In 2014, author and GQ contributor Rosecrans Baldwin penned a memorable piece for the magazine about trying to qualify as an amateur for the U.S. Open. The Stanford grad and late-to-tennis fanatic trained for the challenge with Mats Wilander, now colorfully based in Sun Valley, Idaho. Baldwin’s eventual match with a rising California teen did not go well.
So imagine the thrill, for someone like Baldwin, of traveling to Roger Federer’s mountaintop home in Switzerland to interview the tennis superstar. The conversation took place in Valbella just five days after Federer’s improbable 18th Grand Slam victory at the Australian Open, and the resulting cover story for GQ’s annual Style Bible arrives on the heels of Federer’s fifth Indian Wells championship.
At the top of the piece, Baldwin reminds that Federer has a finely attuned sense of humor. Asked by a TV interviewer during the early stages of the 2017 Australian Open to describe the unfamiliar vantage point of being an underdog, the champ playfully noted that he had still managed to win a recent GQ online poll for Most Stylish Man.
That’s just the warm-up. Once Baldwin gets going with the full Valbella narrative, it’s equally funny from the journalist’s end:
Frankly, Federer was so easygoing from the start, so relaxed, for a second I thought he was stoned. (He wasn’t stoned.) He drove us to the restaurant in his Mercedes. We chatted about our families.
I wound up telling a story about the time I did heroin by accident—look, it was in South Africa, and Federer’s mother is from South Africa, and I was trying to find some common ground out of the gate, the way you do when you’re riding in a gargantuan vehicle with a global celebrity you’ve just met—and he barked out laughing.
Federer, a big laugher, who knew? Though it got to a point, by mid-meal, where I started to get suspicious—was it for show, to play the Everyman? Who likes melted cheese like the rest of us? (Maybe he was stoned?) This is a guy, I’d learn, who still makes reservations at a nearby public tennis facility rather than build his own private court. Think about that. Consider the fact that Federer has made over $100 million in career prize money, never mind endorsements. Now imagine being the local dude who has to kick Roger Federer off a tennis court because his practice session goes a little long.
Remember that “thrill” we mentioned for Baldwin of meeting Roger? Well, later on in the article, right below (in the online version) a photo of Federer reclining Burt Reynolds Cosmopolitan-style on some sheepskin with trophy, Baldwin confesses he was never really a Federer fan! As you might imagine, that day in the Swiss Alps changed things. And not just because, the writer insists, ‘we’re both fond of raclette.’ A championship bit of profiling, this.