My Federer Obsession:
Tennis in My Youth
By 2003 when I first saw Roger Federer, tennis didn't mean much to me but this hadn't always been the case. As a boy I loved the sport with an all-consuming passion. Between the ages of about five and eleven, it was--by some distance--the most important thing in my life.
I first played it--or a version of it--in the south of France. My parents owned a house in a village called La Garde-Freinet, a treacherous hour's drive from Saint-Tropez. We used to stay there in the holidays, but in 1981, when I was five, we decamped there for a whole year as my father, a historian, had taken a sabbatical from his university job in order to write the first volume of his biography of the econ¬omist John Maynard Keynes.
My eight-year-old brother and I attended the local school, where we learned idiosyncratic French (in my case, a tortuously ungrammatical Franglais) and formed tentative friendships with other kids from the village. Our younger sister was born in December that year--the first home birth in the village, as the local paper noted, for more than half a century.