The ball is thrown into the air as American Andy Roddick unleashes one of his powerful serves. His opponent, Roger Federer, calmly returns. Following a brief rally, Roddick manages to hit a huge overhead smash. But, just as the crowd watching the 2002 Basel quarterfinal thinks the point is over, Federer leaps into the air and executes a ridiculous overhead shot of his own that somehow catches the line. The crowd erupts in hysterics. Roddick throws his racquet over the net, unable to believe what had just happened. The commentator shouts in Italian, “great Lord of tennis, I salute you!”
No name is more synonymous with the sport of tennis than Roger Federer. With his curving forehands, incredible volleys and powerful one-handed backhands, Federer shows a mastery of the ball that no one else has ever seen before. His abilities and skill with the racquet was what gave him early success and eventually solidified his status as perhaps the greatest player of all time.
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On the verge of reaching the 20-year mark of his career, Roger Federer has practically accomplished all there is to achieve in the tennis world. He has won two Olympic medals, a gold in men’s doubles in Beijing and a silver in men’s singles in London. He has won nineteen Grand Slams — an all-time record. He has also spent an astonishing 302 weeks at the No. 1 position in the ATP tour rankings.
That’s another all-time record.
There’s not much the Swiss maestro has missed. But, he is getting older and his reign on top is slowly diminishing.
With his last Grand Slam victory coming at Wimbledon 2012, Federer seemed to have lost his groove in the years after. He struggled with his form and injuries plagued his time on tour. After an injury-ridden 2016 and four years without a major win, fans and critics alike thought that the storied career of perhaps the best player to ever play the sport was about to come to an end.
Yet, he wasn’t all too eager on hanging up his racquet just yet. After taking almost six months to completely recover and train, Roger Federer entered 2017 playing some of the best tennis he’s ever played. His first serves were devastatingly effective. His one-handed backhands were fluid. His net play was aggressive and agile. The Swiss star’s exceptional form helped him capture a hard-fought Australian Open title over rival Rafael Nadal, and a special eighth Wimbledon championship.
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At 36 years old, Roger Federer refused to bow down to age. With the indomitable spirit and the huge passion for the sport that he has, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he’s still playing. “What I think I’ve been able to do well over the years is play with pain, play with problems, play in all sorts of conditions,” Federer once stated. To come back in the remarkable way he did, he put up a full-out display of this incredible willpower.
Yet furthermore, what truly differentiates Roger Federer from other stars, such as Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, is his level of class and sportsmanship. He shows grace in both victory and defeat. He never hurls his racquet at the ground in frustration. He never complains to the umpire. In fact, he corrects misjudged calls even when the point is going against him. If these actions of his on the court aren’t impressive enough, what he does off the court should be. Besides being regarded as one of the most successful tennis players in the modern era, Roger Federer is a very well-established philanthropist in his own right.
He started the Roger Federer Foundation in 2003 in order to “empower as many African children as possible through access to high-quality early learning and education and promote underprivileged children in their recreational activities in Switzerland.” Federer has held several charity matches and used profits from selling merchandise to raise funds towards his foundation’s goal. It’s difficult to fit such a heavy commitment into a busy schedule, but Federer manages to do so effortlessly and that’s what keeps on raising him one step closer to fulfilling his vision. The foundation has invested 29 million Swiss Francs (as of 2016) and has supported more than 800,000 African children with their education.
Image Source: Jens Honore
It’s a combination of his respectable personality and his accomplishments in tennis and philanthropy that have earned him the status of a celebrity. Whether he accepts it or not, the always-humble Federer is no doubt completely deserving of the international recognition and admiration he receives. Yet, despite making it into the A-list, he lives in a way that’s a stark contrast to how other celebrities do so.
He’s not just famous. He doesn’t just endorse products using his star power. He doesn’t just appear on talk shows and pose for the cameras.
Roger Federer holds an important place in the hearts of those who sincerely look up to him because he’s a role model. While constantly under the scrutinizing spotlight as a celebrity, he continues to excel at what he does best and he uses his ensuing fame to help make a difference in the world. He proved that he’s as admirable of a person as he is an athlete. That’s a feat of his that not many celebrities have been able to match.
Image Source: Basel Shows
With their incomparable fame and wealth, celebrities are not merely stars at what they do, but instead people with unique personalities who are all perfectly capable of making a difference in a world outside of the stadium, red carpet or recording studio. As always, it’s their choice as to what influence they want to have upon the world. But, in the end, the things they do to help us are what make their legacies even more special.
And, with Federer currently setting the standard, celebrities will hopefully be following in his footsteps and we’ll eventually see a change in how we view and respect celebrities.