There are record-breakers and then there’s Roger Federer.
In a class of his own as a tennis hero, last month he thrilled tennis fans, winning the Australian Open Men’s Singles title.
It was the 18th Grand Slam title for the 35-year-old, making him the oldest player to win a Grand Slam since the then 38-year-old Australian Ken Rosewall in 1972.
The elder statesmen of tennis, Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall are full of admiration for Federer as a person and a player, and Rosewall pens him a handwritten note of encouragement every time Federer plays in Melbourne, a gesture that is treasured by Federer.
In January Federer claimed not only the sports pages but also the front pages of the newspapers with his unexpected comeback to victory following six months off due to injury, and a few years of mixed results since his glory days when claiming Grand Slam titles was a regular achievement.
But there is much more to Federer than what we see on the court.
Married to former tennis professional Mirka, he is a proud husband and father of two sets of twins, six-year-old girls Myla and Charlene and two-year-old boys Leo and Lenny.
After winning the 2017 Australian Open, he was quick to credit Mirka’s role in his success.
“She was there when I had no titles and she’s still here 89 titles later,” he told Channel Seven.
“She had a big part in it—she knows, I know it, everybody knows it. I’m just so happy she’s my wife and my number one supporter.”
His father Robert grew up in Switzerland while mother Lynette was raised in South Africa, and Federer holds dual citizenship. His sister Diana is 20 months his senior—and also the mother of twins!
Raised Roman Catholic, Federer still practises his faith, and is happy to tell the media he is Catholic. While he prefers to keep that as part of his private life, he was excited at the chance to meet Pope Benedict in 2006, describing it as a big honour that made it a perfect day for him.
Perhaps Federer’s faith plays out in his action off the tennis court. In Australia he works with the Humpty Dumpty Foundation which raises money for children’s hospitals. He is also involved with UNICEF, and when Australians have been struck by natural disasters, Federer has organised charity tennis events to support them.
Back home in Switzerland he is dedicated to his Roger Federer Foundation, which he founded in 2003 to support educational projects in Southern African and Switzerland. Since it began, the foundation has raised more than $15 million.
On the foundation’s website, Federer says that he believes in the power of people.
“We know that a good education empowers children by allowing them to take their future into their own hands and play an active part in shaping it,” he says.
“My foundation is committed to enabling parents and local communities to provide children with the opportunity for a good education—we aim to reach a million children by 2018.”
While Federer is regarded by many experts as the greatest tennis player of all time, his true legacy is using his profile and wealth to bring opportunity to children living in poverty.
Game, set and match to Roger Federer.