Federer and Me starts with Skidelsky forking out big money to see Roger Federer play in a grand slam final at Centre Court at Wimbledon. He buys a ticket from a tout and his wife is not keen on the source of ticket or the high cost of the purchase. Federer and Me tells the story of his obsession with the legendary tennis player and some of the reasoning behind it all.
He had loved tennis when he was younger, playing it a bit and studying the stats behind the big matches. He fell out of love with the sport when he felt it was dominated by big serves and becoming somewhat bland. This all changes when Roger Federer comes on the scene and makes the sport beautiful again. He gets a Sky subscription purely to watch Federer play on a regular basis and this gives a certain amount of continuity to his life.
The book draws on David Foster Wallace’s writing on the sheer breadth of skill and ability Federer brought to the sport, with him able to do all the new things and employ the basic power as well. Skidelsky admires him for being both a modern and a classic player. Federer and Me is excellent on the concept of beauty but also gets into more technical aspects like changes in the rackets and the overall game over the years.
He wonders why we attach ourselves to particular stars and delves into the qualities we see in certain people that draw us to them and not others. When he gets close to him he sees him in a different way, allowing him to appreciate that Federer is human and he’s also able to really admire what goes into each shot and what a magnificent skill it is to pull off some of the things he does. He is beside himself when he gets to ask Federer a question at a press conference.
The book is very moving as Skidelsky describes the pain of losing a child. He says that watching tennis helped in some way with the healing after this. He also writes of how his tennis obsession helped him in the period where he is was coming out of depression.
Federer and Me is a hugely enjoyable read that will really strike a chord with anyone that’s been obsessed by starts of sport or otherwise. He’s great at putting across the idea of different kinds of Federer, with people projecting different things onto him meaning different things to different people. It’s a searching book that puts across some of the importance characters like Federer have for people.