Written by Staff Writer at CNN
On the Wednesday before Christmas, at the Mallorca Open in Spain, Roger Federer was giving away a prize when he spotted a t-shirt on the back of a spectator.
The man had apparently gone all out to out-revel Federer. He had put Federer’s face on his T-shirt and his logo on the back. The shirt read “Coach”, with the words in Spanish (“manos en ambos pasos” or “friends in both ways”. )
As Federer walked off, the man exploded in joy. “Roger, you’re my favorite player!”.
What had happened?
On the morning of December 22, Federer was playing Rogerio Dutra Silva at the Emirates Airline Open in Abu Dhabi, in the absence of his coach Ivan Lendl.
During the warm-up, Federer did not have a clue. If you asked him he would only say, “I don’t know. I might have forgotten.” Federer has said he cannot remember having anyone by his side at the umpire’s chair.
Roger Federer and Ivan Lendl at the 2015 Australian Open. © Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
No doubt, Lendl wasn’t as busy as usual in the period leading up to the U.S. Open. “I met Ivan the week before the U.S. Open and the last week before the Open is like my schedule for months before that,” he explained. “I just didn’t have him at the U.S. Open.”
At the start of the Open, Federer didn’t feel in the best of health. “I was feeling bad,” he revealed. “It was actually to the point where I couldn’t even walk 50 meters on my own. I needed a break and I couldn’t go any further. I felt really lost in myself.”
This is where the man of the moment Djokovic arrived. “He hit with me a little bit. He’s kind of my idol of course. And for me it was like, ‘Djokovic! Djokovic!’ I was glad he was with me.”
Djokovic missed the remainder of the tournament.
He was back in 2014.
The 2011 U.S. Open, as Federer was on his way to his seventh triumph, ended in extra time. Djokovic won the semifinal match. “He won that match,” said Federer. “That was one of the biggest shocks of my career. I was there for his win, by the way. That was a super match.”
“But I’ve gone through a lot of mental training in the last eight years,” said Federer. “That brought me back, that last match.”
After he returned, he has been the overwhelming favorite. This was probably due to the constant shifting in his personal circumstances.
In 2013 he had difficulty getting to grips with fatherhood. In 2016, he had to recover from a long-term back injury, which prevented him playing at all in the second half of the year.
“I was tired,” he said. “That part was tough. I didn’t get the recovery time with the back injury. I was off the tour for a long time.
“I also felt the pressure to come back and be ready at Wimbledon. I was ready, but it was so tight. Everybody was expecting so much of me. I had it all so I was like ‘Oh God, what’s going to happen?’ I didn’t know how to handle that. “
Federer lost the opening set in straight sets.
But the pressure increased as the match went on.
Then there was everything with Amelie Mauresmo.
The 2016 Australian Open came and went. Mauresmo was Federer’s coach, he won a record eighth Wimbledon title, and he won an elusive sixth straight Indian Wells title. But the plot thickened as Mauresmo revealed she had a child.
Federer once said, “There have been times in my life when I didn’t have my wife by my side. Or in my relationship. It’s great when you have good people around, and there are people around me that I love.”
Hence the decision to team up with Ilija Bozoljac, who had been looking after Federer for years. But the Jan. 4 loss to Kei Nishikori at the Australian Open prompted the divorce.
When he arrived back in the U.S. on December 22, Federer had battled back to No. 2, the position he held when he had left Australia on the following Sunday, and a first New Year’s Eve at the top of the men’s game since 2009.