Behind every successful man, there is a successful woman – or so the saying goes. And as the most successful man ever to have played the game of tennis, behind Roger Federer there must be a remarkable woman.
Her name is Mirka, his wife of eight years, his partner of 17 years. And if her husband is the greatest of all time, that makes Mirka, Mrs Federer, the most successful woman in tennis. Because without her, the record-breaking, grand slam-winning legend simply could not do what he does and he happily admits it.
“Without her I couldn’t do it,” Federer said. “If she said, I don’t want to travel no more, I’ll say, okay, my career is over. It’s as simple as that.
“So she’s the key to a lot of this. But she’s happy to be doing it, not on a weekly basis just because the traveling gets too much with the four [children]. I went to Stuttgart and Halle on my own. Now here we’re together. We’re having a great time.
“So she’s been amazing support for me. She’s the best. I’m happy she allows me to chase our dreams really, because she’s in it as much as I am, even though she’s more on a different side right now. She’s not as invested in the whole tennis bit like she used to be.”
When they met at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, she was Mirka Vavrinec, an aspiring player born in Slovakia but living in Switzerland. Her career did not last long – she was forced to retire through injury in 2002 – but because she had been a player and knew the stresses and strains of life on the tour, she and Federer were able to forge not only a personal relationship but a working relationship, too.
Three years older than her illustrious husband at 39, Mirka keeps herself to herself: she does not talk to the media, she is not front of house in the global production that is Roger Federer Inc. but she is never far from his side. Even with two sets of twins to care for, she still travels the world – and, apparently loves the lifestyle – and runs the family household, wherever it pitches up, around her husband’s needs and timetable. It is all about Federer and Mirka does not mind.
“That’s why we get along so perfectly,” she once said. “No other woman could deal with so much tennis. If he wants to sleep long, I definitely won’t wake him by getting up early.”
In the early days, long before the arrival of Myla Rose, Charlene Riva, Leo and Lenny and shortly before Federer blossomed from player to legend, Mirka organised everything: flights, hotels, press commitments. But she also kept her man sane. Back then, he had a tendency to over-analyse and wrap himself completely in his career. She would be the one to take the stats sheets out of his hands and demand that they go for dinner or to a movie – enough was enough. He needed to decompress.
Grim faced as she watches her husband at work, she is far more relaxed – and smiley – away from the courts. And his success is their success, as their embrace in the corridors of Melbourne Park after he won the Australian Open in January testifies: she was happier than he was.
So, the legend that is Roger Federer will keep going as long as the heart of the operation – Mirka – wants it to.
“It’s just discussions I always have,” the eight-time Wimbledon champion said. “Continuous discussion with my wife about the family, about my kids, is everybody happy on tour, are we happy to pack up and go on tour for five, six, seven weeks. Are we willing to do that?
“For the time being, it seems like absolutely no problem, which is wonderful. Then success to some extent also is key for staying out there really.”