Behind the writing of “The master, the long term and the beautiful game of Roger Federer”

WASHINGTON, August 25, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

The Master: Roger Federer’s long and beautiful game is the story of Roger Federer’s life and the longevity of his brilliant career, told on both an intimate and grandiose scale by New York Times the extraordinary tennis correspondent Christopher Clarey – and it’s done in a way no one else could tell.

The process of writing the book ‘The master’ that Clarey undertook is reminiscent of her work as a tennis correspondent for the New York Times. After all, Clarey put her 30 years of global sports coverage to the New York Times and International Herald Tribune, where he was chief sports correspondent and longtime columnist. Clarey, who covered her first Grand Slam tournament in 1990 at Wimbledon, is one of the world’s leading tennis authorities – an award-winning journalist who is not afraid to communicate honestly and critically. He has traveled and reported in over 70 countries and six continents.

Roger Federer (Photo courtesy of Hachette Book Group)

Clarey has covered Roger Federer since the start of his professional career and attended the Swiss superstar’s first Grand Slam main draw match – on the Suzanne-Lenglen court at Roland Garros in 1999 – long before he became a tennis icon.

Throughout the 421 pages of the book (published Tuesday in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands by Hachette Book Group), Clarey follows Federer’s long, rich and rewarding career around the world, from South Africa and South America to the Middle East and in Federer’s native Switzerland. He has witnessed Federer’s 20 major titles across all four Grand Slam venues and has been there for his biggest wins and most crushing defeats.

“I followed Federer to six continents; interviewed him more than twenty times in twenty years for the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune. Our meetings were held everywhere from a private plane to a back area in Wimbledon in Times Square to Alpine restaurants in Switzerland to a suite at the Hotel de Crillon in Paris with a ridiculously good view of Place de la Concorde while his future wife, Mirka Vavrinec, tried on designer clothes.

“A habit that separates Federer from most other elite athletes I have met is that he will ask you first and not superficially: inquire about your own journey to this particular place, your own perceptions of the tournament, the country, the people, ” Clarey writes in ‘The Master.’

“‘The reason Roger is so interesting is because he’s so interested,’ Paul Annacone, his former coach, once told me.”

Clarey drew on more than 20 exclusive interviews he has had with former World No.1 Federer over the years to tell the story of one of tennis’s greatest players and defining athletes in our era with the sharp ideas of those who are closest to him. In ‘The master,’ Clarey conducted interviews specifically for the book with people like Federer’s support team: his wife, Mirka; her childhood trainer, Peter Carter; and his longtime trainer Pierre Paganini, all of whom were essential to Federer’s success.

Federer: from temperamental teenager to elegant cliché maker

We see and learn how Federer has changed over the years – from a wayward teenager with bleached blonde hair in a ponytail who struggled to lose being put on a high pedestal thanks to his poise, his elegant eyesight and his competitive instinct.

Over the decades, Federer has shared his gift of refined athleticism and made it easy – sliding down Wimbledon center court like a dapper, handsome Fred Astaire on a dance floor – even when it wasn’t always the case. After Federer learned to manage his temper and expectations – and became a Zen master on the tennis court – he became calm and took his game to a whole different level. His career takes off. Now there’s always the friendly smile and gentle demeanor that transcends Federer’s ability to communicate easily with fans and the media in multiple languages ​​of English, Swiss-German, and French.

Clarey writes about Federer: “We’re kind of returning guests to most cities and tournaments, and we’ve also made a lot of friends around the world,” he said. “It’s that feeling of home away from home. I am able to do this quite easily now, especially now with children. I want to keep replicating this for them so that they always feel comfortable wherever we go.

The author continues: “Federer’s curiosity – whether polite or sincere – sets the tone for a conversation rather than a structured interview. It’s disarming, even if it doesn’t seem like his intention. What it creates is mostly an air of normality in the midst of the extraordinary, and it’s something that Federer projects very intentionally. Federer can handle being on a pedestal (he’s had a lot of practice), but he often points out that he’s happier to see eye-to-eye. His mother, Lynette, may well have passed this on. When someone hears her last name or a merchant sees it on her credit card and asks if she is related to “this” Federer, she responds in the affirmative, but quickly changes focus by asking s ‘they have children of their own. “

Federer: mastering both himself and the game of tennis

As Clarey points out, Federer was able not only to master himself but also the game of tennis. It also extended to Federer’s commercial career, where although he came from a small but wealthy country, he built himself to be the most successful tennis player the sport has ever seen. While Federer’s career income on the tennis court topped $ 130 million, his off-court income has boosted his combined earning potential to well above $ 1 billion, thanks to his many backers such as Rolex, Uniqlo, Credit Suisse, Lindt, Mercedes Benz, Barilla and Au. He also amassed over $ 50 million for his foundation. His charity works with more than one million children in Africa.

“Federer is widely seen as a natural”, Clarey writes, “And yet he’s a meticulous planner who has learned to embrace routine and self-discipline, planning his program well in advance and in great detail.

“” I generally have an idea of ​​the next and a half years, and a very good idea of ​​the next nine months, [Federer] said in Argentina. “I can tell you what I’m doing on Monday before Rotterdam or what I’m doing on Saturday before Indian Wells. I mean, not hour by hour, but I talk about it pretty much day in and day out.

In ‘The master,’ we also see how Federer’s long-standing rivalries with his contemporaries, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Roddick, also changed him.

As Clarey writes: “While it’s rare to see Federer sweating, there has been tremendous work and a lot of self-doubt behind the scenes. He has performed in pain far more than most of us realize. The setbacks. Murderers have also not been lacking in the spotlight. One could easily argue that the two biggest games he played in were the 2008 Wimbledon final against Rafael Nadal and the 2019 Wimbledon final against Novak Djokovic. ended in bitter defeats in tight fifth sets which extended the past settlement.

“He was a big winner, racking up over a hundred touring titles and twenty-three consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals, but also a big loser.

“This undoubtedly contributed to his appeal to Everyman, helping to humanize him. To his credit, Federer has absorbed the blows, both public and private, and rebounded with an emphasis on positive energy and the long term.

Clarey knew the time had come to write ‘The master’

After accomplishing so much – being the first to win 20 Grand Slam singles titles, 103 titles in total and a 237-week record ranked world No.1 – Federer, who just turned 40 earlier this month – here, finds himself in an unusual if not poignant situation. situation after more than two decades of hard work, according to Clarey. Last week, Federer announced he would undergo a fourth right knee operation that would not only force him to miss next week’s US Open, but it would also end his 2021 season and keep him sidelined indefinitely.

After maintaining his physical health for so long and being able to play until his 30s, which had been a blessing, we learn that Federer is a human after all. Inevitably, as Federer has shown over the years since winning his 20th major title at the 2018 Australian Open, the game is very exhausting. “Your body will break down at some point” Clarey said in a recent interview for the NPR radio program Listen and now.

Clarey knew the time had come to write a book about Federer after his heartbreaking five-set loss 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 13-12 (3) against Djokovic. in the 2019 Wimbledon Championships final and how the season ended for him. “I felt that most of the work was done” Clarey told me in a phone conversation on Sunday afternoon.

When I asked her what we should expect from Federer in the future, Clarey suggested that the Swiss maestro’s best days might be behind him. “I haven’t seen him win another Slam”, he said. “The pandemic has delayed everything again. I felt like it was the right time to work on a project like this.

So Clarey took her time off and stepped away from the rhythm of professional tennis at the New York Times the first half of 2021 to complete the writing of the book.

As Clarey explained to Listen and now: “I feel like the book has an elegiac tone in places and also a farewell tone.”

Give praise in advance for ‘The master’ was abundant

• “Roger Federer is the most beautiful and the most balletist I have ever seen. In this entertaining and deeply researched book, Christopher Clarey, today’s best tennis writer, talks about how Federer got the better of our greatest champions and how harder it was than he made it seem. . said Billie Jean King, former world No. 1 player and 12-time Grand Slam singles champion.

• “An iconic master in his field, Christopher Clarey is the perfect writer to conclude the gift of Roger Federer’s career. You are not going to get a better glimpse of his life, his personality and his character ”, said Chris Evert, former world No. 1 and 18-time Grand Slam singles champion. “Christopher got close but not too close to Roger to compromise his take on this great champion. He shows the sides and layers of Roger through conversations and stories we have never been aware of before. J have a deep respect for Christopher’s fair and thoughtful journalism.

• “It takes a master to know a master. Among the many highlights of this valuable biography: insightful glimpses of other great stars in Federer’s long career ”, writes George Vecsey, new York Times sports columnist and bestselling author of Coal miner’s daughter (with Loretta Lynn).

• “Style married to substance. Heft married lightly. Polite, detail-oriented, executed with grace, Roger Federer gets the biography he deserves ”, writes Jon Wertheim, Illustrated sports editor and Tennis chain correspondent and author of Strokes of genius.

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