A Stalker’s Guide To Roger Federer

You know you’d get on swimmingly with Roger, if only you were given the opportunity. You understand him intimately. More intimately than Mirka and the kids ever will.

Unlike them, you know every small detail about Roger. The way he rattles his racquet head to encourage himself when everything is going well. The way he combs the fingers on his left hand through his hair between points, ironing out the creases, when he’s starting to get a little stressed. The way he pumps himself up in Swiss-German when he’s engaged in a tight contest. Chum jetze!

There’s the dance–the most beautiful dance of all–that he has with ball kids; the way Roger deftly dinks and slices balls to them between points. A dance within a dance. You know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he’s the best in the world at this dance. The best there’ll ever be. 

The grace of his split-step, the artistic flail in the follow through on his backhand, the raised right heel that triggers his peRFect service motion...

Above your bed, you have a frame by frame photographic mosaic of the Federer service motion. It's more comforting than midnight rain


Could you possibly be like every other delusional RF fan, thinking there’s something special about the way you describe Roger, when really you’re no different to the swarm of imbeciles at the Louvre every day, snapping the Mona Lisa on their phones? 

Scrap that! You are different to them.  

You know more about Roger than anyone alive. More than the man himself. You know he likes a fast game, racing through points on serve, never letting his opponents settle, whereas Rafa wants a slow, obsessive-compulsive, pick-the-bum-and-smear-it-across-his-cheeks game. There’s no grace in that!

You also know Roger likes the ball coming on fast, preferably on grass or indoor courts, so he can back his superior reflexes, brilliant half volleys from the baseline a matter of merely creasing and un-creasing his supple (disappointingly hairy) elbow. 

It irritates you that people still don’t truly appreciate Roger, who changed his game, his racquet and his court position in his mid 30s, after a four-year Slam drought, with a wonky knee and two all-time legends in their prime trying to kill him off.  

No, people don’t understand that for Roger to still have the competitive juice in him at that precarious point–to refuse to go gently into that good night–is something that needs thousands more writing hours dedicated to it. A novel, now that you think of it. 

You know what it means when Roger starts framing forehands. That’s when he’s in trouble. He knows, too. You can see it in his sad Tarantino face. It started happening against the Scoundrel Tsitsipas last year at the AO and it was too much to bear. A Greek Three Act tragedy. 

Afterwards, Stefanos kept carrying on like it was a career-defining victory for him, but couldn’t he see that it was only because Roger couldn’t quite find his timing? 

And then there was the quarter-final against Kevin Anderson at Wimbledon in 2018, when even though Roger was two-sets-to-love up, you knew his timing was off. You knew it would never come.  When Anderson won the third set, you couldn’t put yourself through it any longer.  You forced yourself to go to bed (not to sleep, just to stare at the mosaic) and weren’t surprised to discover the next morning that Anderson had won.  

Rather, Roger had lost. 

But you also couldn’t help but wonder if you’d maybe stuck it out with Roger, whether the result would have been different? 

Yes, almost certainly it would have been. He needed you. And you selfishly put yourself first. You lost faith in the very person who needed your faith the most.


This was a truly great day at Indian Wells. You watched Roger train for five hours and as the Californian sun was setting, he glared into the stands, shielding his eyes, searching lovingly for yours


In a career filled with triumph–still (marginally) the greatest male tennis career ever–it’s odd that your overwhelming impression of your time with Roger is of something slowly, agonisingly slipping away. 

Perhaps that’s what it is, what it can only ever be, to stalk someone? 

The thing about Roger, as distinct from most champion sportsmen, is that it’s so easy to see his frailties. How can someone be so gifted, so all-conquering, and yet so visibly frail?

His frailties are your frailties, even if yours aren’t his.

Watching Roger sniffle into the microphone during the trophy ceremony after the ’09 Australian Open final was too much. God, it killed you! You can’t even bring yourself to think about what happened in the final of Wimbledon last year, against Novak. 

For days, weeks afterwards, life was a wake. It will never be okay. You found yourself understanding how a crazed Steffi fan did what he did to Monica Seles. You imagined yourself going through with such an act to protect Roger’s legacy, which frightened you and almost made you question your own sanity. 

You don’t want to admit it, but there are times when you’ve felt let down by Roger. His Uniqlo outfit at the French Open last year was unbecoming. It made the great man look like a cleaner. How did this monstrosity make it through marketing departments? You still feel personally affronted. 

Brand Roger is supposed to be classy (you begged your friend who was on set for one of his Rolex shoots to tell you every detail about the dress code, the vibe, the catering, Roger’s demeanour, whether he really cooks his own Barilla pasta...).


Of course he cooks his own pasta! He even moulds it into uncannily accurate portraits of his wife (and your nemesis), Mirka


For all of this carefully-choreographed Gatsby slickness, there are still extroverted bursts from Roger; times you can tell that even he can’t believe that he–of all the people in the world, at all the points in history–gets to be Roger.

Like his famous tweener in the 2009 US Open semi-final, when his reaction was one of superhero awe at his own prowess, before he visibly composed himself.

Even Roger’s father–a paternal figure to you, as well–found himself swept out of his seat, young and alive with the glory of the stroke. 

You and Roger are basically one now. When he avenged his '09 defeat to Rafa by winning the 2017 Australian Open, you spent the next morning on YouTube, watching every single post-match interview he'd done–Channel 7, ESPN, the Twitter Blue Room–basking in the warmth of the thing, wanting the feeling to go on forever. 

Really, all you want is for people to know, and to never forget, the beauty of the man; how beauty prevailed over grunt, even though, in sport, it can only ever do so fleetingly. 

And the fact that this beauty belongs to your eyes...at times, it almost feels like enough. 

As always, if you need any tennis equipment, or just fancy a chat about Federer, please drop by KK Tennis. 475 Malvern Road, South Yarra. Looking forward to a great summer of tennis!

January 23, 2020 — Murray

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