There are those inevitable events for which we refuse to prepare. Too painful. The announcement of Roger Federer’s retirement is undoubtedly one of them. No one wanted to imagine what tennis would be like without the Swiss. But now we have to face the facts. The Swiss ended up saying stopafter 20 titles of Grand Slam in almost 25 years of career. Before the last strokes of the master’s racket, from Friday during the Laver Cup, 20 Minutes devotes a series of articles to the one who will remain a legend of the game. Second episode this Monday, on the role played by his wife Mirka while throughout his career.
Federer is going to leave, leaving us alone with the memory and some photos yellowed by time or by the hairdresser of “Rodgeur”, all peroxide blonde hair out at the dawn of its great triumphs. Fortunately, Mirka has been there. We can never thank the Swiss woman enough for her intractable hair policy: it is thanks to her that there are only a few documented traces of the stylistic oddities of the young Federer. “To remind you that there will always be better days”, had ironically instagramed the champion, about the “preMirka” era, 1999 and wheelbarrows.
Behind the big man, therefore, Mirka Wawrinec, a woman sure of her haircut, relatively stable in length, and just as sure of her husband’s talents, even when they were well hidden under the veneer of the sulky, rough-hewn teenager. It was because you had to bet on the right horse in the Olympic Village in Sydney, when Federer watched the 22-year-old young woman out of the corner of his eye without daring to approach her.
A meeting before fame
The storytelling of the meeting, as it was sold to us: Timid as a forehand from Gasquet under pressure, “Roggeur” spent the fortnight dreaming as much of the former Swiss junior champion as of an Olympic medal, which would will also pass under the nose after a defeat for bronze against Di Pasquale. But the same evening, everything is forgotten: the fellow wrestlers of the Swiss tennis team manage to lock up the future couple on the terraceas if to say that it was necessary to help them a little.
Two pairs of twins and 20 Grand Slams later, how to assess the part of Mrs. Federer in the successes of Mr. In the biography dedicated to him by Christopher Clarey released recently, Marc Rosset, a close friend gets wet like this: “I think Roger owes 50% of his career to Mirka because she manages a number of incredible things”. A compliment that almost sounds like a remark to dad. Yes, Federer’s wife has long handled the couple’s mental load: first her communication, then hotel rooms on the go, nannies for the kids, and so on.
But this is a reductive vision of the influence of Mirka Wawrinec on the construction of the greatest myth in the history of tennis, at least the first few years. “I was pretty calm and disciplined. Roger, he made a lot of noise and his coaches sometimes had to kick him out to have peace, ”she will establish at the start of their relationship in the tongue-in-cheek style that we sometimes associate with her.
Remembering the terrible pain she went through to make a success of a career in tennis, abandoned because of unbearable ankle pain in 2002, a few months after obtaining her best ranking (76th). Her father, an emigrant from Slovakia, had not skimped on the fit, going so far as to grab Navratilova’s father during a tournament in Germany to get an idea of the level of the one who is still called Miroslava. The young girl does not have a strong blow, but an irreproachable work ethic that she will be able to transmit to the dilettante Federer.
“She had a huge impact on me”
Praise of “Rodgeur”, last spring: “When I got engaged to Mirka, I didn’t yet have any headlines on the board. She is a strong and intelligent woman. which had a huge impact on me, both on and off the court. She trusted me and taught me to always do my best. Mirka was convinced that I should not waste my talent. For her part, she was aware of her limits. She knew that with my abilities, I could go much further, and this faith really boosted me”.
Frustrated by her aborted career, Mirka Federer obviously projected herself on that of her husband, instilling in him her own rage to win, palpable when observed in Federer’s box during important matches. Possessed gaze, chewing gum crushed to clinical death of the jaw, sighs of priceless exasperation, and even untimely interventions, sometimes: we still remember the diplomatic incident a few days before the final of the David Cup 2014, when madam had treated Stan Wawrinka of squealer during the semi-final of the MastersFederer playing with great accuracy the guy who saw nothing, heard nothing.
The kind of attitudes that could reflect a haughty image and a bit derogatory of the companion of the Swiss champion after 2005, when she decided by mutual agreement with him that she would no longer respond to requests from journalists. He reminds us of having made some assumptions about the precariousness of our existence if we ventured to speak to him in the former players’ lounge of Roland Garros : would we be whipped by the organizer, obliged to receive naked on a straightened nail board of the first balls of Rodgeur at full power? Fortunately, our lack of courage never disappointed, preventing us from racking our brains any longer.
It was the time of somewhat gratuitous reproaches, derogatory remarks on his less and less concealed taste for the advantages of life as a couple with a multimillionaire world No. 1, commented friendships with the popess of fashion Ana Wintour. In his very rich biography, Christopher Clarey has only one regret: that of not having been able to speak to Mirka Federer to pay tribute to his role behind the scenes. Some relatives take care of it for her, like Paul Annacone, one of Rodgeur’s coaches during his long career:
She was always part of the group that could advise her on tennis tips, even if she didn’t interfere. Mirka was very direct, she asked me questions like ”Roger has problems on the strategic level, what is your philosophy on that?”. The more I knew them, the more I respected and appreciated their relationship and their roles. She is very protective of the people who work in this group. »
Through this description, we glimpse a kind of distribution of their public image on the well-known principle of “good cop/bad cop”. To Rodgeur, the immaculate kindness, the good joke, the permanent bonhomie, to Mirka the power to say no in the shadows, in a more thankless register, but no less essential to the longevity of the career of the eight times winner of Wimbledon.
In 2018, for his wife’s 40th birthday, Roger Federer had also preferred to zap the clay to organize, finally, a birthday worthy of all his past attentions: “She has done so much for me. I wanted to give him memories, experiences. My dream has always been for her to know our destination, nothing more. So I said to myself “let’s reverse the roles”. A few days in Ibiza with the couple’s friends, about forty people. But we don’t get over it: it was Mirka who composed the guest list to make sure that “Rogeur” didn’t forget anyone.