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Players Discuss 'Facing Federer' In New Book

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Facing Federer Malinowski© Scoop Malinowski

In a new book, Scoop Malinowski compiles a profile of Roger Federer through the eyes of players, fans, media and tennis insiders. "Facing Federer" includes interviews with the likes of Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Patrick Rafter, Richard Gasquet and James Blake - more than 50 ATP World Tour players in total - who share their experiences and memories of the man who spent 302 weeks at No. 1 in the Emriates ATP Rankings.

Malinowski also published "Marcelo Rios: The Man We Barely Knew" in 2011.

The following are some excerpts from "Facing Federer," including anecdotes from Agassi, Rafter, Courier and Blake:

Andre Agassi: "I played him in Basel, Switzerland. I played two Swiss players back-to-back. Then I played Roger in the second round (Andre won 6-3, 6-2). I just never would have guessed he was in for the career he's had. He looked like he was trying to imitate Sampras when I first played him. But he just didn't look as good. He couldn't quite serve as big, he looked like he was not decisive enough about if he wanted to play coming in, if he wanted to play at the baseline. And so I was like, you never know if someone is going to evolve. So I didn't really give him much of a chance to be at the top. But he proved me wrong [laughs]."

--

Patrick Rafter: "He was a good mate for the Aussies, he was coached by an Australian guy (Peter Carter) and I was another Australian guy he sort of looked up to. We always got along well. Then the next time we played (2001 in Halle) you could see he was starting to lose it (intimidation factor) and he was just starting to get my measure and I thought, It's time to retire [smiles]...

"He's tougher mentally. His game was always getting developed. Any player starting off in a career, their games evolve and they get stronger and in the first couple of years you're sort of finding things out and finding out where you fit and working out your game. And working at how hard you have to train. And it can be very tough mentally. And it took time before his shots became really good shots. And that's what happened."

--

Jim Courier: "My first memory of Roger Federer: I met him at an exhibition at River Oaks in Houston in 2000. And he was with Peter Lundgren at the time. And I remember meeting him at the sponsor player party and he was a pony-tailed kid I had heard a lot about but hadn't seen much of. And he had a really kind of laid-back manner about him. You didn't really see an eye of the tiger, you just heard that he was incredibly gifted."

--

James Blake: "Throughout most of his career, I felt his sort of prime coincided with my prime. Because I felt great going on the court, I was usually playing at my best. And he was the one guy that I would come up against, that there was still doubt in my mind where I could play my best and still lose. That time in my career I felt if I was playing my best, I was going to win. And I felt like the ball and everything was in my hands. And he was the only guy who I felt like I have played well against - and still lost. I was playing my best and he sort of showed me a new gear. That was tough to deal with. I was thrilled to get my one win over him at the Olympics. I know he was still No. 1 in the world and still trying to win and wanted to win the Olympics but that was a thrill for me. But all the other matches - he showed me a whole new level...

"The one I'll always remember - when I broke my neck in Rome on a practice court, went to the hospital. Ended up there. My coach was with me and we were trying to get out of there. We left a couple of days later. The tournament doctor came and visited to check in on me and he brought one note from one player and it was Roger Federer. The rest of the American guys, when I got home, were calling and checking in on me and everything but the one note that I got in the hospital room saying 'I hope you get better. I'm really sorry to hear...' was Roger Federer. I'll always remember the fact that he took the time when he was trying to win that tournament, to write me a note, to wish me well. I still remember that. As soon as I came back on the Tour, I went and made sure to make a beeline for him and say thank you so much. It means a lot to me that you actually cared about your fellow players."

"Facing Federer" by Scoop Malinowski is available on Amazon.com.

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