20 Grand Slam Titles.
103 Career Titles.
A record 310 weeks as World Number 1.
$130 million in career prize money.
The list really does go on and on…
However, despite all these achievements even at the grand “old” age of 39 (at least in terms of tennis) Roger Federer is still going strong and is still looking to break even more records in the world of tennis – if there are any left.
He’s been doing it for so long it’s easy for sports fans to take fore-granted we have been able to witness over the past two decades. He is widely regarded as the greatest of all time and his effortless style has been compared to that of a ballerina whose movement around the court is an art form in itself.
His technique is second to no one and is one of the main reasons he has been able to stay at the top for so long.
His dominance of the game throughout the 2000s together with his intense rivalry with his now friend, Rafael Nadal, took the sport to heights it had never seen before both in terms of quality and popularity.
When you think of tennis he is one of the first names that come to mind and you couldn’t imagine what the sport would be like without his brilliance…but that was a real possibility at the start of his career.
Whilst our jaws drop at the sight of his lethal forehand and the unbelievable backend winners, we often forget that Federer, like many youngsters before him, was not always destined for greatness.
Federer grew up in the Swiss town of Basel where not only did he have a love for tennis but he was also an impressive soccer player, with many of his coaches believing he was good enough to become a professional.
At just age 11, the young Federer made the tough choice of giving up on his potential soccer career and decided to dedicate his time solely to his biggest passion and the world of tennis has been grateful ever since.
Like so many youngsters breaking into the professional ranks the young Federer had an attitude problem. The troublesome teenager was not averse to the conventional tantrums of smashing up racquets and throwing them about the court, a far cry from the quiet, meditative Federer we see today who is almost emotionless from point to point.
Many speculated that the talented youngster was so used to getting things his own way in the Junior circuit (which he dominated and even won Junior Wimbledon in 1998) that he took it too hard on himself, when he realised that he had higher standards to meet.
We all know how the story ends and that he did adapt and changed his attitude very quickly which culminated in his first Grand Slam at the tender age of 22, but few of us know the main reason for the change in his mindset and temperament.
He is widely regarded as the man responsible for Federer’s perfect technique and his graceful style but very few know Federer’s his first main coach, Peter Carter.
Carter first discovered 9-year-old Federer whilst he was playing club tennis in Federer’s home town of Basel. A former pro himself Carter was somewhat the local celebrity of the tennis circuit and someone a young Federer looked up-to and wanted to emulate.
Carter, however, thought he was capable of much more than he had achieved in the game and took the young protege under his wing and started to nurture his obvious talent.
Carter was originally from Adelaide, Australia and still kept in touch with those on the circuit back home. He would often tell his former coaches and friends of the amazing youngster he had stumbled across in Europe.
Carter’s enthusiasm was not reciprocated as his coaching friends in Adelaide were more focused on their young talent who went by the name of Lleyton Hewitt. Hewitt himself would go on to have an outstanding career, winning Wimbledon in 2002 and going on to become world number 1, but it was Carter’s horse who ended up winning the race in the end.
In 2002, the year before Federer’s first Grand Slam win at Wimbledon, he received news of a tragic event that would change his life forever.
On a honeymoon in South Africa, Carter was involved in a car collision causing his Land Rover to topple over, killing him instantly.
Federer was playing in Toronto at the time, and the emotional 19-year-old broke down into tears when he was told the heartbreaking news.
He was inconsolable for days and even to this day it is a topic that is still extremely raw for the seven-time Wimbledon Champion. In an emotional interview with CNN, the father of four still holds the relationship he had with the Aussie coach very close to his heart.
He explained that it was Carter’s passing that really made him focus and train harder than ever before as he didn’t want to become a wasted talent, which was one of Carter’s biggest fears.
It’s safe to say he didn’t waste his talent.
Unfortunately, it’s human nature to take things fore-granted and become complacent if it becomes a day-to-day occurrence and the “norm”.
We often need dramatic reminders that nothing is guaranteed, not even tomorrow and that we should appreciate all of things we have whilst trying to improve and take advantage of the opportunities that we may have not been focussing on.
Only then do we grow and achieve the things we want to without going through the painful process of fear and regret.
This is what happened to arguably one of the greatest sportsmen of all time and his story can serve as a reminder to focus on what you want to achieve, as life can change very quickly.
Rest In Peace, Peter Carter (1964-2002)