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Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The game has changed for Father Fed


Ah, that Roger Federer. He just keeps surprising us, doesn't he? So far this season there's been a secret coaching trial, a baby announcement, an unexpected wedding, winning the French Open, a wild Wimbledon final and now twins.

Add a UN goodwill ambassadorship and an overseas adoption or two, and Angelina Jolie might start wondering who stole her thunder.

Except Federer already is a UN goodwill ambassador. Hmm …

The latest in the list of surprises came last Thursday. The eagerly anticipated "Baby Fed" turned out to be "Babies Fed," with Federer's wife, Mirka, giving birth to twin girls. Even the fact that they were girls was a bit of a surprise, because Federer had once or twice appeared to drop hints about a boy.

It's just another example of how remarkably leakproof the Federer camp is, managing to keep all details under wraps, save that the due date was a few weeks after Wimbledon.

Ever since the news of Mirka's pregnancy was made public in March, there has been debate about how becoming a father will affect Federer's career. It's now a well-known stat that only eight men have won Slams as fathers, and only one (Jimmy Connors) has won more than one.

To be fair, this probably has less to do with the kids than the fact that players tend to be in the closing stages of their careers when they become dads. The counterpoint is former Australian Open finalist Sebastien Grosjean, who was 20 years old and just starting out when he became a father. He shot up the ranks the season after his daughter was born.

And if the past year has taught us anything about Federer, it's that the normal rules don't seem to apply to him anyway.

Still, there's no question that a child -- or children, in this case -- changes the dynamic, particularly when the plan is for the family to travel together as much as possible.

On one hand, all the late-night feedings and diaper changes will be a challenge during high-pressure competition weeks. (OK, more of a challenge.)

On the other hand, perhaps the babies will help take the pressure off and send a jolt of fun and disorganization into the increasingly dignified and well-heeled Federer entourage.

Not that much pressure remains. Completing the career Slam at the French Open and breaking the Grand Slam record at Wimbledon have pretty much taken care of that. Federer clearly still has competitive drive, but it's all icing on the cake from here on in. On the court, that reality could be as significant as anything else off it.

Although all these potential daddy effects were thrashed out over the spring, there's also the twins factor to consider now. As WTA mom Sybille Bammer once said, "Two kids is a lot more than only one."

Everything will be doubled, except perhaps the time off for the nanny.

Federer is scheduled to kick off his hard-court summer in two weeks' time at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. For the first time in years, Mirka won't be alongside him. The two have been a couple since the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Fellow pro and new father Ivan Ljubicic had already warned earlier this year, "Priorities are different. You're not the one in the family who's the most important. You kind of lose your wife for a while."

Lleyton Hewitt, who frequently has his two kids on the road with him, noted that Mirka would play a critical role in making the whole operation work. "[My wife] Bec has been unbelievable for me. Made life a lot easier," he said. "I'm sure Mirka will be that kind of solid rock for Roger as well."

It's not yet known when Mom and kids will rejoin Dad on the road, but the Federers will certainly have their hands more full than expected. Will it be double the chaos or double the fun?