Roger Federer was short tempered and "a bit of a brat" before he turned professional, according to Nike tennis director Mike Nakajima.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion, who announced his retirement on Thursday, will go down in history as one of the greatest sports stars who ever lived, as well as one of tennis' most dedicated professionals.
Though professionalism wasn't exactly Federer's forte when he was competing in the juniors, and Nakajima says the Swiss superstar was really unlikeable as a youngster.
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"[Federer] was really, really talented, but he was also a bit of a brat on tour," Nakajima said during an interview with Sports Business Radio Podcast back in 2018.
"I met Roger in 1994/1995 when he was just coming out of juniors. He was a really talented player but super fiery, he would smash racquets in a heartbeat."
Nakajima says the turning point for Federer came after he watched highlights of his match against future World No 1 Marat Safin, and all the programme showed was clips of him yelling, screaming and throwing things around the court in a huff.
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This apparently embarrassed Federer so much that he vowed never to behave like that on court again according to Nakajima, and aside from the odd racquet smash now and again – which every player is partial to – the man has been true to his word.
Federer turned pro in 1998, but it wasn't until 2001 that he caught the world's attention, after beating the legendary Pete Sampras in the fourth round of Wimbledon. He won his first Grand Slam (and his first of a record eight Wimbledon titles) in 2003 before taking the sport by storm, winning 11 of the next 16 available majors.
His dominance, coupled with his unique on-court elegance, quickly turned him into arguably the most popular and universally admired player on the planet – a far cry from his brattish beginnings all those years ago.
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