On Sunday, July 16, 2017, Roger Federer broke the record for Gentlemen’s Singles Finals Titles by winning his eighth Wimbledon singles championship.
Phenomenal, right? According to both meanings—extraordinary and something we perceive through our senses.
What makes Roger Federer a “phenomenal man,” echoing Dr. Maya Angelou’s famous depiction of the mystery of powerful womanhood?
I detect three essential qualities that comprise this phenomenon called “Roger Federer.”
Quality #1: Gifted
Federer has been labeled the “GOAT”–greatest of all time in tennis. The data are daunting—from the record-breaking eighth singles title at Wimbledon, including being the first man in 41 years to secure the title without having dropped a set en route, to his 19 Grand Slam championship titles.
Gifted, of course, is a gross understatement of his tennis greatness. (In fact, “greatness” might be the more apt term.)
My wife, Debra, calls Federer the “Fred Astaire” of tennis. His grace, elegance, and (yes) apparently effortless power recall Astaire’s relentless pursuit of perfection.
Quality #2: Good
“Good” has myriad connotations from talent and achievement to moral stature. In this context, it is the mysterious domain of spiritual-moral kindness and generosity.
Federer has said that he will stop playing tournament tennis the minute his wife and mother of their four children, Mirka, asks him to. He clearly adores his wife and children, and puts them first—even ahead of his singular quest to break records in the tennis annals.
Roger’s philanthropic work started formally in 2003, when he established the Roger Federer Foundation, which helps provide grants to poor countries that have child mortality rates of more than 15 percent, for education- and sports-related projects, among others.
In 2016, according to the Roger Federer Foundation’s annual report, their philanthropic investments and partnerships benefitted 650,000 children, chiefly living in poverty in the seven countries where the Foundation is active.
Quality #3: Gracious
Federer epitomizes the epithet, “gentleman.” As defined by the Oxford Dictionaries, the primarily meaning of “gentleman” is “a chivalrous, courteous, or honourable [English spelling] man.”
Another meaning might be John McEnroe’s, offered at the end of the coverage of the 2017 Wimbledon Gentleman’s Singles Finals. [Federer is] “the class act of all class acts.”
Classy is as classy does, as Forrest Gump might remind us.
During the championship awards ceremony, Roger called his finals opponent, Marin Cilic, “a hero.” Federer explained that sometimes the “cruel” turn of events in a tournament can include an injury—in Cilic’s case a painful foot blister—that precludes playing one’s best tennis.
The hero plays through it to the end, knowing full well that it is an exercise in doing the right thing, not winning.
Gifted (indeed, great), good, and gracious, Federer offers us, especially us men, a portrait of the true gentleman. The gentlemen of our time. Not born into nobility, but achieving “nobility of human excellence.”
The class act of all class acts.