Swiss Champion Is a Diplomat on and off the Court

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Swiss Champion Is a Diplomat on and off the Court
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Roger Federer at the ATP World Tour Finals

During the ATP World Tour Finals Roger Federer was honored with both the Fans’ Favorite Award (for a record ten years in a row) and the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award (for the second year in a row and the eighth time).

What is it about Roger Federer that draws these accolades to him year after year? 

In response to winning the Sportsmanship Award the 17-time Grand Slam champion commented:

"I always tried to play according to the rules and be respectful to my fellow competitors. A lot of other players totally deserve this award; it's a great pleasure to win it.

"[That it's voted for by fellow players] makes it extra special. We have great matches all over the world and the recognition is a great feeling. We're trying to inspire the next generation. (via ATP)

Along with trying to inspire the next generation, he is also trying to improve conditions for the current generation of players.

As President of the ATP Player Council, he negotiates on behalf of all competitors and represents them on particular issues. He takes the job very seriously and devotes substantial amounts of time to it.

An example of a recent issue he is involved in is why the ATP rejected a proposal by the Indian Wells tournament to raise the payout to players by $800,000. The bulk of this increase was intended for players losing in the first three rounds.

Part of Federer’s plan is to improve the payout to qualifiers and low-ranked players so they are not so financially challenged by the expense of partaking in the globetrotting week-to-week, country-to-country tour that the professional tennis circuit is.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Roger Federer receiving both the 2012 Fans' Favorite Award and the Sportsmanship Award

If you have any illusion that the life of an outside of top-50 tennis player is a glamorous one, or a highly-paid one take a look here.

Without qualifiers and players on the fringes of the ATP rankings there would be fewer surprises and fewer new players improving and breaking through. And they do break through as well as give fans some surprising results.

Federer is also lobbying for a greater share of revenues from Grand Slams go to players. 

There has been some back and forth comments during the year between Rafael Nadal and Federer regarding whether Federer is doing enough, and whether Rafa could do more.

The fact is that no other player in the top ten gives their time to this the way that Roger Federer does. And with a young family, the tournament schedule as it is, and his commitments to sponsors his timetable is already more than full. 

While using Swiss diplomacy behind the scenes he also brings it to the tennis court. 

Recently he did this in a really heartwarming way after his loss in the Basel Swiss Indoors final to Juan Martin del Potro, at the tournament Federer previously had won five times.

Not only did he respond with graciousness, congratulating his opponent, and saying he deserved the win as he had suffered some hard losses that year to Federer (including the Olympics semifinal which was the longest match in Olympics history).

He also redressed an incident that happened at their 2009 meeting at the US Open final. This was the final where Del Potro as a twenty-year-old won his first, and to date only, Grand Slam trophy.

It what was not the finest hour for journalism.

At this monumental moment for the Argentine hero the interviewer was reluctant to allow Del Potro to address the crowd in Spanish, and to put it mildly, was disrespectful to the newly-crowned Grand Slam winner.

Perhaps this interviewer didn’t realize or didn't care that tennis is an international sport—5 of the top 12 current top players alone have Spanish as their first language. 

This interviewer might have let down both the fans and the players, but Roger, being more savvy, gets it. For in Basel after addressing the crowd in his native language he said to his opponent laughingly,"I already said many things in Swiss German, and I'm not sure how good your Swiss German is so far after this week,"—and continued in English.

Juan Martin said a few words in English and then switched to Spanish where he could thank the fans and express his happiness at winning. At that moment Federer acted as a well-mannered host in Basel, in addition to being an on-court opponent, and gave an estimable performance in both roles.

No wonder Federer is the players' favorite.

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