Former World No. 21 Leonardo Mayer believes Roger Federer is the greatest player in the history of the sport because "he does everything right." Mayer, who retired from the sport earlier this month, also explained why training with Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal has both pros and cons.
Mayer, 34, was ranked as high as No. 21 during his career and finished with two ATP titles to his name. However, the Argentine suffered from severe panic attacks during the last few years of his career, which greatly affected his form. His last appearance on tour came in the qualifying rounds of Wimbledon, where he lost to compatriot Marco Trungelliti.
In a recent interview with La Nacion, Leonardo Mayer opened up about a number of topics, including the famed GOAT debate. Mayer admitted that it was "difficult" to pick one of the three but revealed that he considers Federer the greatest ever.
"How difficult... Of those three is the one you (Journalist Sebastian Torok like the most," Mayer said. "Federer is for me. He does everything right."
Federer invited Mayer to train with him in Switzerland during the 2019 claycourt season. However, the Argentine revealed during the interview that he turned down Federer's proposal, as he felt he wouldn't be able to cope with the pressure of training with the 20-time Major champion.
It is pertinent to note that Mayer's anxiety attacks began just a few weeks ahead of the Swiss' invitation.
"I couldn't train. I wasn't going to be able to put up with the pressure that meant being with Federer; I couldn't," explained Mayer. "(Ivan) Ljubicic, Federer's coach, contacted the Boy (Mariano Hood), who was with me, and proposed it to him. I told him to let me think for a while, but I rejected him (Roger Federer)."
The Argentine revealed that Federer's camp was taken aback by his rejection. Mayer explained that it was "nice" to train with the likes of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic, but in the same breath, stressed that he did not want to "suffer" in the face of their flawless tennis.
"They couldn't believe it; imagine... I don't know what excuse he gave him," Mayer continued. "But I didn't feel prepared to go there for a week, I think to Geneva. I didn't want to suffer. It's very nice to train with Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, but at the same time they generate extra pressure, because they don't miss a ball and you have to be one hundred percent."
Leonardo Mayer also spoke on the topic of mental health issues faced by players in today's game. He pointed out that athletes are expected to behave more like "robots" than human beings.
"Many times the tennis player, from what the environment is like, has to be a machine and a robot, but we are human beings," Mayer explained. "I like to come here and, I don't know..., eat a pacifier, a cake, because we are normal."
The Argentine went on to explain how the life of a tennis player is very fast-paced. Mayer firmly believes that some players like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic are built differently because of how well they have dealt with pressure for prolonged periods.
"In tennis you enter a bubble and a very high and very fast life speed. Some endure it longer, it depends on personality," Mayer added.
"The case of Federer, 40 years old, is not incredible for how he plays, but for having endured so many years playing like this," he continued. "They are years and years in the maelstrom, in that pressure and they go on and on. I assure you that he, Nadal and Djokovic felt bad, but they have a facility or a gift to go out."