Roger Federer met the media Sunday at the start of the Rolex Monte Carlo Masters 1000. The Swiss, who has never won the Monte Carlo title, spoke about his game, his season and touched on the great play of rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Federer says that he feels fresh and despite his losses to Nadal and Djokovic, he’s more positive about this clay season than the one’s in the past. I don’t know if that’s just talk or if he really means that based on the results thus in 2011 which make Nadal and Djokovic clear favorites over Federer if they were to play.
Federer will open play likely tomorrow against Philip Kohlschreiber in the second round.
Here’s video from his ATP interview:
And here’s his pre-tournament press conference interview:
Q. One week more or less training here in Monte Carlo. How do you find your clay form these days?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I guess you always got to wait for the first couple matches to come around. That gives you a real idea of where you’re at.
I’m happy the way I’m playing, hitting the ball, movement and everything. But, I don’t know, I don’t count practice as matches. So let’s wait and see.
But physically I’m really fine. I got over the jetlag very comfortably. I’ve been here since a while. I’m excited that the tournament starts and I’m participating.
Q. Could you give us some idea of the differences moving back onto the clay, what you find the most pleasing elements to it and what you find the most difficult elements to it?
ROGER FEDERER: So far the transition’s been pretty easy for me this year. But in general, I guess it’s just a matter of playing the right way, you know. I feel like at 30 Love, 40 15, 30 15, just go big serve, big shot, take a bit of a chance, and if it works, great, if it doesn’t work, no problem, because you have the first serve 30 All.
That easy way out doesn’t seem the case on clay because if you play the wrong way and it gets important, it’s harder to finally go back to the right place again.
I just feel like obviously it’s a different physical demand. I wouldn’t say it’s more or less. It’s maybe less brutal than on hard courts, but it’s longer points, so clearly you have a different fatigue. It just takes a bit of getting used to.
You just want to be mentally ready to go the extra step and play the points in the right way so you don’t do all the running. I guess that’s part of the secret on clay, but…
Q. What was your thinking in playing here? Were you always planning on it?
ROGER FEDERER: No, I just kind of kept it open. To be honest, I never had in mind that I was never, ever going to play it. But I don’t put something on the schedule as long as I don’t commit to it a hundred percent because I don’t want to fool my fans into buying tickets here and then I don’t show up. I think that makes people most upset.
As I’m not entered automatically, I have that good feeling to do that, you know, more short term, which is nice at times. The entries that happen so far ahead of time, you know, you’re supposed to play Indian Wells, people really expect you to play, but sometimes it’s just really not the right thing for me to do and so forth.
It’s nice that I had this option with Monaco. I wanted to see how I felt. The last couple years with the back issue, with mono, and last year was the pneumonia I had, I just felt like, you know, it wasn’t the right thing to do. I really wanted to rest.
Maybe in hindsight I should have played because I was really lacking matches from after the Australian Open where I played so well. Until basically Estoril, I played five matches in a period of three or four months. Being judged on that is tough on my own game, it’s tough going through in press conferences.
That’s why I said while I’m playing so well, I’d like to keep that train going of having enough rest, but also playing enough. I think that’s why it’s the right thing to do, to play here in Monaco this year.
Q. Although you’ve won nine clay court titles, one Grand Slam on clay, do you think you’re still perhaps slightly underestimated as a clay court player?
ROGER FEDERER: Depends by whom maybe. Unfortunately, you know, it’s in the rougher time that I play my clay court career. But that’s not fair towards Sergi Bruguera, Gustavo Kuerten, Costa, you name it. There were many good ones before that, as well. Jim Courier, Agassi. All these guys could play really, really well on clay. Maybe not as dominant as Rafa, but surely good enough when they peaked on that surface.
That’s why it’s always a tough surface to try to dominate, except if you’re Rafa, let’s put it that way. So I feel very strong on the surface. It’s the surface I grew up on. Everybody knows that by now.
Because, what is it, 75% of my career is played on hard courts on faster courts, clay I only play three or four a year, I don’t get that many opportunities either. But I’m really happy with my clay court career, if you just want to break it down to those, because I have, what, three finals here, a couple of finals in Rome I think, I have multiple French Open finals. I could have had much more, but I could also have had much less. So I’m happy with what I have.
Q. What impression did Novak’s two wins against Nadal make on you? Were you surprised with it?
ROGER FEDERER: That he won the two tournaments or that he beat Nadal?
Q. The two wins against Nadal, were you surprised how well he did?
ROGER FEDERER: No, not really. I mean, I kind of felt that he was going to have a very good chance for Indian Wells/Miami back to back. After winning the Australian Open the way he did, the way he played in Dubai. Because I’ve done that before, winning Australia, Dubai, then going on to win Indian Wells/Miami. Take it in stride, you think you play so well, you feel unbeatable.
Sure, it’s a great effort, but I wasn’t that surprised, you know. Sure, I was hoping because I had a role to play in it, that I was able to stop him. I almost had him going in the semis.
But that he beat Rafa, no, I’m not surprised because I think he has a winning record over him on hard courts. With the way he was playing, how well he was playing, he was always going to have a chance to win the Indian Wells final, and after that Miami, even though I picked Rafa to win the final. I just thought it’s one of those Masters 1000 Rafa hasn’t won yet. I felt like this year he was going to come through. A few points here and there, Rafa didn’t play the best breaker, and that was enough for Novak.
Q. Novak said he expects this series of clay courts will go a long way in deciding the No. 1 to the year. Do you go along with that?
ROGER FEDERER: I guess it depends a lot on Rafa. If he’s able to defend everything he did last year, it’s going to be tough for anybody because then he has, what, three straight Masters 1000s, the French Open in the bag as well. He has super solid results at the end of the season as well, winning the Open, so forth. It all depends a little bit on Rafa.
Sure, you can make a huge step forward. In my situation, if I can go really deep here in Monaco, and also in Rome and so forth, then clearly I don’t have much to defend at the French and Wimbledon, I’ll have some opportunities as well, especially when the slams roll around.
Yeah, I think there’s a lot to play for us in the next three, four months. Sure, I know Rafa has a lot of pressure, but I don’t think that matters that much for him, especially on this surface. He’s so confident, he’s so good, I definitely could see him doing it again. But there’s other guys that have something to say. I hope I’m one of those guys.
Q. Do you think one of the biggest challenges of this clay season is to be fresh at the French, but at the same time you need matches?
ROGER FEDERER: No, I mean, look, I’ve played over 10 seasons on tour so I know how much tennis I need to be ready for the French. Yeah, the last thing you want is to have three matches under your belt going into the French Open. Even with that I can still play tennis. It’s not like I forgot how to play.
With a lot of practice and hard work, you can get a long, long way. That’s what we have usually before the Australian Open. We don’t have much time. Okay, you can say clay is different than hard courts, but at the end of the day it’s about getting a few matches early at the French Open. All of a sudden if you get on a roll there, it doesn’t matter how many tournaments you played beforehand.
But I think it helps to play enough matches leading into the French. I pick my schedules wisely. I think I’ve done very good choices. I’ve for sure taken some bad choices. They’re all part of a full career.
Q. Do you get a special sense of satisfaction that you’re instrumental in helping this tournament retain its status? It’s even gotten bigger, more crowds, stands, people, that it is what it is and still this very special week in tennis.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, it was a tradition here. It’s over a hundred years old, this tournament. It’s been really nice to always come back here and see how it’s grown.
Look, I don’t know how much it would have changed, let’s say, if it would have been downgraded to a 500, how many less top 10 players, how many less top 20 guys would have come here. I don’t know if it would have been that much of a difference.
At the end of the day, it is Monaco. It is a place that many people visit either by boat or by buses. It remains an interesting location for players and fans and media as well. It’s the beginning of the clay court season. I think it would have kept its mystique.
But at the same time I think I really felt it deserved a Masters 1000 status and that’s why Rafa and myself fought for it, because we thought tradition was still a very important part of our game. I just didn’t like the way, you know, people went about it, trying to just get rid of Monaco, shovel in another tournament, which also deserves it, I’m sure. We have great stadiums around the world, great growth.
It’s nice to see that it’s grown again here. But I don’t know how much more you can grow really until it becomes unbearable for everybody. Up till now it’s worked well and it’s nice.
Q. Regarding Novak, do you think he’s taken on a new dimension this year? If so, in which way?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, look, I don’t know. I always said it over and over again: to me, he didn’t need to prove his point. By winning a second major, winning back to back Masters 1000s, going on a streak like he’s doing right now, I knew he could do it. He was good enough.
You ask anybody out there, he’s an uncomfortable guy to play against. He can play aggressive, can defend really well. He’s got some major strength in his game. Like every other play, we try not to play into those strengths.
Right now it’s clicking for him. I think it’s great for the game that he’s managed to play so well and go on a streak. But Rafa’s had streaks in the past, Murray has had streaks, I’ve had streaks. It’s good when that happens. It focuses on something very positive in the game.
There’s been different times when we talked about gambling, doping, other stupid things that are annoying to talk about. This is something very positive.
I think he’s done very well. A year ago people were saying he was struggling with his serve, but he was still in the top four in the world, so he couldn’t have been that bad after all. It shows what a year can do.
It’s going to be interesting to see how long he can keep it up and stay mentally and physically strong because he’s had a long end to the year last year and he started really strong this year. Maybe this break is going to help him for the remainder of the season. But that will be seen in the next few months.
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