Roger Federer: A human first and a tennis legend second

By Aliza Kibel
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Who is Roger Federer? A legend in the tennis world? A humble Swiss ball boy? When asked by Joe Sabia in the “73 Questions” series for Vogue, he said he wanted to be remembered as “philanthropic” and “a good tennis player.” I am here to tell you that both descriptions are understatements of who he is, both as a tennis player and a philanthropic foundation president.

In describing himself as merely a “good tennis player,” Federer displays his humility. Federer holds many records, ranging from the most Grand Slam men’s singles championships with 20 titles to the most Wimbledon titles won with eight titles. His overwhelming list of achievements is a source of both inspiration and encouragement for aspiring young tennis players everywhere, who dream of becoming a legendary tennis player like Federer once did.

Federer’s journey from ball boy to the greatest tennis player of all time could explain why he is so kind and gentle with kids, especially ball kids, who are responsible for retrieving tennis balls from the court to give to the players during a match. In a further display of his kindness, Federer took ball kids out for pizza after winning a tournament held in his hometown. While Federer may have conquered the sport of tennis, the Swiss tennis player stated that “in [his] heart, [he] will always remain a ballboy.”

The popular video of Federer playing a trick on a young tennis player, Zizou, went viral a couple of months ago. In the video, young Zizou is shown asking Federer to remain in the sport until he can play him. In August, this wish became reality as Federer, soon to retire, set up a match with Zizou to fulfill his promise. The video shows Federer’s impact on and ability to inspire children today as well as his longevity in the sport.

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Many of us have grown up watching his games and have been driven by his motivation to play tennis. His matches, especially the ones against Rafael Nadal, have been so intense that it inspired me to play tennis at least a couple of times every year.

In sports, it is common for rivals and their fans to hate each other. However, this has not been the case in the tennis world. Federer and Nadal have played the most competitive, exceptional matches against each other while also establishing and maintaining a strong friendship off the court. Nadal expressed his sadness regarding Federer’s retirement, where he referred to Federer as “the most important player in [his] tennis career.” Federer played against Nadal 40 times, with Federer winning their last match during the 2019 Wimbledon semifinals.

Toxic masculinity can be easy to fall into as a sportsman. Federer never was one to hide his emotions, which were on display after his last match which left Nadal and Federer in tears together. For the greatest rivals to be embracing each other and crying over not being able to play professionally against one another again is heartwarming. Federer has always shown his emotional side and did not fall into the trap of toxic masculinity. Exemplifying this quality, he believes that “-it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice,” reminding everyone to prioritize kindness on his foundation’s website.

Federer’s foundation is not as famous as his tennis career, but it has the potential to be even more important and influential in the long run. Almost 2 million children have benefited from the foundation, which provides children with accessible education in seven countries. Even if his sports career has come to an end as he retires, he still has a foundation that can be used as a medium to inspire more and more children every day. Federer’s philanthropy is a financial example we should all heed: give back to the people who can learn and benefit from it when you have the means.

Overall, Federer has brought so much good to our world since the first time he stepped foot on the court. He has been an exemplary philanthropist who has displayed great sportsmanship and has been a gentleman throughout his years both off and on the court. He inspires the tennis players of the future with his class and amazing techniques. Other athletes and celebrities should look up to him and how he uses his influence to do good for the world.

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