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"Roger Federer doesn't validate himself based on winning or losing" - Martina Navratilova

Roger Federer
Roger Federer
Rudra Biswas
Modified 06 Sep 2020, 19:54 IST

Things have been quiet for 20-time Major winner Roger Federer, who recently underwent double arthroscopic knee surgery and will be missing the rest of the 2020 tour season. But while Federer is conspicuously missing from the US Open draw, that hasn't stopped analysts from talking about the Swiss.

During his break from tennis, Roger Federer has continued to train a bit with his long-time coach Severin Luthi, who believes his ward will be ready for a return at the 2021 Australian Open. The Swiss coach has been one of they key figures behind every comeback made by Federer, and expects a banner season from the 39-year-old in 2021 too.

Against that background, Tennis Channel recently invited four-time Major winner Jim Courier and the legendary Martina Navratilova to discuss Roger Federer's relationship with Severin Luthi and what makes the duo tick.

Some might expect that when you have a player as talented as Roger Federer on the court, the coach would just roll out the ball for him and get out of the way. But it's a much more nuanced process than that, as pointed out by Jim Courier; the biggest job of a supremely talented player's coach is often to provide negative feedback.

"You want someone to tell you the truth, because often times when you are a top player people don't," Courier said. "They are afraid, they coddle you. You want someone who can break it down when you're not doing it right and point you in the right directions. That's what you're paying them for. You can have all the yes people around you in the world, you want someone as a no person."

Roger Federer and Severin Luthi have lasted so long due to the honesty in their relationship: Martina Navratilova

Roger Federer and Severin Luthi at 2019 ATP Nitto Finals
Roger Federer and Severin Luthi at 2019 ATP Nitto Finals

Another point to note is that Roger Federer has never considered offloading his long-time coach - even when he had that disappointing 2013 season. According to Martina Navratilova, that is because he doesn't judge his coach's skills based on a few losses here and there; he is always able to look at the bigger picture.

"What I like about Roger Federer, according to what Severin told me, he does not validate himself based on winning or losing. He's still the same guy, you know. And people lose sight of that, but Roger never has," Navratilova said.

Navratilova was also quick to assert that player-coach relationships on the professional tour are quite fickle. Roger Federer has been with Severin Luthi since 2007, yet the recent trends suggest that tennis players don't put too much stock into loyalty when it comes to their career.

The reason Federer and Luthi have bucked that trend, according to Navratilova, is the honesty in their relationship.

"Most of the time people say yes because they don't want to be fired, but the player needs honesty," Navratilova said. "And this is why I think the relationship between Roger Federer and Severin Luthi has lasted so long. Amazing how the two have lasted at a time where players are changing their coaches all the time."
"They're probably symbiotic. Severin has said he's learnt some things from Roger, of course Roger has learnt a lot of things from him. They kind of play off of each other," Navratilova added.
Published 06 Sep 2020, 19:54 IST
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