Roger Federer’s Greatest Legacy? It Could Be A Billion Dollar Brand.


Mike Nakajima, director of tennis at Nike, recalled that within a year Federer had come to the company’s headquarters in Beaverton, Ore, to test shoes at Nike’s research lab. When Federer stopped on his way and said, “I have to get back,” they left the building and were on their way to their next meeting. Nakajima asked him if he had forgotten anything, and Federer replied that he forgot to thank those who helped him with the shoes. “So we ran through security back to the building downstairs so she could thank me,” Nakajima said. “Now what athlete does that?”

The French have a beautiful expression that applies to Federer: ‘joindre l’utile à l’agréable’, which loosely translates as ‘joining business with pleasure’.

Federer was at Nike headquarters for “Roger Federer Day,” when all the buildings on the sprawling campus were temporarily renamed for him. However, Nakajima said the day was not just a celebration of Federer’s achievements. Frequent wanting to play a joke, Federer agreed to play a few tricks on Nike’s employees. They brought the ad team together to watch a new ad. Federer surprised them by circling a cart around the room and serving coffee and donuts. He sat behind the reception in the company’s gym and distributed towels to the employees. In the corporate cafeteria, Federer worked a shift, first as a cashier and then as a barista. “Of course, she didn’t know how to make coffee, so what she finally did was go around the table and say, ‘Hello, my name is Roger Federer, nice to meet you.’ People didn’t know who he was,” Nakajima said. do you think? Not possible. Roger did it with a smile on his face and then played Wii tennis with anyone who wanted to play with him.”

Andy Roddick tells me that Federer came to Austin, Texas in 2018 as a personal favor to help him at an event for the charity that funds education programs and events for low-income youth. Roddick says, “I pick him up at the airport, we get in the car, and we’re like, ‘Okay, what’s the flow of the show?’ said. “And Roger said: ‘Be very clear about what you’re doing. I just don’t want to say that you’re helping children, because that’s laziness.’ And then, ‘Okay, how can I add the most value to all of you today?’ says. ‘When can I go?’ there was no talk. How much time do I have to spend?”

When they arrived at the event, Roddick expected Federer to be his escort and introduce him to guests and donors. However, Federer acted as if he had been preparing for the event for weeks. “He leaves me and literally goes to the first two people he sees, introduces himself and runs the room on his own, with no agent, no agent intervention,” Roddick said. “For an hour, I watched him directly interact with a room full of strangers and just people. One of our board members has twins and they’re talking about twins. He can find parallels and common ground. I was really impressed with it. The person who needs to do this the least is the best at it. We finished the event and his flight was delayed and he went back to the donor room and started going again. He didn’t get out of Austin until 1 or 2 in the morning, and if he was angry, no one would know.”

I asked Roddick how unusual such an approach was compared to other elite athletes. “It’s not the talent or the titles that I envy the most – the ease of operation Roger has,” Roddick said. “There are people as great as Roger in different sports, but Jordan or Tiger don’t stand a chance to have Roger’s day-to-day operational ease.”

Mirka, whom Federer calls “rock,” has been a key figure in his ability to navigate between public and private spaces. She’s taken on a lot of things over the years, including carrying and raising two pairs of identical twins. Mirka and Roger’s daughters, Charlene and Myla, were born on July 23, 2009, and the family boarded a private jet for the Montreal and Canadian Open three days after Mirka and their newborn were released from hospital in Zurich. Their sons, Leo and Lennart, were born on May 6, 2014, leaving enough time for Roger to qualify for the Italian Open. Family logistics have been daunting at times – a rotating staff of nanny and a traveling teacher have definitely fixed some bumps – but Mirka’s goal was, in part, to turn the road into a home so her husband could play with peace of mind. “At the beginning I wasn’t sure if this was what I really wanted for kids, but I have to say it holds us together,” Federer told me in 2015.


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