Roger's Way: Prepping for a Big Day
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Roger's Way: Prepping for a Big Day

Major meeting, prime presentation, decisive deal: How do you get set for an 'all-in' performance? Tennis ace Roger Federer has honed his approach over the past two decades, leading to 17 Grand Slams, two Olympic medals, and nearly 100 million dollars in prize earnings – so far. Speaking to Credit Suisse's editorial team, he breaks his preparations into three areas.

Get the Body Ready

Training, but not too much. I train most intensely in December, when there are no tournaments. In the main season – which runs from January to November – I don't practice as rigorously, because I don't want to overdo it. I just want to keep the base I built in December. Forget the all-nighters, get your sleep. During tournaments, if I can sleep eight hours a night, I am happy. If I feel tired, I aim to get more than that. I've never tried any 'sleep gimmicks' such as altitude tents, but I often black out the windows to keep the room super-dark. Of course that doesn't prevent being awakened by my children. They like to come into our room quite early. Keep food consistent. A healthy diet is my norm, and tournament times are no different, except that I add more carbohydrates for extra energy. About two hours before a match, I eat a bowl of lightly-sauced pasta to fuel up. Sometime after playing I have another, to refuel for the next match. Traveling a lot, as I do, could complicate meals, but over the years I've found restaurants and hotels that meet my needs. My eating habits haven't changed over the years, and why not? They have worked well. A 'Goldilocks' warm-up: neither too much nor too little. Three hours pre-match is when I hit balls for 30-45 minutes with a sparring partner. Then I shower, eat, and talk to my coaches. Shortly before going on court, I'll do some calisthenics and stretching in the locker room. I make sure not to do too much. The idea is to get in the mood and feel of performing, to loosen up, not to wear myself out. It's also important to warm down. After a match, back at the hotel, I do some stretching and take a massage from my physiotherapist.

I'm not superstitious, which I guess can be considered a superstition.

Get the Mind Ready

Be prepared, not obsessed. Tennis is played on three surfaces (clay, grass, and hard floors), so two to three weeks ahead, I'll practice only on the upcoming tournament's surface. I also need to adjust to jet lag and local weather, but that doesn't take three weeks – one is enough. Mentally, I focus mainly on my game, my strategy, my tactics, less so on what my opponents will do. My focus varies somewhat from tournament to tournament, depending on the court surface and conditions. Rituals and superstitions: whatever works. Many players have pre-match ceremonies or lucky charms or music to get them ready. I don't. I'm not superstitious, which I guess can be considered a superstition. I like listening to music, but not before a match.

Roger Federer

©Paul Zimmer

Unlike a lot of players, I don't isolate myself. Before going on court, my team and I are together in the locker room, watching other matches (on TV), talking, and even playing a round or two of cards. Size up the opponent and the crowd. Unlike some sports, there is little 'trash talking' in tennis. In the locker room, players mostly joke around with each other. On court, the spectators often take sides, and I am very lucky to get exceptional support at most matches throughout the year. An onside crowd really motivates me. I like being the favorite to win. That boosts my confidence, but I don't want to be overconfident. Because an underdog is 'expected' to lose, sometimes they just cut loose, swing freely, and are suddenly quite dangerous. Keep calm, and carry on. Even when I'm behind, I try to stay relaxed. In a match, lots of things can change very quickly. I try not to give away free points and just to focus on my game plan. What's the worst that could happen? Over the years, my only mental change has been how I deal with losing. I used to get terribly upset, but now I've come to realize it is not the end of the world. I get over it quickly.

Over the years, my only mental change has been how I deal with losing.

Equipment Check

You can never be over prepared. Racquets are tools of our trade. Tennis is played in 'best-of-three' matches that run about two hours, or 'best-of-five' that can go on for three or more. For the shorter ones, I'll bring seven racquets; for the longer ones I'll bring 12. Light on food and beverage. Depending on the heat, during a match I'll take some water or a 'sports' drink. If the match drags on, I might eat an energy bar. Easy does it. No secret weapons. My on-court bag is boring. Extra shirts, shorts, grips, racquets, shoes, my watch, stretch bands, pens, and wallet. Nothing crazy!

One minute to go, what's on your mind?

Play hard! Give my best!