Roger Federer is a tennis legend who says he owes a great deal of his success to becoming a father.
20-time Grand Slam winner, who announced his retirement Earlier this month, he was the father of twin girls Mila and Charlene, 13, as well as twin brothers Lenny and Leo, 8, with wife Mirka.
He says being a parent marked a shift in his approach, especially when his daughters arrived when he got cold feet when it came to winning major tournaments.
“I have twin girls, you know, Mila and Charlene. They were born in 2009, right after I became, I think was No. 1 in the world,” he told Savannah Guthrie in an exclusive interview on September 21.
“Girls were born and from that moment on, 2010 and 2011, I didn’t win any championships. I remember changing diapers and bathing girls and just being a dad. But then when the boys were born, I mean, that rocked the boat, obviously, because going down the road with four kids all It was a tough week, to say the least. And maybe from being dominant I became the challenger. And I loved that role too. In fact, I stayed hungry the whole time.”
When Savannah suggested that not all athletes insist they take their families on the road with them, Federer said it was a no-brainer.
“Oh, that was the only way,” he said. “I said, ‘I’d never go out on the road without my kids. “After that I would prefer to retire. Then I had to retire 10 years ago.”
Federer would leave professional tennis as one of the game’s most dynamic players, but he had to grow into the role, giving his parents credit for his upbringing, while also allowing him to mature.
“I think they had a good balance,” he said, “and I must have loved the game too.” “They didn’t like it when they went on the weekends for tennis tournaments and I was acting like a brat on the court and screaming and screaming and hanging and throwing rackets and being unprofessional and not getting my drinks ready or whatever.”
“My generation of friends, we were all the same. We were all crazy crazy at the time,” he added.
Federer’s decision to retire will also put an end to his competition with other greats on the court, including Rafael Nadal. This rivalry eventually gave way to admiration and friendship, which Federer credits with respect for each other and their families.
“I think both families respect each other very much, my parents and his parents,” Federer said. “Both teams, yes, it did intensify and the atmosphere was intense at certain moments. Of course, you get a little nervous sometimes with each other, but I think, in general, always Rafa and I, we’ve always been able to maintain our composure throughout.”
Federer, who cut his teeth as a professional playing the likes of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi and is expected to play one last time in the Laver Cup in London from September 23, says he hopes to play the match with pride.
“I feel like we’ve pushed tennis in the right direction,” he said. “And I think I did it my way. I’ve always been true to myself and to people always, it seems, I loved watching me play, which I think is the absolute compliment.”