Roger Federer’s biographer and sports journalist Simon Graf recently appeared on the 'Tennis with an Accent' podcast, where he covered several important aspects of the Swiss Maestro's career. Graf talked about the impact that Federer has had in Switzerland, the role of his wife Mirka, and even his emotional moment at the Australian Open 11 years ago after losing to Rafael Nadal.
The German writer, who recently wrote a biography on Roger Federer titled "Roger Federer: Phenomenon. Enthusiast. Philantrhopist", has closely followed the 20-time Major winner throughout his career. Needless to say, he had several anecdotes to share during the podcast.
Simon Graf first touched on Roger Federer's heartbreaking five-set loss to arch-rival Rafael Nadal in the 2009 Australian Open final, in the aftermath of which Federer was reduced to tears. Graf opined that Federer should have won the match given the way he played, but then claimed the Swiss is not a great loser.
"He was just very upset," Graf said. "I think it was a big chance he wasted. I think he should've won that match. Rafael Nadal had a really tough match in semifinals, Roger Federer should've been fresher. And he obviously wasn't in the fifth set. It was too bad he burst into tears, because he kind of destroyed the moment for Rafa for which there has been quite some criticism."
"Yeah, it's just how he is," the German added. "He's an emotional guy. I don't think he's a great loser, he hates losing. He's had to learn how to lose after being dethroned and starting to lose more often."
Roger Federer's undisputed reign at the top of the sport had been interrupted just a few months before that emotional Australian Open. Rafael Nadal had started to get the better of him in most important matches, and the loss in Melbourne was the culmination of a series of setbacks for the Swiss.
People got used to see Roger Federer winning, even a little bored: Simon Graf
Simon Graf was then asked his views about Roger Federer's influence on the Swiss media. The German responded that Federer has been the most popular figure in Switzerland for years, and that his stature has only become bigger with time.
"Roger Federer is the greatest sportsman Swiss ever had," Graf said. "Nothing compares to him. There was a period of time when people got used to him winning. When they were a little bit bored, even. Like they thought, it's normal that he wins. When he started losing more often, people got more attached to him because he was not the favorite anymore."
While Roger Federer is easily one of the greatest tennis players of all time, he is also considered among the biggest icons the world has ever seen in any sport. And Graf believes a part of that has to do with how well Federer has been able to manage his relationship with the media, and how he makes sure his image is protected at all times.
"I think Roger is an ideal sports figure," Graf said. "There haven't been any scandals, from early on he was well aware of the role of media. He is well liked, he behaves himself extremely well."
"I think Roger off the court is an extraordinary figure. There are no missteps off the court," Graf added.
Roger Federer had to give back to the people, even though he couldn't play well: Simon Graf
Simon Graf then shared an anecdote about Roger Federer's behavior off the court, dating back to 2013. Federer was suffering from a serious back injury throughout that season, but his lowest point came when he was upset early by Germany's Daniel Brands at the Gstaad Open.
"It was in Gstaad where he lost that match against Brands, in Switzerland," Graf said. "It was a big thing, they even gifted him with another cow. He was back in Switzerland, he knew he wouldn't be 100%. I saw him warm up on the courts of the Palace Hotel. It was a terrible sight, he could hardly move. He lost in straight sets against a not a great player. What I really was impressed with is how he behaved himself in the press room."
"Like he really did not want to talk, but people were really excited to see him on that stage," Graf added. "So he got so many questions in different languages about his back. He didn't know himself, he did not know if he was getting better. It was a difficult year for him. But still he stayed there for almost half an hour and answered all the questions. Afterwards there was a meet and greet, he did that as well. In his shoes I would've left immediately. I think he realized people were so excited to see him in Switzerland so he had to give back, even though he couldn't play well."Published 11 Jan 2021, 19:32 IST