A few days ago he won Indian Wells for the fifth time. I’m caving in and buying an RF jacket.
To start, Federer looked relatively normal when we met, and definitely Swiss: dark turtleneck sweater, crisp wool pants, black boots. Hiking is Federer’s favorite hobby (his only hobby), but snow was falling and his legs were tired from Australia, so we went out to lunch, for raclette (at his suggestion), a traditional Swiss dish for après-ski, basically a plate of melted cheese. Not what I expected. But what did I expect, really? On the court, Federer is known for almost inhuman focus. Humorless determination. A steel-cut perfectionist with a stevedore’s nose, the finest forehand of all time, and the coiffure of James Bond circa Timothy Dalton. In the stiffest of all countries, why should he be any different? But frankly, he was so easy going from the start, so relaxed, for a second I thought he was stoned. (He wasn’t stoned.) He drove us to the restaurant in his Mercedes. We chatted about our families. I wound up telling a story about the time I did heroin by accident—look, it was in South Africa, and Federer’s mother is from South Africa, and I was trying to find some common ground out of the gate, the way you do when you’re riding in a gargantuan vehicle with a global celebrity you’ve just met—and he barked out laughing. Federer, a big laugher, who knew? Though it got to a point, by mid-meal, where I started to get suspicious—was it for show, to play the Everyman? Who likes melted cheese like the rest of us? (Maybe he was stoned?) This is a guy, I’d learn, who still makes reservations at a nearby public tennis facility rather than build his own private court. Think about that. Consider the fact that Federer has made over $100 million in career prize money, never mind endorsements. Now imagine being the local dude who has to kick Roger Federer off a tennis court because his practice session goes a little long.
It’s illogical to say that Roger Federer has returned to top form because reading the daily news gives us nervous breakdowns and we really need him to win. But we’re fans and will make the connection.