Professional athletes are known for grueling workout schedules, long road trips, and busy lives in general. That kind of day-to-day grind makes it difficult to find any sort of work/life balance — especially if you’re a parent. Tennis superstar Roger Federer knows how difficult that balance can be and did his best to make sure he could be a present dad and one of the best tennis players to ever hold a racket.
The tennis pro, who announced his retirement earlier this month, opened up about how being a dad of four played a huge role in not only his decision to retire but his decisions while being a professional tennis player.
Some athletes head out on their own when on road trips or away games, but Federer decided to take his whole family with him. That was the only option if his team, sponsors, and well, the world wanted him to continue playing tennis professionally, admitting that if he couldn’t afford that option, he would have retired a decade earlier.
“Oh, it was the only way,” he told TODAY in an extensive interview. “I said, ‘Never would I go on the road without my kids.’ I’d rather retire [than travel without them]. Then I would’ve had to retire 10 years ago.”
Federer, 41, and his wife Mirka have twin daughters — Charlene Riva and Myla Rose — born in July 2009, and in 2014, they welcomed another set of identical twins, sons Leo and Lenny.
Federer recalls his whole life changing when he became a dad. Right as Federer became the number one tennis player in the world, his life was suddenly less about winning grand slams and tournaments and more about diaper changes, late night wake ups, and just being there for his new baby girls.
“I have twin girls, as you know … They were born in ’09, just after I became, I think it was world No. 1,” he said in the same interview. “The girls were born and from that moment on, 2010 and 2011, I didn’t win any slam. I remember changing diapers, bathing the girls and just being a dad.”
He continued, “But then when the boys were born, I mean, that rocked the boat, obviously, because going on the road with four kids every single week was hard, to say the least.”
He credits his kids for bringing a new edge to his tennis game. “ … from being maybe the dominator, I became the challenger,” he shared. “And I liked that role, as well. I actually really stayed hungry throughout.”
Last week, the 20-time Gram Slam winner announced his retirement from tennis, thanking his fans, coaches, and fellow players for all their support over the years. He took a special moment to also thank his children for their adaptability and excitement about traveling alongside dad as he plays.
“I also want to thank my four wonderful children for supporting me, always eager to explore new places and creating wonderful memories along the way. Seeing my family cheering me on from the stands is a feeling I will cherish forever.” Federer wrote in his official retirement statement.
Hopefully Federer will open up the door for more male athletes to bring their families on the road with them while also raising awareness about how important an issue child care options are for working parents.