Tennis seems absent at the moment – it should be happening, but it’s nowhere to be seen. Courts around the world, including in the UK, have been closed. The Australian Open feels like a long way off having been delayed into February. And Federer himself, it is rumoured, will not make a return to the professional circuit until March.
In these times when Federer isn’t playing or when tennis is an all but distant possibility, books are a superb way to delve into Federer’s story and connect with tennis again. Here are, in my opinion, the top five books on the great man.
Federesque (Beyond the Lens, 2018)
Writer Mark Hodgkinson collaborates with the photographer Antoine Couvercelle to produce Federesque – the first coffee table book on Federer. Full-page images and brief brushstrokes of text make it ideal for dipping in and out of.
A true enthusiast’s book, the writing, and pictures are divided into themes that Federer fans will recognise – emotion, artistry, humility, immortality, elegance, and perfection. With this different approach to looking at his career, Federesque invokes interest and admiration without getting lost in too much detail.
The Circuit – A Tennis Odyssey (Picador, 2018)
Rowan Ricardo Phillips creates an interesting tennis book in its own right, exploring “one of the most remarkable years” of the professional tour – 2017. Not strictly a Federer book but with a clear emphasis on him, the text follows the men’s and women’s circuits around the world.
Phillips examines Federer through the lens of each tournament; how he dealt with the press, his performances on the court, right down to the finer points on what he was wearing. The book also provides the opportunity to revisit more recent key moments – like the 2017 Australian Open final versus Nadal, and Federer’s Sunshine Double victories.
Federer – The Greatest of All Time (John Blake Publishing, 2021)
Chris Bowers returns with the regularly updated biography of Federer, the latest edition to be published in May which includes the 2018 Australian Open. This is the book for fans who want to know everything about Federer, from his early childhood growing up in Switzerland, to achieving his twentieth grand slam.
Greatest of All Time effectively blends Federer’s public and private life to make a wide-ranging and comprehensive assessment of Federer’s career. Readers who are keen for detail will find the book useful as Bowers draws upon his own conversations with Federer and those around him, providing both depth of insight and trivia. Perhaps the definitive biography on Roger.
Fedegraphica – A Graphic Biography of the Genius of Roger Federer (Aurum Press, 2019)
Fedegraphica by Mark Hodgkinson tells the professional story, but the main highlights are the beautifully designed infographics that accompany the text. Addictive and tempting to read cover-to-cover, the visual representation of Federer statistics and numbers bring the nuances of his game to life.
Players of tennis will appreciate this technically-minded book. They can reflect on their own game with infographics on categories such as Federer’s forehand spin rates, percentage of shots won at the net and average kilometres run per match. Included are comparisons with how other key players have fared in the same measure.
Federer’s pre-eminence in so many statistics helps us understand why he is the GOAT and offers a numerical celebration of his success.
Federer and Me – A Story of Obsession (Yellow Jersey Press, 2016)
In a frank account, William Skidelsky tells the story of the relationship he has with himself and with his love of Federer. From his fanship emerging after watching the 2006 World Tour Finals in Shanghai, Skidelsky describes how his obsession grew over the coming years while tennis became a refuge in times of emotional upheaval and private struggle.
Federer acts as a constant source of personal stability, as Skidelsky religiously follows his matches and visits the 2014 Gerry Weber Open in Halle. There, he even gets to meet Federer himself. The book darts between Federer’s matches, tennis history, racquet technology, the rivalry with Nadal and cultural theory to explain why Federer is of such significance worldwide.
Which Federer book have you enjoyed reading the most? Let me know in the comments.