In a world where negativity often wins center stage, Roger Federer seems safe from hate and haters. As if the joy that he spread for the magic shown on the tennis courts, and its perfect correlate in the neatness and correctness that he exhibited off them, had been enough to convince everyone that, if it is not perfect, at least it is very close. to that For this construction of the image of the Swiss, his humanitarian work helped a lot, with an active participation to balance, at least in part, the scale of justice in an unequal world.
“It’s good to be important, but it’s more important to be good.” The phrase is the one that Roger chose as a definition for his personality, in his profile on the website of the foundation that he created and chairs to channel most of his charitable works. The organization is approaching 19 years of life: it began its task in December 2003, when the Swiss had not yet reached number 1 in the world and had just won that year’s title at Wimbledon, in the first of his 20 coronations. of Grand Slam.
Federer’s solidarity profile was clear then when the world was just beginning to know him, and since then he has done nothing but ratify it. Like in September 2005, when he put up for auction the racket with which he won his second US Open to help the Red Cross in assisting the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which left more than 1,800 dead in New Orleans. As early as April 2006, he was also appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
Closer in time, this year he felt the need to make his contribution in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the humanitarian disaster caused by the war. “My family and I are horrified by the images coming out of Ukraine and are heartbroken to see these innocent people so affected. We want peace”, said the Swiss last March, who announced at the same time the donation of 452 thousand euros so that Ukrainian children they could continue their schooling process.
His foundation is a project around which the people of his closest circle revolve. It has him as its head, although his family and environment occupy important places: his father, Robbie, appears as members of the administration; his mother, Lynette; his wife and mother of his four children, Mirka Vavrinec; and also his historical manager, the American Tony Godsick. And the situation in Africa, one of the continents that most brutally exposes asymmetries at the global level, is one of his central objectives.
Federer developed a special bond with the continent, something that is linked to his family history: his mother was born in Kempton Park, a few kilometers from Johannesburg, South Africa, and part of the Swiss’s childhood was spent in that country. One of the most important solidarity events that he starred in was in those lands at the beginning of 2020, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic paralyzed the tennis circuit. In Cape Town, a match between him and Rafael Nadal that also included a doubles match with American tycoon Bill Gates and Trevor Noah, host of “The Daily Show”, drew 51,954 spectators. It was the historical public record for a tennis match and all the proceeds went to the charitable work carried out by the Foundation in the South of the continent.
But Federer’s caring spirit is not limited to his specific tasks at the foundation. During a good part of his career, he was also a beacon in defending the rights of his colleagues, as when he joined the Players Council of the Association of Professional Tennis Players (he fulfilled tasks there from 2008 to 2014 and from 2019 to 2022). “Can you imagine Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo meeting to discuss for hours about the problems of their colleagues and what affects second division players?” An ATP official told journalist Sebastián Fest in his book with some surprise. “Sin Red” (Sudamericana, 2015), which deals with the history of the rivalry between Federer and Rafael Nadal. And he added: “You see Federer, one day before the start of the US Open, locked in a hotel room at 22:15. Have a sandwich or snacks and discuss the quality control of the qualifying phase of an ATP 250 or whether the Sunrise challenger should be played in the same week as the Indian Wells Masters 1000 and how much money should be distributed.
Paradoxically, some differences about his work on the Board were the cause of one of the most striking situations in his career: a momentary estrangement in 2012 with Rafael Nadal, also a member of the body, who was upset to feel singled out by some statements in which Federer asked tennis leaders not to speak negatively about the circuit in public. The Spaniard’s response was immediate: “His is very easy. ‘I am a gentleman, let the others burn’. This is not like that either,” he shot at a press conference prior to the start of the Australian Open. It was Federer himself who was in charge of cooling things down, with that elegant spirit that in public only seemed to be altered by some adverse result that particularly affected him. The times finished accommodating things and this Friday the history of that rivalry that dominated tennis will be closed accordingly, in Roger’s farewell from professional tennis: with him and Nadal together in a doubles clash for the Laver Cup in London against the Americans Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe from approximately 5:00 p.m. (Argentine time).
Federer also showed his caring spirit during his visit to Argentina in 2013, when he played an exhibition against Juan Martin del Potro. One of the activities that both shared in those days was a clinic in which boys from different schools in the area were able to participate free of charge and who had to enjoy an unforgettable moment of their lives together with one of the best tennis players in the history.
More than one will emphasize the difference between the profile that Federer showed during his life and that known from the tennis stars of the 70s and 80s, when it seemed impossible to think beyond what was happening on the court. It is clear that the Swiss is also the result of a time in which athletes became aware that their lives pass through more than rackets and balls and that, after all, they are privileged in a world in which the gap between rich and poor often reaches obscene levels. That is why it is not by chance that he is also seen Rafael Nadal not only collaborating financially to mitigate the effects of the floods in Mallorca in 2018 but also clearing, gloves and brush in hand, the paths full of water. or to Novak Djokovic sponsor projects with his foundation to guarantee education for children from disadvantaged families in Serbia. Beyond their personal merits, the three are also the result of an evolution: that of a tennis circuit that no longer looks favorably on figures who deviate from the often painful reality that surrounds them.