Roger Federer ready to juggle twin priorities on return to court

The Swiss returns to the court following the birth of his second set of twins


Fathers everywhere will know the feeling. After the birth of your children you want to do all you can to help, but you get the impression that your loved ones might cope better if you were not hanging around. They might even prefer you to go back to work.

That could explain why Roger Federer is here competing at the Rome Masters rather than changing nappies back home in Switzerland, where his wife Mirka gave birth last week to their second set of twins, Leo and Lenny.

Speaking in public for the first time since their arrival, Federer explained on Tuesday how he had come to play here, having made a late withdrawal from last week’s Madrid Masters. “Everything happened all of a sudden last Tuesday evening,” he said. “That was a bit of a surprise. I thought it was going to be a few days or maybe a week or so down the road.

“The fact that the twins arrived on Tuesday gave me a better chance to play here. I spoke to my team and I spoke to Mirka. I asked all of them what they thought I should do and they all said that I should come and play here.”

He added with a smile: “I was like: ‘OK, if you don’t want me around, I’ll go away!’ Clearly it was hard leaving the family, but I’ll see them again very shortly and it’s all good. Things went well, the boys are healthy and Mirka is good too. It’s a great time in our lives right now.”

Federer’s first twins, Myla Rose and Charlene Riva, who will be five in July, have frequently joined their parents on tour. The former world  No 1 sees no reason why Leo and Lenny should not join the travelling party.

“This time around at least we know how to handle kids on the road,” Federer said. “That was quite a challenge first time, especially after the girls were one year old and became much more mobile, walking around a lot. You have to think about hotel rooms, where you go in cities, how you fly, how you try to avoid transit.

“It’s not super difficult, but we know our way around now and how it’s done. I am aware it’s going to be a lot of work, but at the same time I know what I am getting into. It’s something I’m very much looking forward to.”

Asked if he would be looking for four babysitters,  Federer said: “My wife does a lot of the work – as much as she can. I try to help. Our parents help a lot as well. My team members sometimes tag along as well. But clearly we also need some help on the road so Mirka can have an opportunity to maybe sleep in a little bit or come to watch one of my matches.

“I’m looking forward to life on tour with the family. There will be a long time without travelling after [my] tennis [career] is over, so I’m looking forward to the next couple of years now.”

Federer, who meets France’s Jérémy Chardy in his opening match on Wednesday, said that getting back on court was “the least important thing” in his life right now. Nevertheless, he said he had worked hard during a training block following last month’s Monte Carlo Masters – which was his last tournament – and wanted to play here to keep in the swing of competition.

“I’ve had such a good start to the season and I just want to keep the momentum on my side,” he said. “I didn’t want too big a break. I’m happy that I have an opportunity to play here. It doesn’t matter whether I play one match here or five. I hope I can win my first match, but at the moment I have totally different priorities.”

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<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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