Roger Federer explains how ‘amateur twist’ extended his career as he admits sport in danger of losing its fun

Roger Federer celebrates Credit: Alamy
Roger Federer celebrates Credit: Alamy

Roger Federer believes that not taking tennis too serious and having a lot of fun on tour were key to his longevity as he admitted “every sport is going into such a professional direction” that instead of enjoying wins everyone moves on very quickly.

Whereas in the past tennis players would retire shortly after hitting 30, Federer was competitive just before he turned 40 before a long-lasting knee injury forced him to retire just after his 41st birthday.

The final curtain came down in the Swiss great’s career in September this year as he bowed out after 24 years as a professional. He left the sport with 20 Grand Slams to his name and multiple records.

Appearing on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Federer was asked how he managed to stay at the top of the game for so long.

“When I was growing up I had [F1 World Champion] Michael Schumacher that I would look up to, who was at the top for so long. Tiger Woods, same thing, and I always thought it’s impossible to do that, to stay at the top for so long and have that drive,” he replied.

“Now people ask me ‘how did you do it?’ I’m like it’s normal. You just go out there and you do it again, and you try to win, and again. And it’s fun so you keep doing it. Everybody else would like to be in your shoes, right?

“And then you also have a duty, in my mind, to represent the sport well and enjoy it while it lasts. I really felt like I squeezed out that lemon till the last drop and I tried my very best to the end.

“It was incredible and I needed the likes of [14-time Grand Slam winner] Pete Sampras to also show me how it is at the top. And it’s tough, but I feel like I had a lot of fun on the tour. It was not just about tennis, it was going to nice dinners with friends and I’m happy that I didn’t take tennis almost that serious or that professional, still had a bit of an amateur twist to it.

“[I’m] a bit worried that every sport is going into such a professional direction and I hope we don’t lose the fun in it.”

Asked to expand on sport becoming too meticulous and too analytical, Federer admitted that athletes are often forced to “move on too quickly” after hitting the top.

“There are more analytics in the game. Sports science is also coming in hard. It’s okay, it’s important. When you see someone else doing something that works well you got to do it too or at least try. You follow them,” he said.

“I probably did some of it for other players or for a lot of them. Now others are showing how it’s done. Of course we are living in a very statistic-based world. We love our statistics, and we love breaking records, and who’s the greatest and all that stuff.

“You come out, you just won a Grand Slam or you’re just world No 1 and the first question is ‘so how long do you want to stay world No 1? When are you going to win your next Grand Slam? What’s your next win’ instead of actually just enjoying it.

“It’s a bit of a problem, I think. Instead of enjoying it we have to move on too quickly.”

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