Roger Federer, a genius who made tennis look effortless, was born into a privileged family one of the most privileged in all of Europe — until they found themselves living, one summer, in an isolated hut outside of a small town in the Swiss Alps.
Federer’s family was the first in Europe to own a TV set, a bicycle and a piano. His parents, Federer’s mother, is a descendant of Count Johann Christoph Eberhard von Wacht zu Loewenfeld, a man who became a Nazi, but who, according to the British writer John le Carré, was “so passionately fond of Germany, the land of his birth that he would not have dreamed of leaving it.”
All children dream, but Federer’s family never tired of dreaming about their future. His mother saw in her husband, Bernhard, a promising tennis player she wanted to foster. The father, Johann, had a strong family history in tennis; his father’s brother, Carl Alexander von Wacht, had been a tennis player in the 1890s and set the world tennis record when he lost the 1884 Wimbledon tournament final to the former British champion, Fred Perry.
The family first set out on their travels by horseback, accompanied by a tutor who also did the family’s laundry. “‘They’ll need a good bath when I get back,’” Federer said in 2009 of his family’s travels.
Two months after the family returned to Europe, Federer was born in a small town in Switzerland. Federer’s mother, Mary, was 29 and his father, Bernhard, 34. A tennis fan from childhood, he went on to grow up idolizing his dad — Federer was an only child — but the father was a mystery to his son.
When Federer played in Wimbledon, Bernhard’s coach,