Roger Federer: The Tennis Star Unveils a New Collaboration
Roger Federer - record-breaking 20-time Grand Slam winner and king of Centre Court - has never been one to shrink from a challenge. But the tennis legend is currently grappling with a very 2020-specific set of issues.
Namely, how to debut his new range of trainers via Zoom, with all the technical calamities that that entails. It’s the pandemic parlance and stop gaps we’re all now familiar with; he patiently instructs someone to unmute, battles with crackling audio and attempts to show his new trainers up close on screen, remaining good-humored throughout.
“We’re all learning new things right now,” he laughs, as someone’s voice turns to Dalek-speak.
The date for the launch of his range of trainers, designed in collaboration with Swiss footwear brand On, was picked for sentimental reasons. 6 July is the anniversary of his first Wimbledon win, back in 2003 when he defeated Mark Philippoussis for the Men’s Singles title.
“It was 17 years ago today that my life changed, winning Wimbledon, a huge, defining moment in my career,” says Federer from the Zurich studio where he’s unveiling the shoe collection. “So it’s nice to be here on this specific date to try something new.” The debut in question is the Roger Centre Court Zero Series, a smart white leather trainer with discreet gold ‘The Roger’ lettering at the heel. “I grew up in the 90s,” says the 38-year-old, who lives in the Lenzerheide mountain range with his wife Mirka and their two sets of twins, Myra and Charlene, aged ten, and Leo and Lennart, aged five.
“Trainer styles back then were very bold back, with lots of big logos everywhere. I wanted sleekness instead, and something a little more discreet. We’re at a time right now where we like to hide away, not be so visible.”
The relationship with On, founded as a running trainer brand in 2010 by Duathlon champion Olivier Bernhard, began in 2017 when Federer came on board as an investor. “I wanted to support a Swiss brand that felt important,” he says.
The timing to coincide with his historic Wimbledon win was set before the Coronavirus pandemic and ensuing international lockdowns - the collaboration has been in the works for two years - but the date has taken on more emotive meaning for the tennis champion in recent months.
2020 was already shaping up to be a difficult year for “Fedex,” even before the virus took a stronghold on daily life.
“I have had two operations on my knee, it’s been quite the year to be honest. I’ve been in rehab every day and on crutches, I’m working very hard to recover and I’m doing a 20-week fitness block later in the year,” he says, having first undergone surgery in February for an injury to his right knee, a complaint that surfaced in 2016, and following up with further surgery last month. It’s little wonder that he’s a tad wistful.
“Winning Wimbledon defined my career - it’s nice to try something new.”
“I wanted to support a Swiss brand, that felt important.”
“Today is the date where I always look back to that moment all those years ago at Centre Court, and how it all started. And getting back there is one of my big goals, that’s why I’m rehabbing the way I am. It’s about taking the right decisions to do what’s right for my knee, for my fitness, for staying in shape.
“It’s a long road back but you have to be patient. Of course I miss Wimbledon, I wish I was there right now playing my third match on Centre Court, trying to make it into the second week. Wimbledon has given me everything and more,” says Federer.
The particular joys of homeschooling during the lockdown haven’t escaped the Federer household, but this rare slice of time to spend in one place has been a happy side effect of the coronavirus crisis.
“I haven’t had this long at home in 25 years. We’re safe because we’re up in the mountains and don’t see anybody,” he says of his home in the Swiss Alpine resort town of Valbella, where he built a tucked-away $21 million chalet overlooking Lake Heidsee.
“I’ve been very strict and serious about the rules,” says Federer, no stranger as he is to discipline. “I haven’t seen my parents in three months now, and we’ve been chasing around after the kids the best we can on our own, but I think this strange time has given us a chance to reflect and take stock of what really matters, which is family, friends, health and happiness.”
Speaking of friends, has he shown his new trainers to front row BFF Anna Wintour? “I believe my agent has shown Anna. Yes,” he says. “I haven’t heard anything negative, so I’ll take that as a positive reaction from her. I’ll send her a pair if she asks nicely.”
The pair have been friends for years, and as a thank you for organizing her wedding, the US Vogue editor’s daughter Bee Shaffer organized a surprise tennis lesson with Federer for tennis nut Wintour.
The On shoes, however, are built for casual weekends rather than the rigours of the court. “They are lifestyle trainers. The technical aspect of a court sneaker takes a long time to perfect, factoring in five hours of tennis for five days straight. I’m sure I’ll make an oncourt shoe at some point, and wear them to play in.”
All being well, they’ll be pacing the Wimbledon lawns come 2021.
MORE ON ROGER
Roger’s good luck charm is Tweety Bird.
He speaks Swiss, German, French, and English fluently.
He founded the Roger Federer foundation, which supports sports and education for children in South Africa. (Lynette Federer, Roger’s mother, is from South Africa.)
Roger holds dual citizenship – a Swiss and South African national.
By age 11, Roger was among Switzerland’s top junior players; and by age 14, he became Switzerland’s junior champion.
Due to a back problem, Roger was discharged from serving in the Swiss military at age 18.
Before winning his Wimbledon Singles title in 2003, Roger won the Boys’ title there in 1998.
He is married to Marka Vavrinec, a former professional tennis player. A street in Halle, Germany is named after him, Roger Federer Allee. Switzerland followed suit and also named a s treet in Biel, Roger-Federer-Allee.
He is the oldest male tennis player to become the world number one at age 36.
Roger’s sister Diana, who is two years older than him, occasionally watches her brother’s matches.
His favorite destinations are The Maldives, Dubai, and the Swiss mountains.
Connect with Roger: www.rogerfederer.com www.instagram.com/rogerfederer www.facebook.com/Federer