Roger Federer enters the 2014 U.S. Open seeking his 18th Grand Slam.
After hundreds of matches, he’s probably been quoted more than any tennis player in the history of the sport. Federer’s country-club swagger and debonair delivery may give fans the impression that he is all work, no play.
Of course he handles himself with class and professionalism. However, beneath the tailored attire and GQ style, Federer tucks away his quick wit and a tinge of sarcasm.
When asked how he felt about being the face on the official U.S. Open car in 2010, a slightly annoyed Federer responded: “I can’t sleep at night. It is so amazing.”
The unofficial ambassador of tennis, Federer’s squeaky-clean image has made him one of the richest men in sports. The epitome of sophistication, Federer guards his brand well.
How difficult it must be for the perceived “good guy” to bite his tongue when asked questions he considers ridiculous. More often than not, Federer provides a snappy comeback.
During one interview Federer was asked about a cow named Juliette that he had been given as a gift for winning Wimbledon. The cow had given birth to a calf. The interviewer congratulated Federer, who responded: “Thanks, but I’m not the father.”
Federer is most serious when talking about competition. He respects the game and his opponents, especially his biggest rivals.
Speaking about his rivalry with Rafael Nadal, last summer, Federer told reporters:
There will never be a rivalry like ours. Not even that between Borg and McEnroe, despite their different personalities and one being left-handed and the other right-handed. Murray and Djokovic are very similar. Rafa and I are extreme opposites and that’s what the fans like so much. Our rivalry isn’t over, I’m sure it will be back, I miss it.
He told The Associated Press in 2006, foreshadowing his own struggles at Roland Garros:
Many people take away things from Sampras because he never won the French, saying his career was not complete, which I totally disagree with. I think he had the best career of any player ever.
After his recent Wimbledon defeat to Djokovic:
Winning or losing, it’s always something special and something you’ll remember, even more so when the match was as dramatic as it was today. It’s even more memorable when I see my kids there with my wife and everything. That’s what touched me the most, to be quite honest. The disappointment of the match itself went pretty quickly.
His last Wimbledon title came in 2012 when he defeated British favorite Andy Murray. Aware of the heart-breaking loss it was for Murray, Federer recognized his opponents agony, while coming to grips with his own disbelieve. He told reporters:
I know the occasion and how big it was for Andy and myself. I’m happy I got a victory today, but obviously it was a very, very special…Yeah, I mean, honestly this one hasn’t quite sunk in yet for some reason. I guess I was trying to be so focused in the moment itself that when it all happened I was just so happy, you know, that it was all over and that the pressure was, you know, gone basically.
Federer seems to reserve the sarcasm for reporters and tournament officials. When asked about what appeared to be heated exchanges he had with the umpire of a 2011 Australian Open final he lost against Novak Djokovic, Federer said:
He’s a nice guy, the umpire, so I kind of like to talk to him at times.
He took a dig at one reporter after being upset by Tomas Berdych at the 2010 Wimbledon. Dismissing the rest of the field, the reporter asked Federer about home-grown favorite Murray’s chances now that “some of the really threatening players haven’t been doing so well this year.”
Yeah, I mean, true, Rafa played terribly lately; Soderling is not a threat either. He’s got an easy ride to this victory, that’s for sure. Djokovic can’t play tennis anymore it seems like.
Got to make your own work, please. Respect the players. Obviously Andy is a fantastic player and he’s got all the chances to win here. We all know that.