Roger Federer has almost done it all in tennis - won a record 16 Grand Slam titles, held the No. 1 ranking for 285 weeks and established marks that may never be matched such as playing in 10 Grand Slam finals in a row and 23 Grand Slam semi-finals in a row.
Celebrating his 29th birthday on Sunday, Federer has been asked just about every question imaginable since he turned pro in 1998. On Friday, after his practice session in Toronto for next week's Rogers Cup,The Globe tried something different, asking him 10 questions that he has never (or rarely) been asked before.
Q: When is the last time you hit against a wall?
RF: It's been a long time. The other day I was practising and I saw a junior playing against a wall and it was like, 'remember those days when we were playing against the wall for hours and hours and hours.' It was like the best practice partner who would never miss.
Q: When was the last time you had a conversation with somebody who didn't know who you were?
RF: It happens rarely because if I'm moving in the tennis world, then obviously it doesn't happen. It might happen in a hotel if someone asked for directions, then that's a quick conversation. I actually like to talk and interact with people who don't know me. But that's been a while too.
Q: When is the last time you lost to a woman or a girl?
RF: I used to practice with Magdalena Maleeva [the former world No. 4 from Bulgaria] when she was at the national tennis centre [in Switzerland] I remember I lost a set against her once. I also played against Emmanuela Zardo, who was also a Swiss player who ranked top 50. I actually lost against her too. I think I even cried after the practice session because I was so disappointed. I was only like 14 or 15.
Q: What's your greatest sports accomplishment outside of tennis?
RF: [He laughs] I beat Chiudinelli [his good Swiss friend and fellow tour player Marco Chiudinelli]in soccer in a final after he beat me the year before in penalty shoot-out. I got him back. I was probably like 10, he was playing for FC Basel and I was playing for FC Concordia Basel. He was the main defender and I was the main attacker. So, we played each other, even in soccer.
I enjoyed doing all kinds of sports, skiing - I did some competition, little races as a kid.
Q: What's the best trick you can do with the ball and a racquet?
RF: I guess hitting through the legs consistently. Like tricks themselves, I don't practice them at all. It's something that many players are probably better at than me.
Q: What kind of an ice hockey player were you?
RF: I never played. I can't skate properly. I skated here [in Toronto]but I go in circles because I can't stop and I can't go backward. I'm so slow. That's something I want to do once I retire, learn how to skate properly. But we used to play uni-hockey, with the light ball. We used to do that a lot in Switzerland.
Q: These pop singers - Avril Lavigne, Taylor Swift, Nelly Furtado and Alanis Morissette - do you know all of them?
RF: I don't know the second one [Swift]
Q: The question was going to be: Do you know which one is not Canadian?
RF: I actually knew the other three were Canadian.
Q: Of all the people you've ever met, who were you the most nervous beforehand about meeting?
RF: It might have been [former U.N. secretary-general]Kofi Annan at the U.N. [in 2005]because I was so freaked out about the situation. The former Swiss president Adolf Ogi thought of me to be ambassador for the year of sports and I said 'okay fine.' So I got in a suit, and we were waiting for him and I had to give a speech in one of the big rooms. And then later on we went to a little room and Kofi Annan was there. I only met him briefly, but I think I was more nervous about the speech than meeting him.
Q: What food always makes you feel good?
RF: Thank God I'm an easy eater now. I used to not eat fish or meat when I was younger just because of texture and taste. Today I basically eat everything. Swiss food for me is still No. 1, and then Japanese and I like Italian. I could eat Italian every day.
Q: You speak several languages (Swiss German, English, French and German), what's the hardest new language for you to learn?
RF: I've been together with my wife [Mirka Vavrinec]for almost, or over, 10 years now, and when she speaks to her parents in Slovak, I still don't understand a word. I guess that is hard for me, it's so different.
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