Tennis Served Fresh sat down with Rene Stauffer, the author of Roger Federer‘s upcoming biography, Quest for Perfection: The Roger Federer Story. The book covers his childhood, his days as a temperamental junior, and his early days at the top of the ATP tennis heap (including life with girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec.
Rene has been a sports writer since 1981, and first wrote about Federer in 1996. Currently, he’s on staff at the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeigers. Over e-mail, we chatted about what compelled him to write the book, why he picked Roger, and who he thinks is the greatest tennis player of all time.
Tennis Served Fresh: What made you decide to write this book? Why now? Why Roger?
Rene Stauffer: I always dreamed of writing a book, and having covered tennis and Roger’s career as closely as I luckily was able to do, I felt I was in the best possible situation for this task. I first wanted to write the biography after Wimbledon ’03, but Roger and his family felt it was too early.
Why now? Because all that has happened in the last few years is more than enough to be told in a book and to be made available for people that did not follow Roger in the early stages of his career. I have covered professional tennis for about 25 years now and think I’m in the right position to put Roger and his career in the right perspective.
TSF: It seems like you had Roger’s cooperation in writing this book. What was his reaction when you told him that you were writing this biography? How much help did he give you as far as getting sources?
RS: I have done a lot of interviews with Roger over the years and asked him basically all the questions I ever had. Roger gave me the green light for this book, but he did not want to put out his official biography as of now. That is why his involvement is marginal and he himself only got to read it when it was published.
TSF: Federer is a very public figure. Did you feel compelled to find new ways to present information about him? Especially in this internet age where everything is available at a fan’s fingertips, what was the most difficult challenge as far as making the biography “fresh”?
RS: I am very happy to have a large personal archive with some old and so far unpublished quotes from Roger. I have a lot of personal memories with him over the years. What helped a lot was to find people who were willing to share their memories of him in Switzerland, like his parents, the family he lived with as a junior, friends, former junior rivals, and coaches. I also collected many newspaper articles from around the world over the years. So this is not at all an “internet-book”, which makes it even more satisfying for me.
TSF: Who is your target audience for the book? How long did it take you to write the book?
RS: Since I had the idea to write this book for many years, I was ready to go when I was offered the chance to write by the German publishing house Pendo. It took me four months to write the first edition, but ever since then I have been more or less involved with it, updating it for the second German and English editions and overlooking the translation into English. I tried to write it for people who have no idea about tennis, but also for tennis insiders who like to go through Roger’s career once again from a different angle.
TSF: What was your experience with selling the book proposal?
RS: I only started to write the book when I had the guarantee that it would be published, so I had nothing to do with that.
TSF: Are you planning on writing any other tennis biographies? If so, of whom? If not, why not?
RS: Not for now, since I am a full-time staff writer and have a family. Covering Roger is a pretty full-time job nowadays for a Swiss newspaper, as you might imagine. To be honest: I would be able to write a similar book about Martina Hingis, but there, things are a little bit more complicated.
TSF: What are your thoughts on men’s tennis? What is Roger’s ultimate impact on the sport? Would you consider Roger to be the Greatest Player of All Time?
RS: I think we have to wait to answer this question until his career is over (or until he wins Paris). As of now, I would not put Roger over everybody else… I would rather go with Borg, with his rivalry against McEnroe. But I am sure that there has never been a stronger player in tennis history, regarding Rogers level and the progress in technology.
TSF: Do you cover women’s tennis as well? Junior level tennis?
RS: I cover women’s tennis as well, especially Swiss players of course. I followed Martina Hingis from the earliest stages and have done a lot of interviews with players such as Steffi Graf, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, up to Maria Sharapova and Justine Henin and so on. I also do interviews now and then for magazines. Junior tennis is not my main focus.
TSF: Before the Roger era, who was the player with the most impact?
RS: Certainly Borg, and later on Boris Becker — mainly in Wimbledon and in Germany, where a whole country went nuts about tennis for a while.
Quest for Perfection: The Roger Federer Story, New Chapter Press, $24.95, by Rene Stauffer. Release date: June 25. Available for pre-sale through www.rogerfedererbook.com.
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