Roger Federer: 'There were moments I wanted to walk away from tennis'
Updated 1441 GMT (2241 HKT) August 15, 2017
(CNN)There have been times even Roger Federer has thought of walking away from it all.
A stage before his name was immortalized and the records fell; a period in his glittering career when defeat was more common than victory.
"It was tough," Federer tells CNN Sport, reflecting on his early years on the ATP Tour.
"When I traveled internationally I would get beat up very often in the first round 6-2, 6-3. You go home and realize: 'Okay, you're good in Basel but you're not very good in the world.'"
Federer knew he had a bright future — a junior Wimbledon title at the age of 16 proved that — but it took him three years to win his first ATP final.
As a boy he would often cry if he lost a match, hiding behind the umpire's chair. As he entered his adolescence, that sensitivity occasionally took the form of petulance.
"When I was 12 years old, I was just horrible," Federer admitted in a 2003 interview with the Telegraph.
Onlooking parents were banished and told to "go and have a drink." Rackets, on more than one occasion, were smashed.
Federer, urbane idol to millions around the world, even walked away from one professional tournament on the Swiss circuit having made a financial loss, after the referee deemed he had violated the "best effort" ruling.
It took time to master his emotions and reach the state of tranquility he emanates on court today. It also required sacrifice, with Federer having to decide between football and tennis as a teen.
Now the 35-year-old is the world's fourth highest paid athlete, perhaps the only doubt concerning him is whether he can to add to his 18 grand slam titles.
Asked by CNN Sport earlier this year what separates the great from the good, he takes a second to consider.
"His aura, his longevity," Federer replies. "What did he bring to his sport? Did he change the sport forever? What was his impact?
"Popularity, style ... Was he a good role model? I think all of these things matter."
Boy to man
His talent has never been in doubt.
After emerging victorious in both the singles and the doubles on the 1998 junior circuit at the All England Club, Federer reached the final of the junior US Open and won Florida's Orange Bowl Championship — joining a prestigious group of former champions including Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe and Björn Borg.
"I went from boy to man a little bit," he says. "My body grew ... I realized I could serve big [and] all of a sudden hang with tour players.
"I knew there was nobody better than the tour players; that's when the dream became a reality.