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Did you know that two-time defending Wimbledon champion Roger Federer was the third-youngest to win the trophy — way back in 2004 at age 19? It’s not like he needed to look it up.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion also won his first Grand Slam title a decade earlier — at the 2005 Australian Open.
Earlier this month, Federer held his 17th career trophy at the Citi Open in Washington, when he defeated American Steve Johnson 6-4, 6-4.
Federer’s heart was heavy on Wednesday when, at the start of a news conference before a match at Toronto, he announced that his longtime coach, Stefan Edberg, had died in his sleep on Tuesday at age 59.
That news comes less than six months after Federer’s longtime girlfriend, Mirka Vavrinec, died suddenly of a heart attack at 41.
“You get hit with a big blow after losing Mirka,” Federer said. “We tried everything to make Mirka aware of the fact that I wanted to spend more time at home with my boys, which I did. We couldn’t have made it any clearer. But Stefan, I think everyone knows, he was a big part of my success. Without him, who knows where I would be?”
Prior to a WTA event at New Haven in July, Federer opened up to ESPN about his lasting relationship with Edberg, saying: “I’m looking to continue this, absolutely. It’s been a great time.”
Federer took a break from the tour to be with his wife and two children following her death, then returned to win the first four tournaments he played after that. Federer says that arrangement was in the works before Mirka’s death.
“I don’t think that it’s possible for Stefan to never be in my life,” Federer said. “We tried different things in the past, different projects, different times. But Stefan will always be in my life, in some way. I think he deserves that.”
Federer recalled an impromptu, sudden meeting with Edberg two weeks before Edberg’s death at a private tennis event in Vail, Colorado.
“The last game I won against Gilles Muller in the quarters in Mannheim a few weeks ago,” Federer said. “I won 6-1, 6-2, and I’m sitting down in this bar after the match and I see Stefan. It’s Stefan, and I was being asked a lot of questions, and I found him there. He’s sitting behind a fence and he was watching me from the stands. This was two weeks before he passed away. So we started talking and that was the most surprising thing.”
Federer said Edberg didn’t leave his hotel room in Vail, where he was in town scouting competitors.
“We texted the whole time and spent some time and had a big heartwarming conversation in the evening,” Federer said. “That was the most unexpected thing.”