With a record-breaking 20 Grand Slam titles, Roger Federer still competes like a true champion. The Swiss sensation’s biography reads like a tennis-lovers’ dream considering Federer bagged his first junior championship at age 14 and his first sponsorship at age 16.
In 1998, a 21-year-old Federer went pro. He won Wimbledon for the first time in 2003 and has done it seven more times since then. While some are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, little Roger must have slept with a racquet in his bassinet and teethed on a tennis ball. So did Federer sacrifice his childhood for the sport?
His early focus on tennis
Born in Basel, Switzerland on August 8, 1981, Federer showed an early interest in sports. He played both soccer and tennis before deciding to concentrate all of his efforts on the latter at age 12. By 14, the teen was competing in two or three tournaments a month.
The young Federer practiced six hours a week with up to three hours of conditioning, imitating his idols Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg. Speaking of Edberg, Federer’s 70th win at the Australian Open well-surpassed his hero’s 56 overall wins at the time.
As a teen junior national champion, Federer trained at the Swiss National Tennis Center in Ecublens, Switzerland. He quickly joined the junior tennis circuit in July 1996. Shortly before going pro, he was recognized as the ITF World Junior Tennis champion — the same year he won the Orange Bowl International Tennis Championship.
An unconventional upbringing
Recently, Roger shared about his unusual childhood and struggles as a teen tennis star. Much like a military brat, Federer had to rearrange his youth in pursuit of his dream. He told Fox Sports:
“I definitely made a lot of sacrifices, I believe, especially leaving home at 14. I think that was maybe the two years that marked my life in the biggest possible way because I was still very young… I was staying with a different family from Monday to Friday.”
As a young athlete, Federer was hyper-focused on practicing tennis. “In the beginning, I thought — it sounds bad — but [that I] sacrificed my childhood,” he shared. Over time, however, the now-37-year-old doesn’t regret his life journey. “It’s definitely a bit of a more unusual route to adulthood,” he said.
Worth it off the court
Federer’s hard work has certainly paid off. His estimated net worth is over $450 million. Nike, one of Federer’s many sponsors, paid him $12 million a year for a decade. This far surpasses his Wimbledon rival, Rafael Nadal, who earned $50 million over five years for sporting the swoosh logo.
When the Swiss star is not playing tennis, he spends time with his family at home in Bottmingen, Switzerland. Federer married Mirka Vavrinec, a former pro tennis player, in 2009. Later that year, they became the parents of identical twin girls, Myla and Charlene. Five years later, the family welcomed a second set of twins — this time a pair of boys, Leo and Lenny.
If tennis runs in the family, we could be watching these kids on the court someday. Regardless, Federer’s legacy lives on with the Roger Federer Foundation. Founded in 2003, the nonprofit provides grants to impoverished countries with child mortality rates greater than 15%. The money is used for education, sports-related endeavors, and other projects.