The Daily Telegraph
Set to entertain again … Federer courted for new Wimbledon role
BBC plans to net tennis legend and SW19 favourite as commentator for its revamped show
THE last time Roger Federer visited Wimbledon – in late November – he was denied entry by an overzealous security guard who wanted to see his membership card.
The All England Club, however, now finds itself pursuing Federer for a commentary role at the tournament he won eight times.
The Daily Telegraph can disclose that talks are at an advanced stage to bring the Swiss into a revamped BBC production team, which will also involve different presenters and a new studio that is being constructed on top of the old broadcasting centre.
Federer hinted at his possible availability in September, on the eve of the Laver Cup event in London that saw him retire from professional tennis.
“Commentating on the odd match or giving back in this way, I guess I could imagine it,” he said. “Sometimes you watch matches because of the commentary and less about the match itself.”
The timing is perfect for a BBC production that is about to reinvent itself – but hopefully in a less clunky way than when it launched the ill-fated Wimbledon 2day show in front of a Top Gearstyle studio audience, and triggered such a backlash that the concept was abandoned a week later.
This year, the coverage will be missing Sue Barker – the evergreen presenter who retired last summer after 22 years in the anchor’s chair – and Boris Becker, who is not expected to be reengaged after being released from prison in December.
In their absence, the main presenting duties are expected to be shared between Clare Balding and Isa Guha, who made their names in horse-racing and cricket, respectively.
Federer’s presence as a pundit is sure to add charisma and gravitas to a production that depends heavily on John Mcenroe’s verbal fluency.
Since his retirement, the 41-year-old has appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah – which is where he revealed his story about the Wimbledon security guard – and attended Paris Fashion Week with his wife Mirka.
Other content posted on his Instagram account included a video of him skiing – accompanied by the caption “It’s been 15 years, it’s so good to be back on the slopes” – and a film about the art installation project for which he modelled in Venice, where he had to strip down to his underwear before being encased in plaster.
Federer is not expected to spend Wimbledon fortnight working frantically in the manner of Mcenroe, who splits himself between BBC TV, BBC radio and ESPN’S coverage for the American market.
Doubling up between BBC and ESPN is still a possibility for Federer, but would more likely involve some kind of alternating deal: a daily commentary match for one network, followed by a punditry appearance on the sofa on the other, and then switching around 24 hours later.
Two different employers would help to cover Federer’s costs, which – for a man who used to command at least $1million (£820,000) per day for an exhibition event – are likely to be substantial. BBC documents show that for the last two years they have paid Mcenroe a salary of between £180,000 and £184,999, but they have found it difficult to retain other overseas stars such as Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt and Jim Courier, who have all made appearances on Wimbledon coverage without becoming regulars.
For comparison, Balding’s salary was listed at between £205,000 and £209,999, and Guha’s at between £155,000 and £159,999, although they both work on other sports as well.
Three-time champion Becker was never paid enough to be included among the biennial disclosure of the BBC’S highest-paid stars, who must earn at least £150,000 to be included.
The All England Club co-operates with the BBC and other rights-holders on broadcasts, usually providing the production for live coverage in-house. It would certainly be in the tournament’s interest to make use of the most popular champion in its history, whose arrival on Centre Court during last summer’s 100th anniversary ceremony prompted a rapturous standing ovation.
Federer also enjoyed a special rapport with Barker, who famously reduced him to tears when she interviewed him after his maiden Wimbledon title in 2003.
‘Sometimes you watch matches because of the commentary and less about the match itself ’