By Scoop Malinowski
Status: Tennis great who has won 20 Grand Slam singles titles, Olympic gold medal in doubles and Davis Cup.
Ht: 6-1 Wt: 177
DOB: August 8, 1981 In: Basel, Switzerland
Childhood Heroes: “Stefan Edberg – actually my favorite of all-time. Boris Becker – first favorite when I was small. Pete Sampras.”
Nicknames: Rogie, Federer Express.
Hobbies/Leisure Activities: “Sports in general, cinema, deep sea fishing, relaxing in the beach, friends, music, skiing.”
First Tennis Memory: “I remember always loving to play against the cupboards, against the doors at home. With any kind of ball…soft ball, tennis ball. My mom (Lynette) always got pissed off at me, because, Bang, bang, bang!, all day long [smiles].”
Favorite Movies: “Good Will Hunting, Entrapment, Enemy of the State.”
Musical Tastes: “Anything on top of the charts all over the world, AC/DC, Metallica, Lenny Kravitz.”
Pre-Match Feeling: “As always, before an important match, always very nervous. It’s a good feeling. It shows I think that match is very important to me. Once I’m on the court, that’s not so much the pressure, that’s the easy part. It’s what I love to do. In the beginning of the match, you hope you just play okay. Which is, start to play, get the rhythm and everything. And after two or three games, you’re not nervous anymore.”
First Job: “Never had one. I stopped school at 16 and started playing tennis.”
Early Tennis Memory: “I was playing a friend named Marco (Chiudinelli) when I was 14. Playing in Basel. And it was like six o’clock. And this bird just goes on the net [smiles]. My friend – he didn’t see the bird – and he starts serving. And he serves…and the little bird, Boom! Right on the body. The bird fell on my side of the net. And it was on the ground, like shaking, then, Boom, dead. Feathers all over the court. He didn’t know what happened. I’m like, Stop, stop! There’s a bird on the net. And he goes, Boom, and just hits it. That was unbelievable.”
Childhood Dream: “Always had tennis in my mind. Tennis was my dream. To me, Wimbledon was always the special one. Because my heroes were Becker, Edberg and Sampras. I just hope that I always be healthy and not injured.
Greatest Sports Moment: “I think I have so many [smiles]. I think the four Grand Slams are fantastic and each has a special place for me. Australian – I became number one in the world. Wimbledon – I broke Pete’s record there (for 15 slam titles). The U.S. Open – I won it five years in a row. French Open (became third man in Open era to win all four slams). And the Olympic gold medal in doubles last year. So I think those are the best moments of my career.”
Most Painful Moment: “One good thing about me is that I forget matches, even bad matches, very quickly. I get sad about not having played well but I don’t really get (upset). By the time I get back to the hotel, it’s completely forgotten and I’m fine.”
Favorite Meal(s): “Tomatoes and mozzarella di buffala. And gnocchi and gorgonzola, sausage, cheese, salad.”
Favorite Breakfast Cereal: “Rice Crispies [laughs].”
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: “Strawberry.”
Closest Tennis Friends: “I am lucky to speak three languages, and this opens many doors to making friends with other players. I reckon I have an excellent contact with many other players on the Tour. I do spend a lot of time with the other Swiss players when they are also at the tournaments.”
Toughest Competitors Encountered: “Nadal.”
Favorite Athletes To Watch: “FC Basel. Zinedine Zidane. Francesco Totti. Michael Jordan. Lennox Lewis – the best. Big and strong. Wladimir Klitschko. I liked his style. Peter Forsberg. More and more hockey. American football was not too interesting to me. Too many breaks in the action. Plus I don’t understand the rules too good.
Favorite Tennis Players To Watch: “I just like to watch tennis. I’m flippin’ through the channels and see a match – really no matter who is playing – I just like the game very much. One player I would really like to watch is Bjorn Borg. Because I never really had the chance to see him when he was at his best. And from what I’ve seen and heard, he is a very special player and obviously a great champion.”
People Qualities Most Admired: “That they smile a lot. Friendly. Helpful. I have a motto that I like: It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice. And don’t lie. I don’t like it when somebody lies. Because I never lie.”
(Note: I did a Biofile interview with Roger Federer at US Open qualies in 1999 after he beat Dutchman Edwin Kempes 64 64 (he lost second round to Ivo Heuberger 76 62). Later I updated some questions with Roger at press conferences at US Open. – SM)