There are the inevitable events that we refuse to prepare for. 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 calling it quitsafter 20 titles of Grand Slam in a career of almost 25 years. Before the final strokes of the champion’s racquet, from Friday during the Laver Cup, 20 Minutes devotes a series of articles to him, who will remain a legend of the game. Second episode this Monday about the role his wife Mirka played while he was acting all the time. his career.
Federer will leave and leave us alone with the memory and a few photos yellowed by time or by the hairdresser of “Rodgeur”, all blond hair peroxide outside at the beginning of his great triumphs. Fortunately, Mirka has been there. We can never thank the Swiss woman enough for her difficult hair policy: it is thanks to her that there are few documented traces of the young Federer’s stylistic idiosyncrasies. “To remind you that there will always be better days”, the champion had ironically Instagrammed, about the “preMirka” era, 1999 and wheelbarrows.
Behind the big man therefore stands Mirka Wawrinec, a woman who is sure of her hairstyle, relatively stable in length and equally sure of her husband’s talents, even when they were well hidden under the veneer of the sulky teenager and poorly trimmed. It was because you had to bet on the right horse in the Olympic Village in Sydney when Federer saw the 22-year-old young woman out of the corner of his eye without daring to approach her.
A meeting before fame
The story of the meeting as it was sold to us: Cautious as a forehand from Gasquet under pressure, “Roggeur” spent the fortnight dreaming as much about the former Swiss junior champion as about an Olympic medal, which would also pass under the nose after a defeat for bronze against Di Pasquale. But that same evening, everything is forgotten: the fellow wrestlers from the Swiss tennis team manage to lock the couple-to-be on the terrace, as if to say that they should help them a little.
Two sets of twins and 20 Grand Slams later, how to rate Mrs. Federer’s role in Mrs. In the biography dedicated to him by Christopher Clarey, which was published recently, Marc Rosset, a close friend gets wet like this: “I think that Roger owes Mirka 50% of his career 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 burden: first her communications, then hotel rooms on the road, nanny for the kids and so on.
But that’s a reductive view of Mirka Wawrinec’s influence in building the biggest myth in tennis history, at least in the early years. “I was quite calm and disciplined. Roger, he made a lot of noise and his coaches sometimes had to kick him out to get 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 due to excruciating ankle pain in 2002, a few months after achieving her best ranking (76th). Her father, an émigré 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 still named Miroslava. The young lady does not have a strong stroke, but an impeccable work ethic that she will be able to transfer to the dilettante Federer.
“She had a huge influence on me”
Praise for “Rodgeur”, last spring: “When I got engaged to Mirka, I still had no headlines on the board. She is a strong and intelligent woman who had a huge influence on me both on and off the court. She trusted me and always taught me to 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 belief really boosted me”.
Frustrated by her interrupted career, Mirka Federer clearly projected herself onto her husband’s, instilling in him her own rage to win, which was palpable when observed in Federer’s box during important matches. A possessed look, chewing gum crushed to clinical death by the jaw, sighs of priceless irritation and even untimely intervention sometimes: we still remember the diplomatic incident a few days before the final of the David Cup 2014, when Madame had called Stan Wawrinka a whiner during the semi-final in the Masters, Federer played with great accuracy the guy who saw nothing, heard nothing.
The kind of attitude that could reflect a haughty and slightly derogatory image of the Swiss champion’s companion after 2005, when she decided by mutual agreement with him that she would no longer respond to inquiries from journalists. He reminds us to have made some assumptions about the precariousness of our existence if we dared to speak to him in the former Roland-Garros players’ lounge: we would be flogged by the organizer, obliged to receive naked on a straightened nail board from the first time Balls of Rodgeur in full force? Fortunately, our lack of courage never disappointed, preventing us from racking our brains any further.
It was the time of somewhat gratuitous reproaches, disparaging remarks about his less and less hidden taste for the advantages of life as a couple with a multi-millionaire world No. 1, commented friendships with fashion pope Ana Wintour. In his very rich biography, Christopher Clarey has only one regret: that he has not been able to speak to Mirka Federer to pay tribute to his behind-the-scenes role. 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 who could advise her on tennis tips, even if she didn’t interfere. Mirka was very direct, she asked me questions like ”Roger has problems at 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 according to the well-known principle of “good cop/bad cop”. To Rodgeur, the untainted 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 crucial for the eight-time winner of Wimbledon’s career. .
In 2018, for his wife’s 40th birthday, Roger Federer had also preferred to skip the clay to finally arrange a birthday for him worthy of all his previous attention: “She has done so much for me. I wanted to give him memories, experiences. My dream has always been that she knows 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 will not over it: it was Mirka who composed the guest list to ensure that “Rogeur” did not forget anyone.