Federer Will Have a Baby Instead of a coach

Instead of announcing a new coaching arrangement on his website, Roger Federer announced something altogether different.

BNP Paribas Open Day 3

I’m in that netherworld of the opening rounds of a tennis Masters 1000 event and while those opening rounds are real enough, they don’t exist in the media and that means they don’t exist at all as far as most fans are concerned. This week and next we have the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and the website still has interviews from last year despite the fact that Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray have already given interviews as have many players who have actually played matches such as Shahar Peer.

Broadcasting doesn’t begin till Saturday and that means live streaming begins on Saturday too. I’ll be on my way to Indian Wells
by the middle of next week but what if Roger Federer flames out early – it has happened you know – or Andy Murray re-injures his ankle? Last year tournament co-director Charlie Pasarell said the event would look into putting webcams on all courts. I’m ready and waiting because, really, how hard can that be? And I’ve missed enough tennis already.

While I’m waiting, let’s talk about Mirka Vavrinec, Federer’s longtime girlfriend. First of all she is pregnant. And that means Federer will be having a baby instead of a coach because his short trial session in Dubai with Darren Cahill ended without a coaching agreement. Cahill won’t commit to twenty weeks a year with Federer because he has his own babies at home in Las Vegas – a four and a seven year old – and he doesn’t want to be away from them for so long.

Now this is rather curious to me. Surely Cahill knew what coaching Federer entailed before traveling all the way to Dubai. Twenty weeks is a part-time commitment as it is. Was Cahill thinking of turning up for the slams and Masters 1000 events only? Wouldn’t that be the minimum you’d expect if you were coaching an ATP pro?

Guess what, add up four slams and nine Masters 1000 events and you get 19 weeks if you count Indian Wells and Miami as two weeks events. Skip Shanghai if the poor guy doesn’t want to travel all the way to China with Roger and substitute a few weeks of training sessions in the off-season and there’s your 20 weeks.

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d suggest that Cahill got to Dubai, started working with Roger, and decided that it wasn’t going to work for some reason or another, then politely went back to Vegas and cited his young children as his reason for turning down the opportunity.

Federer’s huge issue is Rafael Nadal and forget, for the moment, beating Nadal on clay. Federer needs a way to beat him on hard court before he can even think about clay, and consecutive events in Indian Wells and Miami should have been a perfect opportunity to try out a strategy that Cahill and Federer agree on. Cahill has already said that Federer should attack the net more on fast surfaces and surely Federer knew that, so strategy disagreement isn’t likely to be the problem.

Maybe Cahill really did get back to Vegas and realize that he couldn’t be away from home for 20 weeks a year – maybe he looked around the playroom and realized his kids needed him or decided he wasn’t ready for the coaching grind just yet, but if he did, I’m guessing that something in Dubai contributed to it.

I have to say that the first thing I thought about when I read about Mirka’s pregnancy was former U.S. football player Travis Henry. The New York Times reports today that Henry has nine children by nine different women and some of the children were born only months apart. For obvious reasons, he’s having trouble meeting his child support obligations and he’s also under arraignment on drug charges. Federer is 27 years old and Mirka is 30 years old and this is their first child. Henry is 30 years old.

Henry may be an exception in the degree of his proliferation but the cultural divide between these two examples is indicative of the two different sports – U.S. football is a working class sport – and, to some degree, the two different cultures – Federer and Mirka are Swiss citizens. This is a huge subject that I’m touching on only lightly, but it’s hard not to be struck by the contrast between the two news items.

I’m coming back to Mirka for another reason. I found this paragraph in an article in Tennis Week last week:

Federer, who has worked with Australian Tony Roche and Sweden’s Peter Lundgren in the past, often consults long-time girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec, a former WTA Tour pro, on certain opponents, but has said he is receptive to hearing a new voice with different ideas. Federer split with Roche, his last full-time coach, in May of 2007.

Federer will continue to work with Swiss Davis Cup captain Severin Luthi as his de facto coach but Mirka will be otherwise occupied at some point and Luthi is unlikely to offer a much in the way of different ideas. So what are you going to do now Roger?

And how about you out there? Got any suggestions?