By Michael Levin
When my Mom was alive, if she had been forced at gunpoint to throw either Roger Federer or me off a cliff, she would have thrown Roger, but it would have taken some time before she made her final decision. That’s how much Mom loved King Roger.
Mom was not alone. Roger Federer is, deservedly, one of the most popular athletes on the planet, not just because of his record 20 major tournament victories, but also because of the nature of his character.
Roger, Swiss to the fiber of his being, epitomizes everything that people love about Switzerland—decency, a sense of fair play, orderliness, a lack of ostentatiousness, combined with considerable quiet pride.
Author and journalist Dave Seminara set out on a quest to understand Roger Federer, his tennis hero, by visiting various regions, or cantons, in Switzerland where Roger grew up, got married, played, vacationed, or just hung out. The result is the charming and delightful Footsteps of Federer, an absolute must for tennis fans frustrated by the pandemic’s limiting of their ability to attend matches in person and see King Roger in the flesh.
Federer comes across in the book as advertised—an individual certainly not unaware of the enormous success he has achieved, but a person who, with genuine Swiss reserve and good humor, has never let the experience of being Roger Federer go to his head.
It’s very hard for anyone in Switzerland, or probably anywhere in the planet, to say something negative about Federer simply because he combines superhuman athletic greatness with extraordinary human decency. He’s just a nice man, and everything that Seminara learns on the trip reinforces that basic fact. When he goes to a club where Federer practices, his host tells him that Roger asked how much he owed for the coffees he consumed while on the grounds. He’s that kind of superstar.
Seminara has the novelist’s eye for the telling detail and a delightful sense of humor that infuses his worshipful Swiss journey with appropriate leavening. Why would a guy spend months of his life following Federer around Switzerland?
Twice in the book, Seminara, acting in the role of professional journalist, gets to ask Federer questions after tournament appearances in Switzerland. Each time, Seminara notes, Federer makes and holds eye contact, and gives each question a thoughtful, charming answer. But seriously…what else would Roger Federer do?
Seminara first encounters Federer in the book at a tennis tournament where his companion and Federer’s companion are delighted to see each other and fall into happy conversation. Federer notices Seminara’s awkwardness, extends a hand, and introduces himself, as if Roger Federer needed any introduction.
Well, maybe the real Federer does, and there’s no better introduction than Footsteps of Federer, a delightful and necessary addition to any tennis lover’s library.