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24 July


Roger Federer tops the sports rich list

Tennis legend Roger Federer earned $106.3 million last year

Roger Federer Photo: AFP

/NOVOSTIVL/ Roger Federer is not only one of the most-talented athletes on the planet, but also the most profitable. This article appeared in SCMP.

Between winning the Wimbledon men's singles tournament eight times, as well as a total of 20 Grand Slam singles titles all over the world, Federer turned his tournament trophies into lucrative sponsorship deals. The 38-year-old earned $106.3 million from professional wins and sponsorship deals between June 2019 and May 2020, making him the highest-paid athlete in the world during that time period, according to Forbes.

That figure is likely to only go up, as the Swiss star signed a $300 million sponsorship deal with Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo in July 2018.

Here’s eight things you should know about the man celebrated as one of tennis’ all-time greats.

Tennis rankings aren’t everything

As of now, Federer is ranked fourth in the men's singles tennis ATP world rankings.

He hasn't been too interested in his rankings in recent years, though. “For me, the ranking, at 37 years old, is no longer really the priority,” Federer said at a media event in 2019.

His success dates back to the age of eight, when he started playing tennis. Born in Basel, Switzerland, on August 8, 1981, his Swiss father, Robert Federer, and South African mother, Lynette Durand, encouraged him to play from an early age. His parents both worked for the same pharmaceutical company, according to Biography.com.

At 14, Federer became the national junior champion in Switzerland. He joined the junior tennis circuit in 1996 and won the junior Wimbledon title in 1998.

Federer's big break came in 2003, when he won his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon against runner-up Mark Philippoussis. He was just 21 at the time and received $714 460 for his victory.

He loves watch brands and the feelings are mutual

One year after his first Wimbledon victory, he signed a sponsorship deal with watchmaker Maurice Lacroix. Later, Rolex struck an endorsement deal with Federer worth a reported $15 million.

Federer is one of Rolex's best-known ambassadors, and you won't see him lifting a trophy without one of the luxury watches on his wrist, each of them hand-picked to match the tournament. According to GQ, he's been a Rolex ambassador since 2011.

His fat bank balance is mainly because of endorsements and sponsorship deals

Most the $106.3 million Federer made over the last year is from endorsement deals and partnerships. He won $3 million in prize money from tennis tournaments in the first half of 2019 alone, bringing his career total prize winnings to more than $123 million.

In 2007, he was signed by Gillette, starring in a number of ads for the company.

In 2008, Federer signed a 10-year sponsorship deal with Nike worth almost $120 million. The partnership ended in March 2018.

Federer made headlines in 2018 when he swapped Nike for Uniqlo in a 10-year deal estimated to be worth $300 million. The deal with the Japanese brand had been “a long time coming”, Federer said at Wimbledon 2018.

In a 2019 Uniqlo ad, Federer tried his hand at the piano and said he'd like to practice more so he can surprise his wife.

Uniqlo wasn't Federer's first 10-year contract. In 2009, he signed one with Credit Suisse. The firm declined to comment on the contract's value at the time, but it's thought to be worth around $20 million.

As of 2020, Federer is still partnered with Credit Suisse. In January, ahead of the Australian Open, he defended his sponsorship deal after Greta Thunberg and other climate change activists criticised him over it because of the bank issuing loans to companies investing in the fossil fuel industry.

He gives back through his charitable foundation

The player is also known for his charity work. He founded the Roger Federer Foundation in 2003, which has since raised $40 million and hit its goal of educating one million children in Africa by the end of 2018. He still finds time to visit children who benefit from his charity.

He likes his toys, from fancy rackets to fast cars

As a dedicated athlete, Federer spends a lot of money on his equipment. He has his rackets made by P1, a company which also counts Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray as clients.

He likes the finer things in life, too. In 2014, Federer completed construction on a modern-looking mansion on Lake Zurich worth around $8,1 million.

As well as owning other properties in Switzerland, he also has a penthouse in Dubai, where he spends much of the year training.

Thanks to his role as a brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz, Federer has a large car collection. He partnered with the German carmaker in 2008 and renewed the deal in 2018. The multi-year partnership is estimated to earn the tennis star $5 million a year.

He has a life off the court

When he's not on the court, Federer is a keen hiker. In 2018, he appeared on Running Wild with Bear Grylls. “Just slightly upset that he beat me at mini ping-pong on the top of the cliff face,” Grylls said.

That is not to say the athlete doesn't like to party in his downtime. He's an ambassador for Moët & Chandon champagne, which released a limited-edition bottle to mark his 20th year in professional tennis in 2018. The 20 bottles made sold for $23 000 a pop – but all the proceeds went to the Roger Federer Foundation.

After winning his eighth Wimbledon title in 2017, Federer complained of a “head-ringing” hangover the day after: “[I] got to bed at 5am, then woke up and just didn't feel good. The last hour or so I'm somewhat OK again. I'm happy with that.”

When Federer goes out for dinner, variety is clearly the spice of life. “I am a lover of Italian, Japanese, and Indian restaurants,” he said in 2018.

He’s married to former professional tennis player Mirka Vavrinec

The pair had their first kiss at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and married in 2009. They have two sets of twins together. Daughters Charlene Riva and Myla Rose are 10, while sons Lenny and Leo are six.

His wife is his source of fashion advice

“I used to wear jogging shoes, jeans, and a practice shirt, then when Mirka met me, she would look and go, ‘Errr, are you sure about this look?’ Federer told GQ in 2018.

Federer's self-professed worst fashion mistake came when he won Wimbledon in 2007.

“I went to receive the trophy, and as I walk down I'm a bit nervous, and as I put my hands in my pockets I realise that the pockets are going backwards,” Federer recalled in his GQ interview. “I was like: ‘It's too late! I can't change them any more!’ I lifted the trophy, and the pants were on backwards.”

Now 38, Federer has taken some time to consider his retirement. In 2018, he told a Swiss newspaper that he has bought “an old bus from the 60s”, which he plans to drive around Europe once he has some spare time.