Roger Federer may miss the 2014 French Open to be present at the birth of his third child. The Swiss star has said skipping Roland Garros could happen though he hopes it does not. His fans will hope not, too. However, the Swiss tennis legend’s choice to miss what has often been a scene of disappointment for such an important and joyous occasion is understandable.
Federer is no stranger to being a father, just as he is no stranger to the French Open trophy. The 2009 Roland Garros winner has 2 identical twin daughters. But being a father has likely brought Federer more joy than playing in Paris. The French Open is the Slam where Federer has had the most defeats in finals, all of them to Rafael Nadal. While some of the matches have been close, the 2006, 2007 and 2011 finals all going to four sets, Federer suffered his most crushing defeat in a Slam final at Roland Garros in 2008. That day, facing a ruthless Nadal, Federer managed to win only 4 games.
But, at Roland Garros 2009, Federer had a huge stroke of luck when Nadal was beaten by Robin Soderling in the fourth round. Federer made it to the final and found Soderling on the other side of the net and not Nadal who had beaten him in the Australian Open final at the start of the season. That Melbourne loss had Federer in tears. And this time, in Paris, he cried again, though for a very different reason- winning his first title at Roland Garros.
It was a much deserved victory. Federer is arguably the second best Clay-court player of his generation and one of the most underrated Clay court players of all time. He even beat Nadal in straight sets in the Madrid final prior to his 2009 French Open win. Federer has also won the Hamburg Masters title 4 times, again emerging victorious against Nadal in the 2007 final, winning the third set 6-0.
Incidentally, 2009 was the year his twin daughters, Myla Rose and Charlene Riva, were born. That year Federer not only won at Roland Garros but was the Wimbledon champion, too, as well as being the runner-up at both the Australian and US Open events.
Federer will no doubt be hoping his third child will prove to be as lucky a charm as his first two. The 17 time Grand Slam champion who holds the record for weeks at no 1 in the ATP rankings, is currently the Swiss no.2 and world no 4, and while he has made four finals this season, he has only managed to get his hands on one trophy in Dubai.
Still, with Federer now comfortable with his larger racket, his back injury healed and feeling inspired by recently hired coach Edberg, his 2014 is already looking a lot better than his 2013 when he fell to seventh in the rankings.
It is this recent improvement in form which will make it hard for fans to digest his possible absence from the French Open. It is hard to think of another year when Federer’s chances at Roland Garros were better. His main rival on the surface, Nadal, is in shaky form, losing to Ferrer in Monte Carlo, and Novak Djokovic will be returning from a potentially confidence-sapping wrist injury.
Federer, though, is quite the family man, and being present for the birth of his third child will no doubt be as thrilling as raising the French Open trophy. He has himself said supporting his wife is his priority and he has already won enough tournaments.
And if the last time he had children is anything to go by, he may be holding another Grand Slam trophy not long after holding his new-born baby in his arms. After his daughters were born on July 23rd 2009, Federer won his first Slam as a father at the 2010 Australian Open. Considering his recent good form, his sublime, timeless skills and longevity, few would bet against Federer celebrating fatherhood on a Grand Slam trophy podium in the foreseeable future.
Commentary by Christian Deverille