Former World No 1 Roger Federer’s tennis career may be the stuff that dreams are made of, but the Swiss Maestro admits a ‘normal upbringing’ in Switzerland almost kept him from dreaming too big.
“I’m actually not quite sure exactly why I succeeded as much as I did,” said Federer in a video for BecomingX.
One of the greatest players in the sport, Federer holds the record for the most number of Grand Slams in men’s tennis (20, along with Rafael Nadal) and the most number of weeks at No 1 ranking (310).
“You don’t aim for 20 Grand Slams,” the 39-year-old continued.
“You don’t aim for World no. 1 anyway, not in my world, not in my normal upbringing in Switzerland. I’m not sure if we dream this big, you know. It’s not something that happens quickly or easily.”
In an academics-driven country, Federer remembers playing a lot of sports while growing up and indulging in childish fantasies.
“I remember playing badminton or ping pong or tennis, in the backyard of my friend’s house. We were like, ‘and the winner of Wimbledon is Roger Federer!’ So I think I was dreaming of winning Wimbledon,” he said.
“Playing against the wall, playing doubles with my parents… realizing that tennis had so much more to it than just hitting a ball. I also played football… I always enjoyed it but eventually, I had to take a decision. Thankfully, I chose tennis.”
The Swiss though remembers his tennis career getting off to a disastrous start.
“My first ever match, I lost 6-0, 6-0,” Federer said.
“I heard some rumors that maybe, ‘he was not that good like we thought he was’. I kept on practicing hard. I started playing more tournaments. I started to become more successful, even as a junior. I became a junior Swiss champion when I was 12 years old.”
Federer was already plotting the next step. Or trying to write it into existence. The Swiss recalls putting up a sign saying ‘Junior World champion’ on the wall.
“I was joking, put up a sign on the wall that said, ‘Junior World Champion lives here’. We were leaving the next day. The Swiss junior team, like when they knocked on the door, on my, sort of, dorm, everybody was laughing.”
The 39-year-old is recovering from two knee surgeries he had this year. Federer said he’s back on the practice courts and on course to make a comeback at the 2021 Australian Open.