I'm a Homesick Swiss Guy
Does Switzerland still mean anything to someone who is at home all over the world? Find out how the cosmopolitan Roger Federer feels about his native country, whether he likes the Swiss Transport Museum in Lucerne, and what he thinks of the Roger-Federer-Allee in Bienne.
Home is where the heart is. Where does your heart lie?
In the right place.
Certainly in Switzerland. Mostly in Basel. I grew up in Canton Basel-Land, Riehen, and Münchenstein.
But when you were just 14 ...
... I moved alone to French-speaking Switzerland, to Ecublens. I trained there at the National Tennis Center. After two years, I moved on to the new performance center in Bienne with Swiss Tennis.
You have been honored there in a way that is granted to extremely few Swiss people, least of all in their lifetimes: Last year, the Roger-Federer-Allee was inaugurated.
That means a lot to me. I have fantastic memories of Bienne. In 1997 I turned professional; in 1998 I won the juniors' tournament at Wimbledon – I traveled a lot at that time, but always trained in Bienne.
You also shone as a cleaner there.
One day, new curtains were fitted for catching the balls. The coaches warned us to be careful. I said: "They're so thick that they'll withstand quite a lot." About an hour later, I threw my racket into the curtain because of a ball I'd mishit – and sure enough it tore. My punishment was to clean the center every morning for a week.
Are you still in touch with childhood friends from Basel?
I recently saw that one of my schoolmates had got married – and I congratulated him. But generally you only have real friends after the age of 14 – and I was already a tennis player when I was 14. That's why most of my friends come from the world of tennis. And often they're friends of friends.
Who probably come from everywhere?
Whether it's New York, London or Australia – I have a few friends here, or a colleague there. It's pretty cool to have friends from different countries and diverse backgrounds.
Where do you go to recharge your batteries, where do you escape to after all the bustle and competitions?
To the Swiss Alps. Even I am extremely surprised that I live in the mountains nowadays. As a Basel native, you don't automatically have a connection to the mountains. It's also not necessarily a skier's city. I have skied myself, but I was always more of a sun and sea person. Perhaps because of my connection with South Africa.
And now the Swiss Alps.
I'm so delighted that I was able to build a house in the mountains. It's my oasis. Here I can switch off away from the big cities; I love this calm, when I'm hiking too, it's simply wonderful. I'm a homesick Swiss guy.
But also a citizen of the world. What are you proud of as a cosmopolitan Swiss person?
Switzerland is very innovative, we often forget that ourselves. The watch industry, chocolate, banking, pharmaceuticals. There are hundreds of other things that make Switzerland super. There's much more than lakes and mountains here. I try to stay innovative myself, and think I'm quite successful. I always try to keep developing and improving further. This is something that I feel in myself.
And what about the "Bünzli" – the Swiss stereotype of narrow-mindedness and conformity? Is it true or a cliché?
Everyone has a laugh just because trains really do leave at 16:01. Typical Switzerland, typically Swiss. I have the feeling – and I travel all over the world – that Swiss people are not persnickety and "Bünzli" at all, but are actually pretty open-minded. Added to that is the fact that Switzerland is an ideal location. As a global athlete, I'm one-and-a-half hours from anywhere in Europe, and the US East Coast is just a stone's throw away. That must be why the Swiss like to travel so much. Everyone has been all over the world too. Even to far-off Australia.
Do you often travel in Switzerland?
Much too little unfortunately. Although, when I had knee problems last year and had to take a break from the tour, I said to myself: "Now I want to explore my homeland a little bit more closely."
Where did that take you?
I visited the Seealp Lake in the Appenzell region, the National Park in Graubünden – and the Transport Museum in Lucerne. I hadn't been there for years. I went in and was just amazed: so cool, so attractive! I'm always very proud when people rave about a visit to Switzerland. So I often put photos on Instagram that relate to Switzerland, such as the ones with the Wimbledon trophy "Arthur," which I wanted to show the beautiful mountain scenery to ... The idea is for people all over the world to see that it really is fantastic in Switzerland.
You seem to be an exception. Often even successful Swiss people tend to run their homeland down.
That's a shame on the one hand, but perhaps good on the other because people who criticize stay in touch with the real world. We keep our feet on the ground and are down to earth. That suits me. Since I've been traveling so much around the world, my need to come home has become even stronger.