"Roger is so successful because he communicates"
Partnering with the right people is key to success. What applies for Credit Suisse and our clients also holds true for our brand ambassador Roger Federer and his team. What sets him apart from other tennis players? Why is he so successful not just on but also off court? His manager Tony Godsick knows and lets us in.
The media often refer to you as the man behind Roger Federer. Would you agree to that definition, or how else would you describe your role?
Sometimes I'm a man behind him, sometimes I'm a man alongside him, sometimes I'm a man in front of him, depending on the subject. But one of the things that he's always said to me is: we're partners. He's never wanted me to be a yes man. I think the fundamental reason why together we've been successful is because he communicates. I can reach him anytime, anywhere around the world. And we speak, at least once a day. There are a lot of agents in the business who feel they're responsible for the success of the players. Not me. I'm fortunate enough to work with an incredible person who takes the time and has a vested interest in his own business. There are so many players that say: "You're the agent, I'm the athlete, leave me alone, make me the money." He's not like that, he wants to participate and he adds so much value to his business.
Call me naive but I would have expected this to be the normal case with every player.
It's not. Roger's thirsty for knowledge, he's very curious, he wants to know things, he wants to be involved. That is rare. It's what makes him super human because he has interests and things going on in his life that other active tennis players don't have. He has four children, no other top tennis player in the world has four children. He has all these different activities going on in his life. So, he's unique in that matter. But again, communication, communication, communication. The fact that I have the ability to communicate with him so often about everything that we do makes my job easier and I think is one of the reasons why he's been so successful off the court.
You have been Roger's manager since 2005. What sets him apart from other players, except for the sheer number of his records?
He has time for his fans. He rarely says no to an autograph or someone wanting to take a picture. He feels a responsibility to help grow the sport of tennis. Not only does he play a global schedule but he actually takes time when he's in those different parts of the world to help be an ambassador for the sport. He's comfortable playing around the world which is rare. There are many who say: "Ok, I'm only going to play here and here. I can't stand being in Europe for this amount of time or I don't want to spend that much time in the United States." With Roger what you see is what you get. He is a super humble, kind, patient person. And if you spend any time with his Mom and Dad you'll understand where he gets it from. He has wonderful parents and can thank them because he really has his head on his shoulders.
Practically everyone seems to like Roger Federer. He's successful, modest, disciplined, a family man, a gentleman, a great communicator, a role model. He's not really a rock star, they tend to demolish hotel rooms, but he must be a dream come true for every manager. Is there anything more you could ask for in a player?
There are a lot of people in my business who have to spend 50 percent of their time worrying about if the athlete is going to show up on time, is the athlete going to embarrass himself in the press, is he going to embarrass his family, the sport, the brands he works with. That 50 percent I don't have to worry about. And I think that one of the things that's been helpful is he's been with Mirka his whole career. He's got a partner who actually played tennis herself, understands the values of being a top professional athlete. Mirka never was one of those partners who say: "Ah, we need to go on this red carpet, and we need to do this and we need to be there." Instead they had a mission together: Let's try to make sure you are the best tennis player you can be. And so, for me I'm really fortunate to work alongside Roger because I don't have to worry about the babysitting. With a player like Roger it's just not necessary.
Which of Roger's qualities serve him particularly well when it comes to bringing people and opinion leaders together for a good cause?
He's approachable. You can talk to him about any subject. He's generally interested in what anyone has to say. And he is as comfortable talking to the person checking him into a hotel as he is to a world leader. Nothing changes. He doesn't look past the person who might be a different level in society. You feel when you're in his presence that he generally cares about you. I mean he disarms people. He meets people and he says: "Hi, I'm Roger." Some people might think: "Yeah, I know you're Roger." But he's not being cute. He generally doesn't really know if everybody knows him. But that's who he is. He's humble. He has manners. He truly is a person who adds so much value to a relationship, to a subject, to a business deal or whatever it might be.
14 years is a long time. How has your relationship with Roger changed over the years?
I think our relationship has changed when he started to have kids. I since have had to be a little more sensitive to grabbing his time because he has something more important to do which is try to raise his kids. He has to balance the family, the practice, the time off, the tournament play, his foundation work, the sponsor commitments and so on. Over the last 14 years he has a much bigger portfolio of partners. The best partners. But it's like a jigsaw puzzle. Where do you fit everything in so you can make everybody happy? There's a lot to juggle as it relates to scheduling.
What would you consider your most difficult task in managing Roger Federer?
Getting answers on schedule. It's a constant subject because we operate as a team. When I have to get a date from him he doesn't just say: "Yes." He says: "Ok, let me get back to you Tony, I'm going to have to talk to Pierre, my fitness trainer." If Pierre says he can build the fitness training around the suggested date, then the technical team, which is Ivan Ljubičić and Severin Lüthi, will have to say if it interferes with practice. And finally Mirka has to confirm if it fits in with the family program. Only then will Roger come back to me and say: "We will do it." So scheduling has by far been the most difficult and challenging job that I've ever had to work on. To the point where I almost schedule my life a little bit like that too – which is in some instances maybe not that healthy – because I don't have four kids and I'm certainly not training to play Wimbledon.
You're managing a Swiss player. How do you feel about the country?
I come to Switzerland eleven to twelve times a year on business trips. And boy oh boy, when I land in Switzerland and I get off the plane in Zurich, Geneva, wherever it might be, I'm super excited to be here. I love the efficiency of the country, I love the safety of the country, I love the beauty of the country. You could be swimming in Lake Zurich in one minute and two hours later you're skiing on a glacier somewhere up in the Alps. And if you're supposed to arrive at the ski resort at 11.02 on the train you actually arrive at 11.02. If Roger walks down the Bahnhofstrasse on his own he doesn't have security. The Swiss will look at him and say: "Ah there is our Roger Federer", but they won't bother him. When he comes home after a win it's more like: "Well done, Roger." Pat on the back. "You did great. We love you. But now come back and just be a Swiss kid for a little bit." And as much as the Swiss people love Roger I promise you he loves Switzerland just as much. He's proud of this country. He always says: "I'm always playing for Switzerland because when you see my name on the scoreboard at any tournament there's the Swiss flag next to my name. So I'm always playing for my country."
Stay tuned for the second part of our interview with Tony Godsick.