Roger Federer remembers life changing kiss

The Swiss star remembers the first time he kissed his now-wife and reflects on how his family has helped shape and change his game.

Posted: Jan 9, 2019 8:05 PM
Updated: Jan 9, 2019 8:26 PM

It's the regular retirement question and it usually gets a stock answer from Roger Federer. But, in an emotional in-depth interview, he revealed to me as close as you're going to get to his retirement plan.

"Wimbledon stands out as maybe a place," he said. "I don't have the fairytale ending in my head saying there has to be another title somewhere. I hope it doesn't end with an injury. I'd like to go out on my terms." So, no date, but at least we have a possible, albeit obvious place.

It turns out Federer is as meticulous and prepared in his answers for an interview as he is on court. In a wide-ranging and candid interview on a Dubai rooftop, he discusses his passion to educate kids in Africa, the tragic death of his mentor and his first kiss with his wife Mirka. Turns out the unstoppable tennis machine hides a big heart.

With 20 grand slams, Federer is the most successful men's tennis player of all time, who next week in Melbourne could not only potentially win a third successive Australian Open title, but his 100th title overall. Not that he needs any of this to secure his place in history.

Anyway, enough of the numbers, what about that first kiss?

It came at the age of 18 with a girl, two years his senior, during the Sydney Olympic Games. Her name was Mirka Vavrinec. If you're thinking Romeo and Juliet balcony scene ... think again. What should have been a much anticipated moment of intimacy was instead a rather public affair -- thanks to a dormitory full of excitable wrestlers.

"We were both playing for Switzerland in tennis," recalls Federer, "and then we spent two weeks together in those dorms. We were together with the wrestlers and all the other cool athletes. I guess over the two weeks, we built up some chemistry."

Visit CNN/com/sport for more news, features and videos

It also turns out that wrestlers have big hearts -- it was one of them who suggested Federer make the first move. "He said, 'Hey, kiss her now.'"

Federer giggles: "And I'm like, 'No, I don't know, maybe, should I?'"

The wrestler egged him on. "So, anyway, I did," continues Federer.

Even so Federer had to fall back on the teenage trick of beefing up your age with fractions. "She told me I was so young when she kissed me. I tried to tell her I was almost 18-and-a-half. I tried to sneak in a quarter year."

READ: Federer's tears for former coach

'Special kid'

As well as revealing the early days of his courtship with Mirka, Federer is also keen to pay tribute to the people that set him on the path to sporting immortality, notably his childhood coach Peter Carter.

Federer readily admits that it was Carter, who took Federer under his wing at the age of nine, that laid the foundations for the player the Swiss is today.

"Peter was really a really important person in my life -- it's because of him I can say thank you for my technique today."

As he trained the future champion, Carter shared his experiences with his closest friend, Darren Cahill, who was coaching another prodigy, Lleyton Hewitt. Both were from Carter's native Adelaide and regularly swapped notes. Their two teen sensations would later face each other at the highest level.

Carter had come to Switzerland to play club tennis in Federer's Basel club. With a girlfriend in Basel, Carter decided to stay.

"They used to call each other and say, 'I have this really special kid I'm training.' Cahill would say the same from Adelaide of Hewitt. And then of course we played each other when we were 14, 16, 18, 20, and then our whole careers. Who knew we were both going to become Wimbledon champions, world No. 1s."

But Carter never got to see the tennis legend he helped create win a grand slam. The Australian was killed on his honeymoon in 2002 -- just a year before Federer won his first grand slam at Wimbledon -- in a tragic car crash in South Africa.

"That was hard, and it just took a great friend away from me and somebody who was really inspirational for me," says a composed Federer.

But asked what would Carter have thought of Federer with 20 grand slams to his name and suddenly the Swiss star's composure slips.

"I still miss him so much," says Federer as he wells up with tears. All of a sudden the normally eloquent and articulate Federer struggles for words.

"I hope he would be proud. I guess he didn't want me to be a wasted talent. So I guess it was somewhat of a wake-up call from me when he passed away. I really started to train hard."

He pauses again for a glass of water. "Geez, never broke down like this ... I just need a couple of minutes."

As the sun sets over the Dubai skyline, Federer's composure returns.

"I think what I would like to say is that I've been incredibly fortunate to having had the right people at the right time, the right coaches at the right time.

"Sure, you could argue I made those decisions, but I also got lucky along the way," adds Federer, who when he competes in Australia will be cheered on by Carter's parents, a testament to the connection he had with the coach.

READ: Nadal lived tragedy of floods

READ: Meet tennis' record unluckiest loser

When you're one of the greatest tennis players ever pretty much every door opens for you and every head turns. But not always -- there is one place where it has absolutely no impact at all, and that is one of the strangely welcome side benefits of Federer's work with children in Africa, through the education programs of his Roger Federer Foundation.

"Last time when I was in Zambia, midway through this year, I tried to explain to them that I was a tennis player. And they said: 'The one with the rocket and the table?' I'm like, 'No, that's table tennis.'"

He smiles as he remembers his newly discovered anonymity. "You realize who you are actually doesn't matter. I'm not a tennis player here. I'm actually a philanthropist on the ground. It hit me, you know? I think it's wonderful."

READ: Federer's kids catching tennis bug

Different than a tennis outfit

The foundation has surpassed its targets, assisting over a million children before its 15-year anniversary in December.

Federer says it has been both the most challenging and satisfying experience he has had, taking him off his familiar tennis court and, suited and booted, into government boardrooms.

"It's different than being in a tennis outfit," he said. "It's in a suit. It's speeches. It's very much protocol. I go meet officials to maybe push it up the agenda -- early childhood education."

His expression becomes serious. "Eighty per cent of a child's brain is developed by the time they're seven, so that's why I truly believe in it. When they know I took the time to fly there, took the time to go meet them, they might take this issue more seriously. The process will really help a lot of children more quickly. And that's very exciting."

The interview is over, but Federer doesn't make the usual hurried exit of so many stars. Instead he stays on, alone, to talk off camera for an hour, signing tennis balls, reflecting on the year ahead. A class act -- on and off the court.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 67857

Reported Deaths: 2975
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion14710719
Lake7037269
Elkhart458276
Allen3611157
St. Joseph311479
Hamilton2489104
Cass17509
Hendricks1742105
Vanderburgh170012
Johnson1648118
Porter117439
Tippecanoe109411
Clark107545
Madison84265
LaPorte82929
Kosciusko81612
Howard80464
Marshall74222
Bartholomew73847
Floyd68444
Monroe68430
Noble63528
Delaware63352
Boone63246
Dubois62412
Hancock61637
Jackson5514
LaGrange54210
Shelby50926
Warrick50230
Grant49629
Vigo46810
Dearborn46128
Morgan41832
Henry36118
Clinton3523
White34510
Montgomery33821
Lawrence32627
Wayne3159
Decatur31332
Harrison28922
Miami2582
Scott24710
Daviess24319
Greene23834
DeKalb2214
Putnam2218
Jennings20712
Franklin20510
Jasper2032
Steuben1993
Gibson1984
Ripley1887
Perry17112
Starke1647
Orange16324
Wabash1583
Posey1570
Fayette1547
Jefferson1492
Whitley1486
Fulton1442
Carroll1422
Wells1312
Knox1290
Huntington1183
Washington1151
Spencer1133
Newton10910
Tipton1065
Randolph1024
Clay975
Jay820
Adams812
Rush794
Owen781
Sullivan751
Pulaski711
Brown701
Fountain632
Benton600
Blackford532
Ohio504
Parke451
Pike450
Switzerland430
Crawford420
Martin420
Vermillion380
Union320
Warren191
Unassigned0200

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 93031

Reported Deaths: 3529
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin17107514
Cuyahoga12646477
Hamilton9110247
Lucas4852318
Montgomery402477
Summit3248217
Marion287544
Butler268359
Mahoning2393253
Pickaway235242
Stark1679132
Lorain162076
Warren160035
Columbiana157060
Trumbull1421103
Fairfield123825
Delaware119418
Licking111642
Clark107613
Lake103435
Wood91058
Clermont83510
Medina83133
Miami76837
Tuscarawas74613
Portage71160
Allen64642
Greene61911
Belmont58926
Ashtabula53845
Richland53610
Geauga52843
Mercer52213
Erie51627
Wayne49258
Ross3874
Huron3714
Ottawa35225
Athens3441
Madison32910
Sandusky32917
Holmes3206
Darke31627
Hancock3152
Lawrence2160
Union2141
Auglaize2135
Jefferson2043
Washington19722
Putnam19317
Coshocton1856
Scioto1851
Muskingum1781
Knox1652
Crawford1645
Preble1642
Morrow1582
Shelby1574
Seneca1533
Hardin15012
Clinton1466
Fulton1391
Ashland1303
Defiance1294
Highland1271
Williams1233
Logan1201
Wyandot1195
Brown1121
Guernsey1106
Hocking1089
Carroll1075
Henry1061
Champaign1051
Perry1052
Fayette940
Monroe9018
Van Wert681
Pike660
Jackson650
Paulding590
Gallia571
Adams532
Vinton302
Meigs240
Morgan200
Harrison191
Noble160
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 64°
Angola
61° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 61°
Huntington
Overcast
64° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 64°
Decatur
64° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 64°
Van Wert
64° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 64°
More scattered rain & storms on Monday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events