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By Sandra Harwitt
Is there anyone out there who doesn’t think that Roger Federer has pretty universal recognition around the world?
Even people who aren’t sports fans probably have heard of the suave Swiss native who many consider the best player ever to play tennis. That debate is an article for another time, but Federer is the topic of conversation for the day.
The guys been around the game for 17 years in the pros and has won 17 Grand Slam titles. That’s a lot of press conferences for him to attend. And let me assure you there’s not a day he plays a match that he isn’t requested – and expected – to turn up to answer journalist questions.
Oftentimes it’s the same old questioned, possibly framed to work for a particular event.
But how often can you ask how do you think you played, especially when he’s in efficiency mode as Fed’s been through three rounds here at the French Open. His latest victory was a routing 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 win over little-known Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia/Herzegovina. Fed hasn’t dropped a set yet, although that pesky Marcel Granollers forced him to a tiebreaker in the second round – it wasn’t such a bonus as the Spaniard only won one point in said tiebreaker.
Anyway, let’s not digress from the issue at hand, which is what can you ask Roger Federer in a press conference that is different? Or at the very least that he probably hasn’t been asked before this week or, maybe, even this month.
The first question today might have sounded a bit different to Federer, who has heard it all. The premise was can he remember the first time he played an idol of his because Dzumhur called Federer his idol prior to the match.
Here’s Federer’s answer: “I guess I never got a chance to play (Boris) Becker and (Stefan) Edberg, but Pete (Sampras) clearly was huge, so that was clearly big. It was just already very exciting itself playing against the guys you knew from TV. Doesn’t matter almost who it is. You just wonder: Does your game actually match up with those kind of guys? Because it’s so surreal that you don’t think it does, and then you realize it’s so easy to win games against the guys. So I thought it was the most exciting time almost in my playing career, going from that phase from juniors to pros and then rubbing shoulders with those guys, seeing them prepare, joke around, being one of you, basically, and all of a sudden you become friends with them. I think it’s very cool.”
Another question posed to the “Great One” was regarding his five-year-old twin daughters, Myla and Charlene, who sat courtside during the match, although neither seemed to be too attentive to dad’s tennis. One daughter read a comic book, the other was entranced with a mobile phone, but they were very well behaved, that’s for sure. Federer was asked how interested they are in his tennis?
“They are happy when I’m back from the matches. They are happy when I come back from practice because they like spending time with me rather than me being gone. But I think that’s normal or that’s a good thing. I’m happy it’s that way and not the other way, that they can’t wait for me to go play tennis. They love the traveling, I’ll tell you that. Yeah, we ask them to stay in their seat. I don’t know if they stayed the whole match or not. Did they? Most of it? But clearly they like looking at their books and all that stuff. I don’t blame them. Probably look at some of the books rather than the match. It’s sweet that they are out, with their friends, together as a family. And, yeah, today they were old enough to not make any more noise and stuff, so it’s nice to see them out there.”
FYI: Wondering who this guy was that Federer was playing?
The 23-year-old Dzumhur is the only male player from his country to ever play at a major. Mervana Jugic-Salkic is the only woman from the country to ever play a Grand Slam event, which she did at the 2004-05 French Open and 2004 Wimbledon.
Dzumhur currently ranks No. 88 in the world and played as a qualifier at the French Open last year, losing in the first round to Feliciano Lopez of Spain. This is his fourth Grand Slam tournament of his career.
And what did Dzumhur think about playing his idol for the first time?
“I was warming up and I was still not believing that I’m playing Roger Federer. Really (it) was so strange feeling, like I’m dreaming. But then suddenly I switched when I started to play. Most important thing was that I started to serve good in the first set. Then was easier to play with him. Otherwise he would be even more dangerous without a good serve.”