When Roger Federer lost to Robin Soldering in today’s French Open quaterfinal, fans (especially fans with a thing for hot and hunky Swiss players) wailed in despair. Once invincible, Federer was felled in a major upset. And with it, Federer’s streak of making it to 23 straight semifinals ended.
And yet, perhaps this shouldn’t come as a shock. Less than a year ago, tennis experts and Federer himself were speculating about how the birth of his twins Charlene and Myra (with wife Mirka) might affect his tennis.
“I’ll be as professional as ever, even when the baby is there,” Federer insisted to critics around the time his daughters were born (the same month that he won his 15th Grand Slam, at Wimbledon). ”I think for my tennis life, too, it’s just going to make it more exciting, trying to find the best ways to balance both things. I haven’t actually had fears that I was not going to be able to play tennis after having a child.”
Perhaps that’s because despite his clear love for Mirka and the children, tennis will always be his true love (one reason I opted not to marry a world-class tennis player). “I’ll still take decisions that are best for my game,” he said about being a father.
Still, try as he might to overcome the fatherhood obstacle, history hasn’t been kind to dads in professional tennis. Fellow dad and pro tennis player Ivan Ljubicic told Reuters last year, “It’s just that your life changes completely. Priorities are different. You’re not the one in the family who’s the most important. You kind of lose your wife for a while.” And Federer’s wife is his most loyal fan, advisor, and publicist. She props him up and keeps him going, without missing a match. If she’s only giving him half of her focus, will his game continue to slide? Only time, and a few more Grand Slams, will tell.