Roger Federer is arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, but his path to becoming what he is today was far from straightforward. The Swiss, in fact, had to overcome several hurdles that threatened to derail his career in his teens and early 20s.
While speaking extensively for BecomingX, Roger Federer touched on these difficulties while also describing the impact that Peter Carter’s tragic demise had on him. BecomingX is an organization founded by Bear Grylls to showcase stories like that of Federer’s to try and inspire people across the globe.
The eight-time Wimbledon champion began by recalling his first-ever local tennis match in Switzerland, which he lost 6-0, 6-0 and made the local tennis federation start doubting his abilities.
“My first ever match (in Switzerland), I lost 6-0, 6-0,” Federer said. “I heard some rumors that the local federation were like, 'Well maybe he's not that good like we thought he was'."
That spurred Roger Federer on to practice even harder and take part in more tournaments to improve his tennis, which eventually helped him become the junior Swiss champion.
“I kept on practicing hard, I started playing more tournaments,” Federer continued. “I started to become very successful also, even as a junior, at least in my area. Nationally, I became Junior Swiss Champion for the first time when I was 12 years old.”
However, the next four years were very testing for Roger Federer. During the interview, the six-time Australian Open champion spoke about the difficulties that he faced when he had to leave home at the age of 14 to join the National Tennis Centre in Zurich.
Staying away from home for much of the week made Federer feel ‘homesick’, which in turn triggered a collapse in his form and confidence.
“And off I went at 14 to the National Tennis Centre. I was in a great family from Monday to Friday and then I would only come home on the weekends, and I'd be incredibly homesick for the first nine months. Results dropped, I lacked confidence, couldn't speak the language, I really struggled," revealed Federer.
But Federer chose to persevere instead of giving up, which helped pave the way to his eventual transformation into a great champion of the game. The 39-year-old recalled that the years between 14 and 16 were the most important of his life, given how he had to learn to be responsible for himself.
“It was quite a rough journey,” the Swiss remarked. “I think those were the two most influential years of my life, from 14 to 16. Being away from home, persevering and having that responsibility to figure out the things, sort of on my own sometimes.”
News of Peter Carter’s death was a wake-up call: Roger Federer
Roger Federer’s former coach - the late Peter Carter - is widely considered the most influential figure in the Swiss’ career. Federer recalled how Carter became his mentor when he was 16 and helped mold his style of play.
“When I was 16, Peter Carter joined the NTC and he became my mentor,” Federer said. “If I play the way I play today, it's probably because of Peter.”
Unfortunately, Peter Carter tragically met his demise in a car accident in 2002. That news ‘shocked’ Federer and served as a ‘wake-up call’ for him to fully devote himself to the sport.
"Obviously, the news totally shocked me and rocked my world,” Federer continued. “In some ways, it was truly a wake up call. This is when I guess I shifted gears and I was just like let's get serious about tennis, very serious."Published 09 Nov 2020, 22:20 IST