Federer’s wife, Mirka, and their four children were set to travel separately to Florida for the Miami Open. But Federer was breaking away for a few hours, catching a private jet to Chicago to promote the Laver Cup, the team event that he helped create with Godsick and played at last year in Prague.
This was a long-planned detour, but it also ended up serving as a way to quickly change the chip after the final in Indian Wells, Federer’s first loss in 2018.
“Roger’s life, if it’s not hectic, it’s not Roger’s life, because it’s all he knows,” Godsick said.
He has been with Federer since 2005, leaving IMG with him in 2013 to form Team8. Their families are exceptionally close: Godsick’s wife, the former tennis star Mary Joe Fernandez, is a godmother of Federer’s children.
But today is about business, and Federer, back at No. 1 at age 36, is clearly pushing himself to make it happen after back-to-back three-set matches on Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s passion and a love for the game,” Federer said. “And Laver Cup is something that is very dear to me, so clearly I always have extra energy for the Laver Cup. For my own career, I don’t play as much anymore, and when I am there, it’s all out and full speed, and then I need the time away again.”
After takeoff at 7 a.m., there was no shortage of legroom or long yawns. There was an unsuccessful attempt at a nap in his chair, a modest shared breakfast (burritos, steel-cut oatmeal and juice) and plenty of chatter about this being Federer’s first trip to Chicago. He then went into a separate cabin at 8:30 a.m., closed the drapes and took a 45-minute official nap that may or may not have included actual napping.
“He would have been up early anyway today because he’s got four kids, and they are still adjusting from European time,” Godsick said. “He also had to get to Miami. We spend a lot of time maximizing time, because he doesn’t have that much time. This is a four-hour detour. There are worse things to do, but sure it’s hard.”
As the plane approached Midway International Airport after about three hours in the air, Federer warmed up for chilly Chicago with a quick quiz.
N.F.L. team? “Bears,” he answered.
N.H.L. team? “Blackhawks.”
Baseball team? “Cubs.”
And? “White Sox,” he said triumphantly after a pause, dragging out the vowels in his best American accent.
There was no need to test him on the N.B.A. Federer has been an N.B.A. fan since boyhood and was 16 when Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen won their last title with the Bulls in 1998.
A visit to United Center, the home arena of the Bulls and the Blackhawks and the site of the Laver Cup in September, was a big part of Monday’s dense itinerary, which was focused on building interest for the event and creating social-media content.
Federer walked down the plane’s stairway shortly after 1 p.m. Chicago time after selecting a fresh set of clothes.
He was soon at a deep-dish pizza parlor downtown for a photo op with the 79-year-old Rod Laver, John McEnroe and the Australian star Nick Kyrgios.
A former No. 1-ranked player, McEnroe still wears many a tennis hat and is the captain of the Laver Cup’s Team World, which lost to Federer, Rafael Nadal and Team Europe in last year’s inaugural edition. Kyrgios, 22, was one of the most enthusiastic members of McEnroe’s team in Prague, leading the cheers and nearly defeating Federer in the final and decisive match of the competition.
“The funnest week of my career so far, better than the Grand Slams,” said Kyrgios, who for all his evident talent has yet to get past the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament.
If he comes closer to fulfilling his massive potential, he and his generation will be critical to the Laver Cup’s uncertain future.
After proving Laver Cup could be done, Godsick and Federer now must prove it can be sustained, both economically and competitively, in a sport with full calendar. Any new event that lacks ranking points and mandatory participation is vulnerable to irrelevance.
With Federer still near the peak of his powers, Chicago should be a success, and Godsick expects to sell out United Center for all three days of competition. Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayor, was part of the push to secure the event for the city, which has long been without a men’s or women’s main tour event. Emanuel joined Federer and the others on Monday at a news conference. There were also cameo appearances from Pippen and the German soccer star Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Schweinsteiger plays for the Chicago Fire of M.L.S. and became a father last week with his wife, the retired tennis player Ana Ivanovic. Pippen, 52, served as chief tour guide for Federer and Co. as they visited the Bulls’ and the Blackhawks’ locker rooms and the statues of Pippen and Jordan at United Center.
Federer said he got goose bumps when he met Pippen and got a few more chills as he walked into the arena for the first time, though not because of the sheet of ice still in place after Sunday night’s N.H.L. game.
“It’s like a multiple layer cake,” Federer said after gazing up and up. “In Europe, we don’t have those very often, where you have suites and another layer and another layer. Usually it stops after two or three, but here it keeps going. I think it’s going to be epic.”
The Laver Cup’s epicness will be determined in large part by who actually decides to play. The competition comes less than two weeks after the United States Open. Might some European and Asian stars — some of whom, like Hyeon Chung of South Korea, are represented by IMG — choose to save their energy for other late-season events?
“I think that’s going to always be an open question a little bit,” Federer said. “I hope it’s not going to happen. I hope by showcasing and giving them such an amazing platform and being part of something quite unique, being on a team together, that they would not want to miss it. There comes a bit of sacrifice with doing something like this.”
The Laver Cup offers prize money to the winning team and sizable participation fees on a graduated scale. Team8 has arranged for private-jet travel to and from Europe to encourage European players like Nadal and Alexander Zverev to play again and others, Novak Djokovic in particular, to play for the first time.
Djokovic and Andy Murray, both injured last year, did not take part, and it is unclear whether they would have done so anyway.
Federer, meanwhile, continues to fly improbably high as the oldest No. 1 in ATP history. How long can he defy gravity?
“When I started with him, I made many more predictions than I do now, and I was very often wrong,” Luethi said. “I am ready to be surprised by him. I’m actually expecting to be surprised by him, and I think the best thing is to leave it open and not try to put fences around it.”
For Federer, who will most likely skip the clay-court season for a second straight year, the key is internal at this stage.
“When you go to, say, Rotterdam, you need to go there with fire,” he said. “If you’re not excited at this age, don’t do it. It’s that simple.”
Creating and playing in the Laver Cup, his potential legacy event, has helped feed the fire. But then, so has his personality: extroverted and still curious about new people and new experiences.
“Think about today,” he said on his way back to Midway Airport. “We left with the sunrise, beautiful weather in Indian Wells, and we get here and it’s cold and a totally different vibe. That’s the beauty of travel, of seeing different places. I love it. I do. I still love it.”
With that, he was soon successfully fighting the Chicago wind to open the car door and heading up the stairway.
Last stop on this genuinely manic Monday: Miami.