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Roger Federer: Spirit of a Champion By Chris Bowers

Release date: 01st June, 2009
Publisher: John Blake Publishing

List Price: 7.99
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Roger Federer
Spirit of a Champion
By Chris Bowers
John Blake Publishing price: £4.79, saving 40% on rrp (paperback)

On Monday of this week, with Rafael Nadal having departed Paris's 16th arrondissement, Roger Federer had, on paper, a straightforward-looking French Open tie against the world's number 63, Tommy Haas. The Swiss appeared a little nervous, for he clearly appreciated that with Nadal out, he now had an excellent opportunity to secure a first-ever clay court grand slam and so add to his existing 13 major tennis titles.

In the hot Parisian afternoon sun, Haas, a former world number 2 and two sets to the good, was on the cusp of breaking Federer to take a 5-3 lead in the third set, but from somewhere, Federer summoned the spirit of a true champion. Not for him the ignominy of a straight sets defeat; although on occasion, he looks anything like a fighter, last Monday the Swiss dug deep, Haas faded and Federer won a classic five-setter. In so doing, he edged himself closer to equalling Pete Sampras's 14 slams.

As we go to print, Federer still has his chance to win a first French Open, but if author Chris Bowers needed a performance upon which to hang the sub-title of his latest book about the Swiss tennis ace, Monday's offered it in spades.

Federer has always refused to sanction an 'official' biography, but he did nothing to prevent Bowers adding to his earlier work, Fantastic Federer, published three years ago. It helps that Bowers has known the Swiss for years and first interviewed him after he had won the boys' singles at Wimbledon in 1998. He has produced another compelling read.

Bowers' earlier biography showed several sides to Federer's personality and it's fair to say he's not always been the epitome of studious calm we see on court. As a youngster, he was often tempestuous, awkward and frustrated until his mother 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 and natural sporting ability.

Today, a more mature Federer describes his playing style as 'modern retro', something which Bowers believes has both attracted spectators who are sometimes ambivalent about tennis and has protected the great sportsman's body. His elegance is obvious, a style, the author suggests, which is "a modern version of the classic technique that evolved in the era of wooden rackets."

But style and technique will only take a champion so far and Federer is not without spirit. "If he can handle his declining years with a feistiness that sees him fight to beat players increasingly fancied to beat him, it can only add further lustre to his legend," writes Bowers. Anyone who saw him overcome Haas in Paris will acknowledge that Federer remains feisty.

As for his position in sport's pantheon, Bowers provides an argument likely to appeal to any sports fan by placing Federer alongside his legendary contemporaries - Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and Michael Schumacher. In terms of athleticism, Bowers suggests that Federer is at least their equal. What he proved earlier this week is that like this famous trio, he possesses that elusive quality so many do not have - the spirit of a champion.

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