Interview with Roger in "Sportpanorama" on SRF on July, 25th
Roger, does it make you nervous to sit next to an Olympic winner?
Not really nervous, but I always like to meet top athletes and especially Swiss athletes. You see each other that seldom, especially me, who travels that often. I‘m more nervous because of the interview, hopefully it will be a good one.
Roger, how does it go for you with swimming and cycling?
I have the feeling that I can still good swimm. I did a swimm practice at Eglisee in Riehen back then but I don‘t like to swimm that long as I get tired extremely soon and have to breath heavily then. I feel comfortable when I dive and snorkel though. I seldom cycle even though a lot of us do it to warm-down. I feel everything, especially from the back. I also don‘t like to go on the treadmill. Endurance sports are not my thing in general.
Today we have July, 6th. Where would you be if not for Corona? For you it would be pretty clear as you would have been hopefully still in the second week in Wimbledon.
Hopefully. It would have been the second week in Wimbledon, 4th round. I would have either been there or back disappointed in Switzerland. There would have been Wimbledon time for us.
I think you miss Wimbledon.
Yes and not. It is like it is and you accept it. I couldn‘t play anyway because of my knee and I don‘t see the point, just as with the Olympics. This is the new situation. We would all like to be in Wimbledon and play but they cancelled early so that you knew what would come. I don‘t look at Wimbledon because it is the time for it now and don‘t watch all highlights and think: „Oh, it‘s a pity.“ I take it as it is. Next year is a new chance.
You just mentioned your knee. How is it?
Good. Well, good is different but it‘s as good as it can be now after the second surgery this year. Of course I was disappointed and sad that I had to undergo surgery the first time. It was my choice after the Match in Africa. I was unhappy with the knee for a long time and had to do something. The second time was unfortunately necessary. Now 2 months have passed and I‘m slowly back to practice. The goal is to be topfit on January, 1st. There will be a 20 weeks block of fitness training and also tennis and everything. It will be a long way but I‘m ready and honestly said I‘m also looking forward to be hopefully at 100% again.
We are talking about January, 1st, 2021. You don‘t think there will something happen in international tennis?
For me not. If tennis is going to happen, that‘s what they try with the US Open. They are the next ones who have to say what will be. I just talked with them yesterday and they said they will decide between 15th and end of the month. It will be interesting. French Open said a few days ago they will allow half of a crowd which is unbelievable and also exciting. I think we are still in uncertain weeks and months for tennis but I hope it will come back at one point. Travelling and quarantine are the big problems for us.
How much tennis can you do after your second surgery?
I have played once since South Africa. I don‘t have callus anymore. I hope I can still play tennis when I come back. I have played against the wall as we have seen and also played a little bit but I have played only once on a tennis court since South Africa. I could play standing but I still have so much time that I don‘t need to go on a tennis court.
How have you experienced the Corona time?
For the first time in 20 years I have been at one place for 5, 6 weeks. Of course I enjoy it. We have been incredible careful and haven‘t seen my parents and friends. We took everything serious which is the right way as it‘s not been over yet. That‘s why I didn‘t do any interviews and keep distance in everything I do. That‘s very important for us. When you are having an injury you can‘t do much anyway and have more calm moments at home. You don‘t have the stress of the next competition and match, you don‘t have nerves, you don‘t have the strain from travelling and having a jet-lag, you aren‘t tired etc. You can enjoy your family life way more.
This picture, when we are talking about the family already, isn‘t the most recent one, but a big group.
The kids are doing great. They run me off my feet.
That‘s how you can stay fit.
The boys are 6 and the girls turn 11. I have to say they came through lockdown really good. Suddenly there was the shock: Oh, they turn off the ski lift. They couldn‘t do skiing from one day to the next. We had to plan for summer activities then. Fortunately the weather was good and they could ride a bike and run. We tried to explain them the situation. The girls know what it is about, they are old enough. The boys are like: What? And then they forget it. But now it‘s not a problem.
Did the question about retiring came up during this time where tennis doesn‘t take place?
Every day from the people around me, the media. Since 2009 they are picking on this since I won the French Open and then Wimbledon, when I broke the GS record. Then there was the birth of the girls. Then was clear: Now it‘s over.
Hopefully the journalists are quiet.
I was 27, 28 back then. I thought: What‘s that? I was at a super high and loved playing tennis. I wanted to do it together with the kids but when it wouldn‘t work I would have stopped. But not because I was happy and thought that I achieved everything and it had to end. But I know of course that I‘m closer to the end of my career than the beginning. I can‘t say what will be in 2 years. That‘s why I did a year by year planning. I do mostly a one, one and a half year planning together with Mirka for my family, for my tennis, for my health. At the moment I‘m still happy to play but I know when the gearwheel won‘t work anymore the air gets thinner soon.
I know that the question got asked many times but I meant if the question became more present now to you.
Funnily I haven‘t been sitting down and thinking about it during lockdown…
You haven‘t had time.
Sure, for important things you take time and this is something important. But I haven‘t been sitting together with Mirka or the team and saying: „Do we still want to do this?“ There was a moment when Pierre Paganini asked me – as we do a 16 to 24 weeks fitness block. I said: „Ok.“ And he: „And this is ok for you? I mean that‘s much and long. Do you want to do it?“ „No, it‘s ok for me. But you are right, it‘s long indeed. I think I still want to do it.“ I said to myself that I prefer this reha and fitness stage while I‘m still active as later on I won‘t do much as I will be lazy. Now I have a goal in front of my eyes and with this it‘s easier to manage. I still enjoy playing.
For you it will be your 5th Olympic Games. You missed Rio due to an injury.
It‘s been an incredible Olympic career.
I was fortunate that Sydney came when I was old enough and good enough to qualify. Olympics have always been special for me, every time for another reason. 2000 Mirka, 2004 and 2008 flag carrier, Gold with Stan in Beijing, Silver then in London. Unfortunately I was injured in Rio and now the games were postponed, I had the feeling I always took a lot with me away from the Olympic Games. First to be part of it, then with the goal to get a medal, maybe even a Gold one. That‘s a completely different situation how you enjoyed the Olympics. I‘m curious how Tokyo will be. I hope it will take place. We are one year away but there are voices who say: Maybe it‘s to early until we have everything under control. But I‘m hopeful all will be good.
Roger then talks about having watched Nicola‘s 2012 Olympic run and she said that she has been to see his final in 2012. Roger laughs that it hasn‘t been that close as her run,
Has the mentally preparation for Tokyo 2021 already started for you?
No. When you have been on the tour for 20 years you are happy to have a more calm year. We have so many matches and competitions that whenever you take a break you know that someone else is winning in that time. That‘s why it is extremely difficult to say: I take a break. Now everyone are forced to have a break and I think that 90% of the players are thinking: Fortunately I can have a break. Tennis is constant and nonstop. You couldn‘t really prepare for Tokyo as there would have been 20 tournaments before. They are also very important, even though maybe not as important as Olympics, which have another significance. But we have many big events. That‘s why honestly said the preparation just starts 3 months in before. You have the block in tennis with French Open, Wimbledon and Olympic Games. It depends on which surface it is even though in tennis it‘s classic on hardcourt in Tokyo. Everyone can play on hardcourt but you have to specially prepare for clay and grass.
Has it been a conscious decision for Mirka to renounce on her career and to leave you the spotlight?
That‘s a good question. I would say that when I wouldn‘t have been around her she would have stopped her career with 22 or 23, She invested everything. She started playing tennis when she was 11. She had bad surgeries and didn‘t return good from reha. She had always problems with her heels and never truly recovered from it. Until today she feels little there. I think realistically she would have undergo another surgery and tried to come back, even if it would have taken 2 years. It was easy for her this way though to decide. I said to her: „Don‘t you maybe want to stop? We could be together the whole time then and have a great time.“ Then I won Wimbledon and when I look back, I once talked with her about it, it‘s incredible what you did and she said: „No problem,“ She just put her career aside and said: „This is more important for me. We can build something fantastic together.“ We wouldn‘t have been happy when we would have been apart. It is an interesting situation. We should do the interview with Mirka but I know she doesn‘t do any. She has incredibly supported me and put back and so I‘m looking forward when everything is over. I would have stopped long ago when she wouldn‘t have said: „Come on, continue.“ Or when she would have said: „Please stop, I don‘t want this any longer.“ I would have stopped then. We also have to find a balance with the 4 kids, it isn‘t the same anymore as 4, 8 or 10 years ago, that‘s for sure.
Will your kids be with you in Tokyo?
My kids want to be there. They are ready. I don‘t know if we have been to Tokyo with the kids last year or the year before. They loved it and still talk about it. One of my daughters even wanted to learn Japanese, that‘s incredible, I couldn‘t believe it. They were disappointed when the Games were cancelled but the goal is that they can come with us next year.
Is an Olympic medal a goal for you?
I think I can speak for both of us when I say that in our position a medal is a goal, otherwise you wonder why you even go there in the first place. Of course I think something is possible. Whether this will be in singles, doubles or mixed. I don‘t know yet what I‘m going to play. I think I would have a chance in singles. At a tournament everything is possible. It‘s another story over a whole season but at one tournament many things are possible.
How high is the chance that we see you playing tennis when you are older?
I will certainly play tennis when I‘m older. I just like to play tennis. It will be interesting for me when I won‘t practice at one point anymore and only play balls. That‘s what I do seldom today as you always file on something. Later on it won‘t be the case anymore and so I think it will be an interesting step when I will play with friends and thinking: „What do I play here? It doesn‘t matter if the forehand works or not.“
Let‘s look one year ahead. Olympic Games are over. What does have to happen that you say: It was worth it?
At the situation I‘m in right now I have to honestly say that I would be glad to participate. When I‘m 100% fit I would be happy to get a medal. And when I won‘t have one I will be disappointed but I know that I gave everything and can look back proudly: Tokyo has been great, it was another experience and I could participate at another Olympic Games. My family will be with me just like in London. I think it‘s already an success for me when I‘m at 100% and can participate. But a medal should be the goal.