half-hour match 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7), 6-3.

“Considering how the match was going, I should never have lost,” Federer said, hardly able to hold back the tears. “I really wanted to be standing on the podium. Now I have nothing to take home except my pride.”

But Federer, who had recently said “I would choose tennis over a girl­friend” would leave Sydney with more than his pride. His friendship with Mirka blossomed into romance. Mirka said at first she wasn’t aware that he had taken a romantic interest in her. “He didn’t kiss me until the last day of the Olympic Games,” she admitted.

They parted ways for now. She followed the women’s tour to Japan and then to Europe. However, the relationship became more intense over the next few months. The public still had to wait a long time until stories and official pictures of the new “dream couple” surfaced. When a newspaper disregarded Federer’s request to please keep his new relationship under wraps, he reacted angrily. “I don’t think that this has to come out in public,” he complained. “I spoke with my girlfriend and she didn’t want this exposed either, because then we would both just have to talk about our relationship and not about our tennis anymore.”

Mirka’s career, however, didn’t work out as hoped. She managed to reach the third round of a Grand Slam tournament at the 2001 US Open, losing to future world No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne, but the price she had to pay for her victories was high. Like her Swiss colleague, Martina Hingis, Mirka encountered problems with her feet-despite several operations and rest. Her career-high ranking was achieved on Sept. 10, 2001 when she ranked No. 76 in the world, but a torn ligament in her right foot prevented her from further improving and forced her into a hiatus that lasted for months.

The 2001 US Open was her last great success on the tennis tour-with the exception of the Hopman Cup in Perth in January of 2002 where she was able to celebrate a victory over Argentina alongside her boyfriend. Shortly afterwards, at the age of 24, she played her last match on the WTA Tour in Budapest. She was forced to have another operation and was once again on crutches. It was still quite some time until she finally realized that her career was really finished. Her record as a professional concluded with 202 victories and 159 defeats-including the lower-level challenger and satellite events-with overall earnings of $260,832.

The abrupt and premature end of her career cast her into a depression. “It’s not easy when you do something you like your entire life and then have to quit it from one day to the next,” she said later in an interview at Wimbledon. “I fell into a deep hole. The most difficult part was when I was home for eight months and couldn’t do anything. I had a lot of time to think and watch ten­nis on television. Roger was my greatest support back then. He gave my tennis life back to me. When he wins, it’s as if I win as well.”

Why do the Olympics mean so much to Roger Federer?

Why do the Olympics mean so much to Roger Federer? Perhaps it was a great run and wonderful experience he had in his debut Olympics in 2000 in Sydney. The following is an excerpt from the book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY, QUEST FOR PERFECTION (New Chapter Press, $24.95, www.rogerfedererbook.com) that outlines Roger’s “Olympic Experiences” from the 2000 Games in Sydney.

Olympic Experiences

The Swiss Olympic tennis team was in shatters at the start of the Sydney Games. Martina Hingis and Patty Schnyder both withdrew from the women’s competition at the last minute. Marc Rosset, the 1992 Olympic champion, was also a late withdrawal, costing Federer an opportunity to play Olympic doubles. The Swiss Olympic Committee was furious. Tennis players were depicted as pampered and spoiled athletes who didn’t appreciate the true value of the Olympic Games.

The Swiss tennis team shared living quarters, socialized and dined with fellow Olympians from the Swiss archery, judo and wrestling teams in the Olympic Village, where Federer had the privilege of occupying a single room. “That was the best event I ever attended,” Federer said years later as he em­bellished his long-time fascination of the Olympic Games. The contrast to the monotony of life in the hotels could hardly be bigger. The Opening Ceremonies, the interaction with athletes from other sports, the atmosphere in the Olympic Village and the feeling of belonging also made an impression on Mirka Vavrinec, a member of Switzerland’s women’s Olympic tennis team. “The Olympics are fantastic, unbelievably beautiful, unparalleled,” Vavrinec gushed of the Olympic experience courtside following a practice session. She also had nice things to say about Federer, the youthful star of the Swiss team, who was three years her junior-”I had no idea he was so funny.”

Mirka was born an only child in Bojnice, in the Slovakian part of Czechoslovakia in 1978. Her parents fled the Communist country with her when she was two-years-old to make a new life for themselves in the Swiss border city of Kreuzlingen on Lake Constance. Her father, Miroslav, a former javelin thrower, and his wife, Drahomira, ran a jewelry shop. In the fall of 1987, when Mirka was nine, Miroslav took his family to nearby Filderstadt, Germany where Martina Navratilova happened to be competing in a WTA Tour event.

The Czech-born Navratilova dominated women’s tennis and, like the Vavrinecs, defected from Czechoslovakia. When in Filderstadt, she warmly greeted the Vavrinec family. “We got to stay a few days with her,” Mirka said of the trip. Navratilova asked her if she played tennis. Mirka said no, “I do bal­let.” The eight-time Wimbledon champion (she would go on to win her ninth title in 1990) advised her to try tennis. She said that Mirka’s good physique and athletic talent would serve her well on the tennis courts. Navratilova put out feelers and asked the former top Czech player living in Switzerland, Jiri Granat, if he could test and coach the girl.

Navratilova’s instincts were correct. Mirka immediately showcased great skills with a tennis racquet. But not only that, she also had grit and endur­ance. Tennis instructor Murat Gürler, who tutored her in her early years, recalled that she was “completely into it” when it came to tennis. Mirka told the Swiss tennis magazine Smash in 1994, after winning the Swiss juniors’ title for 18-year-olds at the age of 15, “Tennis is my life, but it certainly can’t be easy to work with me because I can be really stubborn.”

Her ambition and her uncompromising nature were tremendous. In 1993, following a tournament in the city of Maribor in Slovenia, she convinced her coach to take her to a tournament in Croatia. The trip required travel through a part of Croatia where there was still fighting in the Balkan civil war. The two passed through destroyed villages, tanks and burned cars. She was afraid, but her ambition was greater.

Mirka ranked among the top 300 in the world by the time she was 17. A protracted heel injury in 1996 kept her off the circuit for months, causing her ranking to fall over 300 places. She valiantly fought back to No. 262 in the rankings by the end of 1997 and looked euphorically to the future. “I really want to place in the top 30 in the world rankings,” she said.

Mirka meanwhile obtained a Swiss passport. The only connections she still had to her native land were a few relatives still living in Slovakia as well as the con­fused mix of German and Slovakian spoken at home. She maintained loose ties to Navratilova and was fortunate to find a patron, the Swiss industrialist Walter Ruf, who helped her to survive financially on the women’s tennis circuit.

Thanks to her ambition and her endurance-as well as to her backhand that some even considered the best in the world-Mirka cracked the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time in 2000. She luckily received a wild­card entry to play at the Olympic Games in Sydney, even though her ranking did not qualify her to play.

While Mirka won only two games in her first-round match against even­tual silver medalist Elena Dementieva of Russia, Federer began to rack up victory after victory. Benefiting from an Olympic men’s field without Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, and upset losses by US Open champion Marat Safin, Tim Henman and Michael Chang in his half of the draw, Federer won four straight matches and found himself in the semifinals. It was his best result of his career to date and surprisingly, it came at an outdoor event

At age 19, Federer was in position to become the youngest Olympic gold medalist in modern tennis. However, he played cautiously against the German Tommy Haas, ranked No. 48 (12 places behind Federer) in the semifinals and decisively lost. He did, however, still have a chance to win the bronze med­al, but instead of registering a lifetime achievement of winning an Olympic medal, Federer suffered one of his greatest disappointments, losing to Arnaud DiPasquale of France, ranked No. 61 in the world. Despite being up 3-0 in the first-set tie-break, Federer lost seven of the next nine points to lose the tie-break 7-5. In the second set, Federer fought off a match point in the tie-break at 6-7 and won the tie-break two points later. Federer broke DiPasquale, who began suffering from cramps, to take a 2-1 lead in the final set, but the Frenchmen rallied to win the two-and-half-hour match 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7), 6-3.

“Considering how the match was going, I should never have lost,” Federer said, hardly able to hold back the tears. “I really wanted to be standing on the podium. Now I have nothing to take home except my pride.”

But Federer, who had recently said “I would choose tennis over a girl­friend” would leave Sydney with more than his pride. His friendship with Mirka blossomed into romance. Mirka said at first she wasn’t aware that he had taken a romantic interest in her. “He didn’t kiss me until the last day of the Olympic Games,” she admitted.

They parted ways for now. She followed the women’s tour to Japan and then to Europe. However, the relationship became more intense over the next few months. The public still had to wait a long time until stories and official pictures of the new “dream couple” surfaced. When a newspaper disregarded Federer’s request to please keep his new relationship under wraps, he reacted angrily. “I don’t think that this has to come out in public,” he complained. “I spoke with my girlfriend and she didn’t want this exposed either, because then we would both just have to talk about our relationship and not about our tennis anymore.”

Mirka’s career, however, didn’t work out as hoped. She managed to reach the third round of a Grand Slam tournament at the 2001 US Open, losing to future world No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne, but the price she had to pay for her victories was high. Like her Swiss colleague, Martina Hingis, Mirka encountered problems with her feet-despite several operations and rest. Her career-high ranking was achieved on Sept. 10, 2001 when she ranked No. 76 in the world, but a torn ligament in her right foot prevented her from further improving and forced her into a hiatus that lasted for months.

The 2001 US Open was her last great success on the tennis tour-with the exception of the Hopman Cup in Perth in January of 2002 where she was able to celebrate a victory over Argentina alongside her boyfriend. Shortly afterwards, at the age of 24, she played her last match on the WTA Tour in Budapest. She was forced to have another operation and was once again on crutches. It was still quite some time until she finally realized that her career was really finished. Her record as a professional concluded with 202 victories and 159 defeats-including the lower-level challenger and satellite events-with overall earnings of $260,832.

The abrupt and premature end of her career cast her into a depression. “It’s not easy when you do something you like your entire life and then have to quit it from one day to the next,” she said later in an interview at Wimbledon. “I fell into a deep hole. The most difficult part was when I was home for eight months and couldn’t do anything. I had a lot of time to think and watch ten­nis on television. Roger was my greatest support back then. He gave my tennis life back to me. When he wins, it’s as if I win as well.”