LUNCH WITH THE FT: Roger Federer: A bourgeois boy from Basel who gave up a bit of his childhood
On court, he is silently strategising; off court, Federer is engaging, likes to eat, FaceTimes with his family, wants new players to feel welcomed and ponders who his friends are
In 25 years of interviewing athletes, I’ve learnt that they never ask you anything back. Roger Federer is the exception. In the van to his private jet, he bombards me with questions: How badly have the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) smashed up Paris, where I live? Do I have children? When he discovers I have twins (he has two sets; one female, one male), and that my mother, like his, came from northern Johannesburg, he grins with delight: “We could be like brothers.” He speaks near-perfect English, with some of the sing-song rhythm of his native Swiss-German.
This morning we are flying his shared NetJets plane from Zurich to Madrid, where he’s playing a tournament. We take off almost vertically: private jets fly at over 40,000 feet, higher than commercial planes, and whizz through the thin and nearly traffic-free air.