Roger Federer is a tennis legend who says he owes much of his success to becoming a father.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner, who announced his retirement earlier this month, is father to twin daughters Myla and Charlene, 13, and twin brothers Lenny and Leo, 8, with wife Mirka.
He says becoming a parent represented a change in his approach, especially when his daughters arrived as he hit a cold streak when it came to winning major tournaments.
“I have twin girls, as you know, Myla and Charlene. They were born in 2009, just after I became, I think it was world number 1,” he told Savannah Guthrie in an exclusive interview on September 21 TODAY.
“The girls were born and from that moment, 2010 and 2011, I didn’t win any slams. I remember changing diapers, bathing girls and being a dad. But then when the boys were born, I mean, it rocked the boat, obviously, because going on the road with four kids every week was tough, to say the least. And from being perhaps the dominator, I became the challenger. And I also liked this role. In fact, I really stayed hungry throughout.
When Savannah suggested that not all athletes would insist on taking their families on the road with them, Federer said it was a no-brainer.
“Oh, it was the only way,” he said. “I said, ‘I would never go on the road without my children.’ And then I prefer to retire. Then I should have retired 10 years ago.
Federer will leave professional tennis as one of the most dynamic players in the game, but he had to grow into the role, giving his own parents credit for raising him, while letting him mature.
“I guess they had a good balance, and I must have liked the game as well,” he said. “They just didn’t like it when they went on weekends for tennis tournaments and I behaved like a kid on the court and I was yelling and screaming and commenting and throwing rackets and I was unprofessional and I didn’t have my drinks ready or anything. ”
“All my generation of friends, we were all the same. We were all incredibly mad at the time,” he added.
Federer’s decision to retire will also end his rivalry with other greats on the pitch, including Rafael Nadal. This rivalry eventually gave way to admiration and friendship, which Federer attributes to respect for each other and their families.
“I think both families respect each other a lot, my parents, his parents,” Federer said. “Both teams, yes, it got heated and it was intense at times. Naturally, we get a bit agitated against each other sometimes, but I think, overall, always me and Rafa, we always knew how to keep a cool head through it.”
Federer, who cut his teeth as a professional playing Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi and is set to play one last time at the Laver Cup in London from September 23, says he hopes he made the game proud.
“I feel like we’ve pushed tennis in the right direction,” he said. “And I think I did it my way. I’ve always stayed true to myself and people have always enjoyed watching me play, which I guess is the ultimate compliment.