“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” (Aristotle)
At the tender age of eight, Roger Federer began building the habit of keeping his eyes on the ball, observing what was being served at him and then using his skills and talent to respond. Years later this habit has earned him the boast of being one of eight men to win all four majors. Following Federer’s tennis career timeline though reveals not only a sportsman par excellence but what some refer to as a subtle playing style and an approachable and humble demeanour.
Is Roger Federer one of the best tennis players of all time? Surely, debatable. But what is not, is his exceptional record and excellence, his ability, determination, and hard work both off and on the tennis court.
“Who can say where the road goes, where the day flows.” ‘Only Time’ – (Enya)
Roger Federer entered the world of tennis as a Wildcard entry in Gstaad in 1998 during the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Tour. His sporting career was full of its ups and downs, disappointments and challenges. Even so, Federer’s pursuit of excellence persists. In 2005 Roger carried on for a full year without a coach. Yet, he was able to defend his titles in Wimbledon and New York. In 2006, he went on to win his seventh, eighth and ninth Grand Slam titles. It was also the first time he experienced a hometown victory. Clearly for Federer to defend his title sans a coach, his days flowed with grit and determination.
A determination which delivered well in 2007, with Roger capturing all of three Grand Slam titles and reaching the French Open Finals, and even going on to replace Jimmy Connors’ at the top of the world rankings for the fourth consecutive year. As mentioned though, this ace tennis player knows disappointment. Although over time the road led to Roger Federer’s ten (10) Championship Points and Trophy Lifts in Halle, it was in 2007 that the momentum of this feat was broken after four consecutive wins from 2003-2006. Positive Self-Talk and focus then must be a feature for this sportsman. Only Rafael Nadal has accomplished the same feat in the Open era.
In 2008, Roger for the first time wins no titles during the first three months of the year, that in itself showing his ongoing excellence. He was eliminated in the semifinals at the Australian Open. It was later discovered that he was suffering from glandular fever since December the previous year, providing a reason for his poor performances.
“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”- (Allen Saunders)
Even as Roger played on the court, life continued to provide its twists and turns. In 2009 Federer married his longstanding partner.
Good sportsmen, or rather great sportsmen, might multi-task in life in general, but know too about being fully focused at the moment. So, it was within sixty days, Federer was back at it and won the French Open in Paris and equaled Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam titles. Changing focus later that year, Roger and wife welcomed their first set of twins.
“Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it.” – (Rockefeller)
In 2010, that blend of defeat, desire, and determination showed in the quarterfinal defeats in Paris and Wimbledon, then bettered with an end of the season win for Roger at the World Tour Finals.
In 2006, Roger was made an Ambassador of the United Nations Children’s Fund. This came through three years after he founded the Roger Federer Foundation in 2003. Federer in addressing the founding of the Roger Federer Foundation noted, “I believe in the power of people. They might only need some initial empowerment. We know that a good education empowers children by allowing them to take their future into their own hands and play an active part in shaping it.”
Familiar with what the correct blend of defeat, desire, determination, and planning could do, the Foundation focuses on access to quality early education with the mission of providing children the best start on their educational path. However, the Roger Federer Foundation only works with carefully chosen local organisations in long-term partnerships. The Foundation supports the development of skills, encouraging the community to accept some responsibility in solving its problems. It is about people being empowered to organise the resources on their own.
The Foundation believes that this is the only way to achieve sustainable systemic change and improvement. Over $28.5 million have been invested in educational programs in Southern Africa and Switzerland, benefiting approximately 650,000 children. In April 2019, Federer played two exhibitions for the foundation.
“All the World’s a stage” (William Shakespeare)
Roger Federer continues to play the game of his life each time he enters that tennis court, exits and re-enters. There is much the upcoming tennis players and those aspiring to become great sportspersons could get from his game.
In 2011 things began as planned, as they sometimes do. He won the Qatar Open. But once again, Roger knew defeat with a failed defense of his Australian Open Title. His ability to go beyond the defeat again showed as he won the ATP World Championships in London.
However, in 2013 there were some tough times with back problems; Federer for the first time in eleven years dropped to seventh on the World Rankings. Thankfully, his fortitude and focus helped him through. Three years later Roger had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
In spite of the ups and downs and ins and outs, Federer’s excellence habit continues. Some might credit it to his tennis tricks and skills. This ace tennis player now has 102 ATP Tour Titles under his belt and is creeping up to Jimmy Connors 109.
Federer has won a record 33 ATP World Tour Awards including ATP No. 1 five times from 2004-2007, 2009; won the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year twice in 2006 and 2013; won the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award 12 times in 2004-2009 and 2011-2016; voted ATPWorldTour.com Fan Favorite for a record 14 consecutive years from 2003 to 2016. What’s more, is that Federer is ranked number two on the Reputation Institute’s 2011 study of the World’s most respected, admired and trusted personalities, just behind Nelson Mandela but ahead of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey and Bono.
By Kerriann Toby
Kerriann Toby is a dynamic therapist currently pursuing her Doctorate of Psychology (PsyD). She is a member of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) and has trained as a cyber counselor. Her areas of experience, expertise, and interest include child development, sexual and reproductive health, gender-related matters, marriage and family life and promoting the idea of positive psychology, using strengths to support mental health and wellbeing.
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