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I discovered this book when I was in a cafe sometime back, attending a book club meeting. I have never seen a biography of Roger Federer before and so I was excited. I asked the cafe manager whether I could borrow it and he was kind enough to lend it to me.

René Stauffer’sThe Roger Federer Story : Quest For Perfection‘ was probably the first Roger Federer biography to come out. I am sure there are more which have been published since. It was first published in German in 2006, as ‘Das Tennis Genie‘ (I love the German title!) and was later updated and translated into English in 2007. Stauffer starts the story with how Federer’s parents met, how the family lived when he was born, how he got into tennis, his junior days in tennis and how different people helped him, the support of the Swiss Tennis Federation during the early part of his career, how he turned professional and joined the ATP tour, how his initial years on the tennis tour were challenging and how it took him three years to win his first ATP title, his first grand slam title at Wimbledon in 2003, how things fell in place after that and how he started winning one grand slam after another, and how he became one of the greatest players as early as 2007. The book also describes the love and support he received from his family throughout and how that has been the bedrock of his life, how every coach of his starting from Peter Carter to Peter Lundgren to Tony Roche has influenced his tennis and helped him become a better player. The book also describes how Federer and Mirka Vavrinec first met and the big part she has played in his life. There is a second part to the book, a shorter one, in which Stauffer looks at Federer from different perspectives – as a person, a player, an opponent, an entrepreneur, a celebrity, an ambassador. The book ends with a timeline which describes the major milestones of Federer’s career and has quotes by prominent tennis persons on what they think about Federer.

I enjoyed reading ‘The Roger Federer Story’. I particularly enjoyed reading the first part which talks about his early days, his personality as a kid growing up, how he hated classes at school, how he hated practice but was wonderful during the big matches, how, though he was talented, the expected results were hard to come by on the tennis court. There was a lot of new information in that first part of the book that many tennis fans wouldn’t be aware of. It was interesting to know that Federer was introverted, he liked hanging out with his childhood friends, he was not really a reader or an intellectual type but loved playing games on his Playstation during his younger years. There were interesting comments in the book by his sister and his mother on his younger days. There were also interesting depictions of how he was his own independent man – the way he ignored his tennis coach from his younger years, Peter Carter, and went with a new coach Peter Lundgren, how he broke off his relationship with Peter Lundgren after he won his first grand slam and continued playing without a coach, a decision which puzzled many, how he broke off his close relationship with the Swiss Tennis Federation at one point and stuck it out on his own, how he broke his relationship with IMG and started handling his business affairs with the help of his own family. Some of these decisions look brave, some of them look surprising, but all of them look interesting.

One of the things which I learnt after reading the book was that Federer didn’t have it easy. Success on the ATP tour didn’t come easily for him. It took him three years to win his first ATP title. It took him five years to win his first grand slam. Many players – some of them established professionals and others from Federer’s own generation – seem to have had his number on court. Players like Lleyton Hewitt, Tim Henman, Andre Agassi, David Nalbandian. In the case of some of these players, Federer seems to have reversed the trend and started winning more matches against them, but in other cases, it looks like that player has continued to have Federer’s number. For example, Nalbandian seems to have continued winning against Federer, even after Federer started clocking all those grand slams. Nalbandian seems to have been the Nadal of his time. All this makes Federer’s achievements look even more impressive.

The book ends at the beginning of 2007. Lots of stuff has happened in Federer’s career since then – how Nadal chased him and caught up with him at Wimbledon and everywhere else, how Federer won his first French Open, how he crossed Sampras’ record of 14 grand slams, how he won seven Wimbledons and tied with William Earnshaw, how his career continued without any slams for the next five years, how Djokovic came up and had both Federer’s and Nadal’s numbers, how Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka came out as wonderful challengers to the three greats, Federer’s great renaissance in 2017 when he won two slams (and how he won his eighth Wimbledon and broke William Renshaw’s record) and how he defended one of them in 2018, and how his performances have dipped again since then – these are not covered in the book. I hope Stauffer updates this book and doubles its length or writes a second part to it.

The Roger Federer Story‘ is a treat to Federer and tennis fans. It is an old book by now, but it is still very readable. It is better written than ghosted biographies, but it is not like reading David Faster Wallace’s description of Federer’s tennis. It is a good, fast-paced read. I enjoyed reading it.

Have you read ‘The Roger Federer Story‘ by René Stauffer? What do you think about it?

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