Swiss tennis star Roger Federer loves being back in South Africa, where his mother Lynette was born, but says he and his children’s Afrikaans skills leave much to be desired.
Federer, who is in the country to play a charity match against Rafael Nadal for his foundation on Friday, opened up about his family and South African roots during a press briefing at Cape Town International Airport this week.
His mom grew up in Johannesburg and moved to Switzerland after meeting her Swiss-born husband Robert Federer.
He has two sets of twins – girls born in 2009 and boys born in 2014 – with his wife Mirka.
“I have family here and I love being here, so it’s nice to be back… I think the speed of life down here in Africa, that’s definitely been good for me,” Federer shared.
Lynette, who has been in Switzerland for around 44 years, told Cape Talk radio that they holidayed in Southern Africa every year.”I still find myself very much a South African… we have very close ties to South Africa, we enjoy every visit there and I still have quite a great deal of family as well,” she said.
Asked at the press briefing whether his mom had taught him a couple of Afrikaans phrases, Federer hesitated and then laughed.”I mean, I don’t know, a little bit. I have to still go through them before I crack them out,” he admitted.
“I still hear her speak Afrikaans to her family all the time when she is on the phone. I like my Afrikaans and I understand maybe 20, 30%. It doesn’t feel far away but she taught me English, I don’t know if that is a mistake or not, so my Afrikaans is very, very limited.”
He revealed that his children were fluent in Slovakian, Swiss-German and English.
“Afrikaans is still on the to-do list. I have to tell Granny to do a better job,” he joked.
Growing up, he inherited his parents’ hospitality. He described his mom as a great person – tough, but very fair. His father was also wonderful.
“I love having people around, being a good host.”
Federer has fond memories of his childhood.
“I have enjoyed my vacations here when I was a little boy. It’s been wonderful,” he said. “I remember them like they were yesterday. [I] wish I could have been here more often the last 20 years, but time on the road is tough.”
The 20-time Grand Slam champion will take on Spain’s Nadal, a 19-time Grand Slam singles champion, at the Cape Town Stadium.
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