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Renaissance Man

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Federer© Getty ImagesFive-time Barclays ATP World Tour Finals champion Roger Federer is not just the Man with the Golden Racquet, but also the Man with the Golden Touch.

Defending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals champion Roger Federer often makes success look easy, embracing and excelling in his roles as player, family man, philanthropist, ambassador and global celebrity.

Earlier this year a major poll was carried out to discover which global celebrities were most respected, admired and trusted. Unsurprisingly, it was Nelson Mandela who topped the list. But guess who was in second place? It wasn’t anyone from politics, culture or business. No, number two on the planet-wide poll carried out by an organisation called the Reputation Institute was none other than Roger Federer.

It’s a lofty accolade, even by this Swiss champion’s standards. Ahead of Bill Gates in third place, Roger was the only sportsperson in the top 15, finishing comfortably ahead of baseball legend Derek Jeter, basketballer LeBron James and football star David Beckham.

One of the rare bits of criticism that tends to come Roger’s way is that he can be a little too concerned with his image. But when you have a halo burning as brightly as his, it’s understandable you would wish to protect and enhance it.

“When you have a halo burning as brightly as his, it’s understandable you would wish to protect and enhance it”

Roger is a global figure in a global sport and, for well-documented reasons, his reputation now stands well ahead that of Tiger Woods, to whom he is now rarely compared. The combination of supreme athletic ability, an astonishing record, worldliness, good deeds, a willingness to show emotion and an easy, metrosexual charm all makes for an irresistible combination.

Roger turned 30 in August and, although he will not hear a word of it, the reality is that he won’t be at the top of the sport forever. There’s no doubting that one reason why the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals has drawn such huge crowds to The O2 is that all self-respecting sports fans want to be able to say that they saw the Swiss master play in the flesh.

And for those who have seen him, what will they remember as his greatest attribute? It could be those technically perfect groundstrokes delivered with a God-given sense of timing. Or maybe the ease with which he glides across the court. In an age when tennis has become such a physically demanding sport, perhaps it is his ability to dominate opponents with such extraordinary regularity over a long period.

FedererRoger made his Grand Slam debut in 1999 at Roland Garros as a then somewhat irascible teenager against Australian Pat Rafter, losing in four sets. As we now know, it was to be the start of an incredible career in the sport’s four major tournaments which, for sheer consistency, may never be matched. Just over five years later he won his second Wimbledon singles title, heralding the start of what, for many observers, is the most remarkable sequence the sport has ever seen.

Amid the mountain of statistics you could apply to Roger, arguably the single most impressive is that between 2004 and the Australian Open of 2010 he reached the semi-finals or further of every Grand Slam. A similar run continues to this day in that he has now made the quarter-finals or further in the last 30 Grand Slams held.

It is all for debate, for there are so many milestones from which you could choose. Another is the fact that he has won the ATP’s year-end championship five times in all, including last year’s victory over Rafael Nadal.

“He appears just as comfortable sitting by the catwalk as he does chatting to impoverished children”

He has also so often made success look so easy, both on and off the court. Many is the time when, in some pressured hothouse around the world, you have seen Roger’s opponent caked in sweat, on his last legs, while the man himself looks to be fresh as a daisy, such is his glorious economy of movement. It is this latter quality which has kept him so consistently out on the tour when rivals’ bodies have succumbed to the physical pressures.

Another crucial factor is that Roger simply loves playing and living on the tour. At the same time he is a man of varied interests who has never been blind to life outside the rectangle of the tennis court.

The son of a Swiss pharmaceuticals manager and South African mother, he has now embarked on raising a family himself, and is the proud parent of twin daughters with wife Mirka, a former professional player herself. Many tennis players have found juggling the ATP World Tour with family life a difficult task, but Roger has embraced it and declared that it has made the whole experience better than ever.

FedererThe Federers have always tried to enjoy the places they visit and have made some high-profile friends along the way. Look at Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour, for example, a regular guest in the player’s box. The 16-time Grand Slam champion enjoys the glamour of the fashion world, yet does not forget the opposite end of human existence, financing schemes to help the poor in Africa through his charitable foundation. It is not unknown for him to travel straight from Milan fashion week to east Africa to personally oversee projects which have benefitted from his organisation. Seamlessly, he appears just as comfortable sitting by the catwalk as he does chatting to impoverished children.

In a similar vein, it is not unusual to see him switching effortlessly from one language to another in interviews. He speaks three tongues fluently.

Roger generally keeps his ferociously competitive instinct well hidden unless it’s on the court, although there is no question that he hates losing, and has a tendency to see each defeat as an injustice. Yet nobody could have achieved what he has done without a burning desire to win. There is no obvious sign of that desire waning. When it inevitably does, however, he has little to fear from the tennis afterlife; probably less than most players. Such are the capabilities of his mind and the range of his interests, it may even appear to him that, when he has more time on his hands, life will only just have begun.

This story also appears in the official Barclays ATP World Tour Finals tournament programme, which can be purchased here: http://www.pplsport.com/ATP/.

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