Questions asked surrounding Roger Federer's nice-guy reputation

By Tyson Otto for news.com.au

A tennis player inside the inner sanctum has shed light on tennis’s taboo discussion: Is Roger Federer really that nice or is it all an act?
Roger Federer has been accused of being two-faced. Photo / Getty Images
Roger Federer has been accused of being two-faced. Photo / Getty Images

There's a phrase Roger Federer has repeated throughout his career that perfectly sums up his public image.

The line, attributed to British philanthropist Sir John Templeton, is: "It is nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice."

This ethos is significant in the 34-year-old's reputation as one of the most admired athletes in the world.

The 17-time grand slam champion is also widely reported to be one of the most well-liked players in the locker room. He has an almost untarnished rep. But not everyone agrees.

Some colleagues and former players have taken shots at the Swiss ace's "true character" while others claim fans have no idea who the real former world No. 1 is - the guy when the cameras aren't rolling.

ATP Player Council president Eric Butorac has his own thoughts on the debate. Colleagues on the ATP Tour for many years, Butorac has shared a previously unheard account on who the real Federer is.

The 34-year-old American doubles specialist says he knows who the real Federer is. He says Federer is even nicer than his reputation as tennis' perfect gentleman and all-round Mr Nice Guy. He has stories to prove it.

The No. 46-ranked doubles player's first memorable moment with Federer came at an ATP event in Basel, Switzerland, in 2006, when Butorac and his coach used their passes to get into a night match with the Swiss ace - but didn't have anywhere to sit.

On the advice of an official, they sat down in two empty seats inside a corporate area - and were pleased when the other four people sitting inside the box welcomed them in.

After some polite conversation, it became apparent to the American he'd accidentally stumbled into the box set a side for Federer's mum, dad, sister and agent.

Rather than ask them to leave, the Federer family went out of their way to welcome Butorac and his coach - two perfect strangers - to their box.

It was an embarrassing moment for the low-profile player, but fortunately he got to make it up to Federer when a chance meeting allowed him to step in as a left-handed hitting partner for the long-time world No. 1 during the second week of the 2008 US Open in New York.

"Over the past decade, I've had the pleasure of actually becoming friends with Roger, which is in part because he greets and treats as equals every player he encounters," Butorac wrote for Universal Tennis.

"I've seen him give more time and effort than are required to sponsors and fans, and I've seen him handle even the most invasive, uncourteous requests with unwavering grace.

"Some might think he puts on a show for the public, but that's just who he is. Once, I watched him carry on a conversation with my mother, who upon meeting Roger for the first time lost her ability to speak.

"I'm not sure who the interaction was more painful for, me or him, but I'm guessing me because he seemed completely at ease."

Butorac claims Federer is just as selfless with his time for his fellow tennis players as he is with fans.

"Serving as his vice president on the ATP Player Council, I witnessed first-hand not only his commitment to attending the four-hour meetings often the night grand slams began, but also his role in negotiating more money for the players from the slams," he wrote.

"Once the additional prize money had been secured, Roger made sure the increases were driven down to the lower-ranked players who needed the funds most.

"Over the course of my career I've been asked countless times if Roger is really as nice as he appears to be. In my experience, he is even nicer."

Butorac is not the only player to speak out on the divisive issue of Federer's reputation. Not everyone agrees.

Here are some of the more prominent opinions shared recently.

LLEYTON HEWITT

Australian great Lleyton Hewitt said during his playing career he preferred Rafael Nadal over Roger Federer as a player and a person.

Hewitt has since spoken of his respect for Federer, but those comments about Nadal being his favourite of the big four at the top of men's tennis have not been forgotten.

"Yes. Nadal. He is my favourite to watch, to train with, everything," Hewitt said.

"For me it was even awesome to be able to commentate his Australian Open final against (Novak) Djokovic. Rafa was struggling with his body going into the tournament but played one of the greatest matches of all time. His never-say-die attitude is awesome."

Hewitt described Federer as someone who was not close with other players on tour. "A good guy but no one is really close to him," he said.

"He keeps his distance from everyone. But I have always got on with him extremely well."

ANDY RODDICK

Andy Roddick has every reason to dislike Federer given the Swiss maestro's astounding 21-3 record in their head-to-head duels. But he doesn't.

"I'd love to hate you, but you're really nice," Roddick reportedly said to Federer in 2005.

NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO

Former tennis player Nikolay Davydenko once accused Federer of being "too perfect" to get his hands dirty in negotiations over players' rights on the ATP Tour.

He said Federer failed to speak up when needed over the issue of player burnout on the ATP Tour.

"I don't know why Roger doesn't support players. I don't know why. Because he doesn't do any problems. He's a nice guy," the Russian said.

"He's from Switzerland. He's perfect. He don't want to do anything. He just tried to be outside from this one."

BORIS BECKER

Former grand slam champion Boris Becker last year said it is an "open secret" that Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are not friendly towards one another.

Djokovic's coach also said Federer "cannot possibly" be as nice as he acts.

ERNESTS GULBIS

Latvian tennis player Ernest Gulbis says Roger Federer is the reason men's tennis is so boring.

"I respect Roger, Rafa, Novak and Murray but, for me, all four of them are boring players," he said.

"Honestly, they are no good. I often go on YouTube to watch interviews but with tennis, I quickly stop. It is a joke.

"It is Federer who started this fashion. He has a superb image of the perfect Swiss gentleman. I repeat, I respect Federer but I don't like it that young players try to imitate him. When I hear them answer like Roger, I am terrified."

- News.com.au

- news.com.au

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