Winter of the year 1994. The calendar draws the last leaves of the year and in a small region of Switzerland, in Wasserhaus, a district of Münchenstein, parents discuss the possibility of sending their son to the national tennis center in Ecublens. After studying the best options, they concluded that this could be the ideal one for their son’s career. When asked, he immediately rejected the idea. Although the distance was not great between his house and the center, about three hours by train, the change of language (French was spoken there) and the fear that he was leaving his home, made that boy refuse to go. Luckily, months later, he changed his mind. That was the ‘Yes’, that changed the life and career of Roger Federer.
In March Roger passed the entrance exams and was chosen to be part of the center. Within the program, the boys were received in different houses near the center. Federer then met the Christinet. The family had experience in welcoming young talents and wanted to have more children at home who could keep their son Vincent company. Roger moved there during the summer of 1995, after finishing his academic year. There began a stage that Federer himself describes as one of the worst in his life. He even uses the word ‘hell’ to define what those next five months in his life would be like.
This is how he tells it himself in the book ‘Roger Federer, Quest for perfection’. “I just wasn’t happy there. I was away from my parents and didn’t speak any French. I had no friends. I couldn’t find motivation and I was sad very often,” revealed Roger. The Christinet’s son Vincent could not relate to Federer, who at the time spoke only German and a little English. That produced awkward moments at home and Roger counted the days to make it Friday and he could return to Basel with his parents to spend the weekend there.
On one of the times Federer returned home to his parents, he told them that he did not want to return to Ecublans. “I wanted to go home but my parents convinced me to stay,” recalls the Swiss. His parents played a very important role in the boy’s training. They never ever forced him into anything. They always let him be the one to make the decisions and he was so convinced that he wanted to be a tennis player and get to play at Wimbledon sometime that he didn’t hesitate to move forward.
As the months went by, their stay at the Christinet house became more bearable and their relationship with Vincent, the son of the family, grew closer to almost inseparable. Roger was learning French and began to feel better there, although he could not avoid going through various setbacks at school. At school, he had trouble focusing on classes and was not too interested in studying.
“He fell asleep several times during classes and the school had to attract his attention to make him more interested. He said he only wanted to be a professional tennis player and he did not like studying at all,” they comment in the book, something that Yves Allegro corroborates. , friend of Roger and who met him at that stage. “He had a lot of difficulties studying. He cried a lot but playing tennis was great. Anyone could see him. What nobody imagined was that he could become number 1. He was not even the best of the boys of his age,” says Allegro.
During 1996 and 1997, Federer was improving his performance on the court and although his particular character played more than a trick at the time, his results in tournaments for boys his age made the Swiss federation see true potential in him and I put a personal trainer to work with him. His name was Peter Carter, whose history and relationship with Roger was very special for being the player’s first coach and for how close they were until sadly, he died in an accident.
They speak of Roche, Annacone or Edberg as the coaches who most influenced Roger Federer but few know that Peter Carter left the most impression on his heart.
The rest is history. After spending those very hard months outside his house, being just a child and feeling strange with an unknown family, Roger never strayed from the path that would lead him to the unimaginable then, to the greatest of glories in the history of this sport. When I was little, I showed where I wanted to go. “In the center we were asked to write our biggest goal as tennis players. All the children wrote to reach the Top 100, or something like that, but Federer was the only one who put ‘Be number 1 in the world’. From that day on, we all saw him as different way, “Allegro describes of Roger.