Roger Federer is still going strong after 21 years on Tour, but his longevity is fueled by more than two decades of success. The Swiss doesn’t regret the childhood sacrifices he made to pursue his tennis dreams, but then again, it’s hard to have regrets when you’ve won 102 tour-level titles and cleared more than $126 million in prize money.
“Now it’s easy to see the joy in all that stuff, but you need the success. Just saying I love playing tennis and getting my ass kicked every day is not a great thing,” Federer joked in his on-court interview after his fourth-round win over David Goffin at the US Open. “You need some success and I did have that along the way, which helped.”
The definition of success is different for everyone on Tour. Some players are happy to keep playing until their ATP Ranking slips to the point that it’s no longer practical to continue. Others won’t continue unless they believe they can win the world’s biggest events. Federer firmly falls in the latter category, but he’s now in the unique position of experiencing many of the same successes as a 38-year-old that he did in his early 20s.
“Maybe traveling and only winning 50% of the matches on Tour, then maybe [I] wouldn’t be playing any more,” Federer said in his post-match press conference. “But because [I] can still beat the best, win the biggest tournaments, it’s so worthwhile to stay there and see if you can go back to these emotions, see if you can do it at a later stage in your career and be a totally different person almost, a different player 20 years later. It’s quite exciting actually.”
Federer’s success after all these years is also aided by those around him. He’s freely admitted that he wouldn’t still be on Tour if his wife, Mirka, and their four children weren’t travelling with him.
He also has a core group of confidantes that play a more behind the scenes role in keeping him comfortable on the road. His friends and family in Switzerland may not be in the stands for every match, but they’ve enabled to him comfortably recharge from Tour life when he needs to.
“I think what’s helped me so much is stability with my relationship with my wife, my relationship with my sister and my parents, then just the friends we were able to keep throughout my career on the road. It didn’t make me feel like if ever I came home [that] I had nobody,” Federer said. “I always felt like our friends couldn’t wait to come either meet us at the tournaments or wait for us at home. That just made time away or at home so much fun.”
The fun will continue for Federer as he gears up to play Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in his 56th Grand Slam quarter-final. The Swiss has produced astonishing numbers and records throughout his career, including holding more Grand Slam singles titles than anyone (20), but often has to be reminded about them by journalists. His sole focus for now is adding more wins to his tally this fortnight.
“I’m complaining on a very high level now,” Federer joked. “Sometimes [the records] definitely motivated me. Sometimes they’ve pushed me. Sometimes they also created so much pressure it was almost not funny anymore.
“It’s definitely very special to be playing for these records… It’s helped me at times. At the same time, I always try to remind myself it’s just a side story. What happened on the court today was more important.”
Source: ATP World Tour