Scoop Malinowski, who contributes to the Tennis Frontier, has released his new book “Facing Federer“.
Here is the second of three excerpts:
Gilles Muller: “Well, it’s always a nice feeling Roger because it’s what you work for, those moments to play on the stadium, big court, against a guy like Roger. It’s always an amazing feeling. It’s actually nice to play him because you go on court and you know you have nothing to lose, you have everything to win. And if you lose 0 and 0 it’s not a bad thing actually. It’s not the end of the world. If you beat him or you get a close match with him, it’s fun. I enjoy those moments. I’ve always been one of those guys who loved to have those big matches and I always played well in them. So I’m always looking forward to have those matches.”
Question: Is Roger very hard for you to play against?
Gilles Muller: “Of course. He’s one of the greatest of all time, if not the greatest. And obviously he’s a very good player. To be honest, I prefer to play him than to play Nadal, for example, or Djokovic. Because they make you suffer on the court. They make you physically suffer on the court. And Roger’s more the guy who hits winners. So it’s not as hard physically to play him. That’s what I felt. Of course, in tennis, of what he’s able to do with the ball – it’s just amazing.”
Question: What is your most memorable match with Roger?
Gilles Muller: “The one I remember the most is the one at the U.S. Open when I lost in three close sets in quarterfinals. The first time I played him was pretty amazing too. I played him the first time in Indian Wells. That was back in 2005. And he had his long hair [laughs]. That was a pretty nice moment also because it was only my first year at the high level playing the big tournaments. So that was a nice moment. I like to remember the time we played at the U.S. Open because that was a close match, at least close to winning one set. So far, I’ve never won a set against him. So I was very close there.”
Question: How are your relations with Roger off court?
Gilles Muller: “Well, he’s very laid back. I mean, he’s always friendly to everybody, so that makes him special. Because you have a lot of those guys you barely see and they barely talk to you. And that’s probably also because we speak the same language. He speaks French-German like me too, so it’s easy to communicate with him. He’s a pretty nice person. He’s laid back. You don’t feel like he’s mad at stuff all the time. He seems like…I’ve never seen him in a bad mood. That makes him a pretty good person I think.”
Question: Can you share a lasting memory on or off court, maybe a conversation or an anecdote?
Gilles Muller: “I spoke to him the day before we played in the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open. And I was just surprised. Because, for me, it was the first time I was at that stage in the tournament. All the press work with all the interviews and everything. And because I’m coming from a country where they’re not traveling to the tournaments so I have to make calls all the time and speak and give interviews in three or four different languages. So that’s always tough for me. At that point, that was the first time that happened to me, so it was very tough for me. On the other hand, I just saw him and he was doing the same thing. And I guess he was doing that everyday. I was just asking how he does it. It was pretty nice to speak with him. I mean, he could have not answered to me, because we played each other the next day. I think there’s a couple of guys who would not like to do that – speak to the guy or be nice to the guy you play the next day. But he was just very relaxed and he told me, ‘Yeah, you get used to that. And it’s tough, but…’ But it was nice. It was a nice memory.”
Question: Your first memory of Roger Federer?
Gilles Muller: “I think…I can’t remember against who he was playing but I’m pretty sure it was at the Basel tournament and I watched it on TV. And everybody was talking about this Federer guy being the next No. 1 and being a very good junior. And I just remember that the racquet flew everywhere on the court [laughs]. He threw his racquet like almost every point he lost. And then people said that’s one of his problems, he used to be crazy on the court, and very emotional. It’s amazing how he developed in that manner. He’s so calm on the court now, you barely see him say a word on the court now. That was pretty funny. I remember watching that match. I can’t remember who he played but the guy hit a winner against him and he just threw the racquet from the baseline to his bag. I thought that was pretty funny because when you see him now he’s a totally different person.”
2005 Indian Wells Masters Round of 32 Federer 3-6, 2-6
2005 Bangkok Quarterfinal Federer 4-6, 3-6
2008 U.S. Open Quarterfinal Federer 6-7, 4-6, 6-7
You can purchase the whole book at Amazon:
Cover Photo: The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (Creative Commons License)