When I met tennis superstar Roger Federer for the Montreal Buzz, he was 29. By the time you read this, he will be 30, as he had his birthday in our fair city, where he is playing in the Rogers Cup…
Sometimes referred to as the ‘Federer Express’, the Roger Federer I spoke with was a far cry from the lightening-fast dynamo one sees on the tennis courts. He is not only the perfect gentleman, he is a gentle man. In town with his family – his wife Marika Vavrinec and their twin girls Myla Rose and Charlene Riva – he took the time to see the city.
‘‘Montreal has great European flair. Although we were jet-lagged, we took a long walk in the Old Port. Everyone is very friendly.’’ His visit to Montreal is Federer’s fifth time taking part in the Rogers Cup in this city, which rotates the women’s and men’s tournaments between Toronto and Montreal. He’s won the Rogers Cup twice (2004, 2006) in Toronto. ‘‘Maybe this time in Montreal,’’ he adds with his inimitable grin. ‘‘I love this tournament. It is very prestigious and attracts all the top players.’’
Roger Federer, the man behind the racquet, is charming. Curiously, for a man ranked #25 in the Forbes Celebrity 100 List, he was ‘‘uncomfortable on the red carpet for a long time. But now I can ‘do’ small talk.’’ Good things, as his tennis schedule is often complemented with meetings with some of the world’s most well-known people.
He lunched with the Queen of England, during the time he played at Wimbledon. Roger describes his almost-wardrobe malfunction, just before his time with Queen Elizabeth II. Somehow, his pen spilt ink all over him. ‘‘I ran into a store with these sprinkles on my jacket and quickly changed. No one knew that til today,’’ he says, smiling. This quiet-spoken celebrity is an obvious family man, whose eyes light up when he mentions his children. He is also involved with children around the world, having started the Roger Federer Foundation in 2003.
‘‘When I saw how rich I got, I wanted to give back.’’ And give back he has- organizing tennis tournaments and donating the fees to crisis-zones such as Haiti and Japan, being a recent example. He has raised millions for programs that offer education and sports to young children. ‘‘I chose education because it stays with you for life.’’ And then my time with Roger Federer was up. But my Montreal Buzz moment with him will, indeed, stay with me for life.
Rogers Cup Montreal, August 6–14, 2011.