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Roger Federer's new reality after two decades at the top of tennis
06:41 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The chance to be coached by Roger Federer would surely be a dream come true for any young tennis player. Apart from the Swiss tennis great’s own children, it would seem.

Federer’s twin daughters and twin sons now all play tennis up to four times a week and while the 20-time grand slam champion often finds himself on court with them, he tells CNN’s Christina Macfarlane that he mostly tries to take a back seat.

“I’m not the coach, I am the dad and the dad’s advice, as we know, only goes so far,” the 41-year-old Federer laughs. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve won Wimbledon or not, you’re still the dad and sometimes they don’t want to hear what you have to say.

“I try to be funny, but at the same time I also try to be straight sometimes and just teach them. I come in more, I guess, as a technical coach so I try to teach them about all the tennis rackets.”

Federer admits he was relieved when his daughters, Myla and Charlene, didn’t show much interest in playing tennis themselves when they were younger.

When they were born in 2009, Federer was at the peak of his powers on the court and the demands of the tour, constantly travelling the world and spending little time at home, would have made investing time nurturing their development and enjoyment of tennis very difficult.

“I don’t think we were the crazy tennis parents who said: ‘Girls, you’ve got to go and play every day for two hours,’” Federer says.

“But now I really start feeling it now that they are about to turn 14, they want to play more and more and more.”

While Federer is excited that his children are now following in his footsteps on the court – he says the boys, Lenny and Leo, in particular are showing promise – it’s their involvement in his charity work that he finds “very special.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Roger Federer Foundation, which has helped more than 2.5 million children across six countries in southern Africa and Switzerland.

Federer’s foundation focuses on providing parents, teachers and communities the tools to be able to give children a strong education. His most recent trip was to Lesotho, which in 2020 became the sixth southern African nation to become part of the foundation.

KORE ROBA, ETHIOPIA - FEBRUARY 12:  In this handout photo provided by the Roger Federer Foundation, World tennis number one Roger Federer poses with local school children during his visit to a school funded by his charity on February 12, 2010 in Kore Roba, Ethiopia. Federer was on a one-day visit to see the work carried out by the Roger Federer Foundation. Federer founded the foundation in 2003 which currently focuses on helping disadvantaged children in his mother's home country of South Africa.  (Photo by Roger Federer Foundation via Getty images)

“Any trip into the field is always very special for me, but this one was extra special because it was the first time that all four children could join my wife and my mom as well,” Federer says. “So we had the best time.

“We were there for three or four days traveling through Lesotho, a country I’ve never been to before. So when we got there, it was less of a trip for me, but more a trip for the kids. So it was more catered towards them so they could play with the kids at the schools and run around and play catch and play with a ball and read to one another.

“It was so much fun, honestly, to see it as a dad and hoping that I could spark the fire for charitable work and for my children, I think was very special. So it was a great trip.”

During his visit, Federer played with the kids in the sand, read them books and sat with school teachers to talk about the value of giving the children responsibility. He believes it’s “very important to be hands on” during his time on these trips.

“Just to see the confidence grow in them and just to listen that it’s actually working, what we’re trying to implement, and at the end of the day you have to give them the power,” he says.

On Tuesday, ahead of defending women’s champion Elena Rybakina’s first-round match, Federer was honored with a special ceremony at Wimbledon’s iconic Centre Court.

The eight-time Wimbledon winner was greeted by a rapturous standing ovation as he was introduced to the crowd and made his way into the Royal Box at the All England Club.

It was a fitting celebration of a player that has provided this crowd with countless memorable moments during his 24-year career.

The tearful farewell

On September 23, 2022, Federer took to the court as a professional tennis player for the last time. It was fitting that he did so alongside Rafa Nadal as the duo – who provided tennis fans with arguably the sport’s greatest ever rivalry – played doubles together at the Laver Cup in London.

The photo of Federer and long-time rival and friend Nadal holding hands with tears in their eyes became one of the enduring images of 2022. As the years pass, it will no doubt become one of the most iconic images in sport.

Even as a quadragenarian, Federer says he had every intention of returning to the tour after multiple knee surgeries, but he eventually had to concede that his injury had gotten the better of him.

There was no fairytale ending as Federer and Nadal were beaten by Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe at the O2 Arena, but after “really, truly dreading” the moment of his retirement, the Swiss superstar says he could not have asked for a more perfect finale to his remarkable career.

“I didn’t talk to anybody about it, really,” he says. “It was just more about getting away from it, but eventually [I had to] decide: where am I going to retire? How painful is it going to be? Or how much of a celebration will it be?

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal of Team Europe interact during the doubles match between Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe of Team World and Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal of Team Europe during Day One of the Laver Cup at The O2 Arena on September 23, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for Laver Cup)