He credits his first coach, Peter Carter, for helping him cohere as a player, in ways both direct and indirect. “I think if I can say thank you for my technique today, it’s to Peter,” Federer said in 2019
, as he reflected on Carter’s death in a 2002 car crash. “I guess he didn’t want me to be a wasted talent […] It was somewhat of a wake-up call to me when he passed away, and I really started to train hard.” A year later, Federer took his first major, at Wimbledon. It was a challenge for him to figure out how to behave on a court, even if he knew every shot on it. He had some thoughts on this subject at his last-ever press conference this month, when a reporter asked him
why everyone swooned at his artistry but no one talked about his grit.
“For some of the players it’s maybe easier to have that [grit], it’s more ingrained in their DNA. I feel like I had to go find it and take care of it,” Federer said. “Me, I was more lucky or more gifted with racquet head speed, or that stuff. So I’m proud of how far I’ve come because I know this was something I really struggled with early on. I was criticized heavily, maybe fairly or unfairly, whatever it is—why wouldn’t I fight more when losing?”
“So I didn’t understand quite what that meant. Do I have to grunt? Do I have to sweat more? Do I have to shout? Do I have to be more aggressive towards my opponents? What is it? It’s not me. I’m not like that. It’s not my personality. And a lot of people told me, ‘Well, you have to be tougher and not so nice, maybe.’ I tried, but it was all an act. I said, ‘I’ll try the nice way. Let’s see where it takes me.’”