Sunday, December 7, 2014

Book review: "Facing Federer"

Roger Federer meets the press at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian
Wells in March. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Roger Federer must have some flaws -- if not on the court, then off.
   Maybe he doesn't floss daily. Maybe he occasionally forgets to take out the garbage. Maybe he jaywalked once.
   If so, you won't read about it in "Facing Federer: Symposium of a Champion," a 131-page collection of quotes about the Swiss maestro by Scoop Malinowski. Federer, who recently won his first Davis Cup title, appears to come as close to perfection not only as a tennis player but as a person as one can get.
   Federer, of course, is the complete package as a player, with a record 17 Grand Slam singles titles to show for it. He's lightning fast and exceptionally smart. He has incredible anticipation, focus, determination and poise. And he can effortlessly hit every shot in the book.
   Amazingly, Federer is equally impressive off the court. He's eternally cheerful. Far from being arrogant, he greets all acquaintances, even obscure players he hasn't seen in years, by name and treats everyone, including cafeteria workers, with respect.
   Also, Federer patiently conducts endless interviews in fluent Swiss German (his native language), German, French and English. Despite the overwhelming demands on his time, the husband and now father of four spent countless hours in meetings as the president of the ATP Player Council from 2008 until this year.
   "Facing Federer" is repetitive but contains many nuggets, and fans will get to know him much better by reading it. Here are two excerpts.
   John McEnroe: "Federer plays tennis the way I dreamed of playing. He could be the most talented player I've ever seen, someone who comes along only every 10 or 20 years. If you want to be a tennis player, then mold yourself on Roger Federer. I won three Wimbledon titles, and I wish I could play like him."
   Rene Stauffer (Federer biographer): "This is a guy who buys drinks for photographers and thanks reporters who show up to his press conferences. Roger lives that saying: "It's nice to be important, but it's important to be nice."
   The only hints of criticism about Federer in the book are that he self-admittedly was a hothead as a junior and that his backhand might not be as strong as the rest of his game.
   Perhaps former WTA player Akiko Morigami of Japan put it best about Federer in the second quote of the book: "I think he's like the God of tennis."

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