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Fantastic Federer by Chris Bowers

Release date: 22nd June, 2006
Publisher: John Blake Publishing

List Price: £17.99
Our Price: £11.87
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Fantastic Federer
By Chris Bowers
John Blake Publishing

4Sportsbooks.co.uk price: £11.87, saving £6.12 on rrp

As British tennis plunged to a new low last weekend, losing to Israel in the Davis Cup tie at Eastbourne, a depressing thought occurred. It was this: while we boast an outstanding location for grass court tennis and willingly snaffle the riches such a tradition produces, Wimbledon has become our indigenous exhibition arena at which the truly great foreign tennis players regularly perform.

The latest overseas player to shimmer and wow the Wimbledon crowds is Roger Federer, a man who earlier this month won his fourth consecutive men's title. As Chris Bowers says in the introduction to this, the first Federer biography, "When people watch him they know that, even at just twenty four, he's someone special", it's depressingly accurate news for British tennis.

But as Bowers shows in a well-researched, comprehensive biography, Federer was not always the epitome of studious calm we see on court. As a youngster, he was often tempestuous, awkward and frustrated until his mother Lynette famously told him, "When you have these outbursts, you're telling your opponent that you're ready for him to beat you. You're sending out invitations. Is that what you want?"

Clearly, the young Swiss didn't and so set about capitalising upon his height (he's 6'1", his parents are both 5'7") and natural sporting ability. Interestingly, he had been a good footballer as a youngster and only took tennis up at the comparatively late age of eight.

His first two coaches, Czech Adolf Kacovski and touring Australian professional Peter Carter, worked with Federer for six years at the Basel-based tennis club where his parents played for pleasure. Kacovski in particular recognised his potential from the start and nurtured Federer with one-to-one coaching. By the age of 11, he was ranked Swiss number two for his age group.

Further evidence of his tennis prowess arrived when he was 14 and landed a coveted place at the Ecublens tennis coaching centre outside of Lausanne. Sixty youngsters were competing for just four places; Federer was offered one on the spot.

He made his international debut for Switzerland in the World Youth Cup in 1996 where he faced Lleyton Hewitt for the first time and by the following January, he had won the Swiss under-18 Championship at the age of just 15. Bowers meticulously traces Federer's progress through the junior ranks and his occasional meetings with players who, like him, were clearly on their way to bigger and better things.

After a year spent playing in the world's top junior events, Federer was offered a wild card entry into the ATP Tour, an opportunity he grabbed with both hands. It's difficult to believe that was only six years ago. Here, out of necessity, Bowers ups the narrative's pace, such was the speed of Federer's subsequent progress. It is evident too that he is no goody-goody, although to his credit, Bowers doesn't go into lurid details - Federer was, after all, a young boy merely enjoying himself.

"Observing what makes someone successful is both easy and difficult," writes Bowers. "On the one hand, everything they do contributes in some way to their success, while on the other it's often hard to pinpoint exactly what makes the difference between the top dog and the rest of the pack."

In Roger Federer's case, serendipity played a part which ensures he now has it within his powers to become one of tennis's greats. Britain, meanwhile, must continue its wait for a home-grown champion worthy of turning Wimbledon from an exhibition arena into a genuine centre of excellence.


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