Roger Federer met with the media today via a tele-conference promoting his upcoming scheduled US Open Series events in Montreal, Cincinnati and then New York.
Here’s the transcript:
An interview with: ROGER FEDERER
TIM CURRY: Thanks for joining us today for our Olympus US Open Series conference call with Roger Federer. Roger will be making his 2011 Olympus US Open Series debut next week at the Rogers Cup in Montréal and is also scheduled to play the following week in Cincinnati. Roger is the 2007 Olympus US Open Series champion and collected the biggest paycheck in tennis history that year $2.4 million at the US Open, $1.4 million at the Open, and $1 million as the bonus for the being the Series champion. Roger has also won six Series tournaments since the Series began in 2004 which is the most of any man or woman. Roger is joining us today from Switzerland and is on a tight schedule, so we are limited to about 15 minutes with him. With that we’ll open it up to questions for Roger.
Q. This is the first year Cincinnati will be a combined event. I wanted to know your thoughts on the format and how it will change the atmosphere there.
ROGER FEDERER: Well, true, yeah. I think it’s a big change, to be honest. I think it’s something we’re in some ways excited about. The game is growing again. I think they made some nice changes already last year to the site. I’ve heard there’s more changes coming again this year. So I think that’s something we’re always excited about. Sure, I think combined events make it maybe a touch more stressful for everyone trying to get practice courts. That’s a moment of peace and calm before a match. But we’re kind of used to it on the tour with the big tournaments and combined events anyway. I’m looking forward to it. I’m always excited to see changes in a tournament as the years go by and I’m looking forward to see it.
Q. Given the smaller field, packed with higher-ranked players, do you think a Masters 1000 event like Cincinnati is more difficult to navigate than a Grand Slam?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, it’s different. I think, I mean, I came through as well when the Masters 1000s and Super 9s were played six matches in six days. That was sometimes back to back. So six matches, you had to travel that day and play another six. I’m used to having tough and rough schedules, brutal matches and so forth in a row. So for me, whatever it is, I just think you are mentally and physically well-prepared and then you deal with it in the moment itself. I’m always looking forward to playing Cincinnati. It’s not an easy tournament to win. I kind of struggled with it the first time I went to Cincinnati. It was almost too quick for me. Lately I’ve always played really well in Cincinnati and I hope it’s going to be again the same thing this year.
Q. Roger, can you talk a little bit about the role of anticipation. We talk about how much the game has become a movement sport, but we don’t hear a lot of talk about anticipation. Can you talk about the role of that in the game today. Is it something that can be taught or learned?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I think it’s something you’re sort of born with, if you play a lot of tennis early on. I always thought Martina Hingis was a great anticipator of where the ball goes. I don’t think it’s enough today. I think you have to be very athletic and explosive. I think that’s what the top guys are doing at the top of the rankings. Think they have maybe that extra step, that extra somewhere to go and find the ball and get it back. I think you need a lot of different things to do really, really well now. I just think it’s tough, it’s physical tennis. But I enjoy it. I’m happy I’m going through this period of time, too.
Q. Novak Djokovic is someone that moves so well. Do you think he anticipates particularly well?
ROGER FEDERER: I think everybody does. I think we all read the plays pretty good. Others read some players better than others. Some read certain serves better and some don’t. But I still think you need to be quick and I think also at a certain time, you know, it kind of goes faster in terms of — I’m sorry, I’m trying to find the right words. When you play a player 10 or 20 times you also know the chances of where the balls are going to go. It’s not so much anticipation anymore. Eventually, it’s maybe more percentages and you start to learn those as well as time goes by.
Q. The Montréal and Toronto event is combined but in two different cities. I was keen to get your thoughts on that.
ROGER FEDERER: I’m honestly not quite sure how it’s going to be for us. I think we have to wait and see. But clearly I think it’s a bit unfortunate for Canada just to have two big events like this at the very same time. But I guess it’s sometimes what it is. I still think in the cities, like Montréal and Toronto, I think it’s going to be very successful. I have no doubt about that because the Canadian Open puts on a great show, a great event for the fans. I guess we have to wait and see how it goes in a couple weeks’ time.
Q. I’m curious as to why you think it’s unfortunate? Just because you have two great events and now you have one?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, no. You still do have two, but they’re the same week. I just think it would be nice if you have them spread out like they have been. Is it good to have them back to back? I don’t know. Is it good to have one in February and one in September? I don’t know. I guess it’s Tennis Canada that has to answer that question, not me. Maybe it feels like a bigger tournament to some. I’m not sure.
Q. Roger, you have a big birthday coming up in a few days. People probably will make a big deal out of it. Are you looking forward to it or do you feel any trepidation? How might it affect what you do this summer and going forward?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, it’s not going to affect anything really. Honestly, very often, I did come to Canada, it was my birthday. Canadians always make a big deal about my birthday. It’s not going to be very different this time around. This time it’s even a bigger one sort of because it’s a round number. But I always like enjoying my birthday I don’t want to say in public, but at a tournament maybe around that time. So for me it’s not something completely different or new. I’m looking forward to turning 30. Excited to see how the Canadians are going to celebrate my birthday this time around. Sometimes they start singing ‘Happy Birthday’ during a match. I’m not going to play on Monday, but you never know if they’re going to do something crazy another day.
Q. Do you see this as a significant milepost in your career, take stock, reevaluate, see where your priorities are, or do you roll right through it as if it were 27 or 31?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, look, my plans are probably always a bit a year ahead of time. I probably plan one and a half years ahead. So I’m already way past this point. I’m already thinking beyond the Olympics next year. So that’s kind of how my schedule goes. Birthdays happen. They’re part of life. I’m happy I’m getting older. I’d rather be 30 than 20, to be honest. To me it’s a nice time. Like I said in the preparation, nothing changes. Do you listen to your body more? Yes, you do. Are you more wise? Yes, you are. Are you more experienced? Yes. Do you have a thousand matches in your body? Yes, you do. You just go with what you have. The important thing is I work hard, I’m professional, I enjoy my time on tour, and I have that going for me. I’m very happy about that.
Q. Roger, historically you’ve used this time effectively in the past as a mid-season camp. What have the last four weeks been like for you? For all the opinions that are out there, where do you see your game right now?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I’ve been practicing the past two and a half weeks. It’s been somewhat good weather in Switzerland, so I could always practice outdoors, which I was quite happy about. I’ve been playing well, moving well. But then again, I always feel like the true tests are in matches. For me, practice is never most important, but it did get important maybe 10 years ago, let’s say. I realized that practice is very important to becoming a better player. For me, it’s really the results that sort of tell me where I’m at and not really practice. But I think practice gives me information on how I’m feeling physically. And physically I’m fine. I’m not having any back issues. This time around I didn’t go through any aches and pains except muscle pain in the early stages when I started my practice again. But that’s completely normal. Now I feel really eager to go. I’m almost a bit tired. But with the tired, not too crazy days when I get to Canada, I’m going to be in perfect shape for the tournament to start. I’m in good states [sic]. Do you wish you had more time off sometimes? Yes, you do. It’s in the middle of the season. Two and a half weeks is really plenty of time to work on your game.
Q. Roger, just wondering, of your performances this year, which of those would you draw on to give you most satisfaction? Would it perhaps be the French Open and the final itself? Would you use that to motivate yourself going into the second half of the year?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, honestly I don’t think I really need necessarily motivation to draw out of matches. I think sort of the first half of the season has been actually pretty good. I think I played good tennis. I don’t feel I’ve walked off many matches this year feeling I played poorly except the Dubai final and the Miami semis. Other than that, I think I was playing pretty well. I think I had a solid season so far. I played a lot of matches, to be honest. I feel that’s a good thing this year, whereas last year I went through a period where I didn’t play enough. That’s positive. I think I’m really close of making something special happen. I thought Wimbledon was unfortunate. But I haven’t been thinking too much of what’s been happening. I’m more looking forward to what’s hopefully to come. That’s where my mindset has been the last few months really or last weeks since Wimbledon really.
Q. It’s interesting that Rod Laver won a Grand Slam when he was 30, all four in a year. I’m not suggesting you might do that. Do you draw any satisfaction that it can be done?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, yes. I mean, it’s nice to talk about something more positive than that than saying after a certain time or when you have kids you can’t win anymore like many people tend to say or talk. But I think I don’t want to say I’m a special case, but I’ve won so much you feel like if you put yourself in the right position, you do all the right things, you’ll definitely get a shot again of winning any big tournaments, or any tournament really for that matter. I always said, inspiration for guys that play for a very long time, like Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Ken Rosewall, Rod Laver, it’s very inspiring to see what they’ve been able to do for a very long time. My planning is always in the long-term, as you know. That’s why, yeah, I’m looking forward to see how much I can achieve from this point forward, for sure.
Q. Roger, a while back you said when you were younger you sort of hit with a certain freedom. Ryan Harrison is 19. You beat him at Indian Wells. He said about you that Federer plays anyone else than Rafa or Djokovic, he plays with this swagger, where, ‘It’s my match, I’m going to win it.’ But he thinks it’s more uncertain when you go out and play Djokovic and Nadal. Could you comment on that?
ROGER FEDERER: I haven’t heard about it. I didn’t read the piece. The only reason why I kind of heard about it was because Ryan wrote an apology to my manager to me saying he was misquoted. I like Ryan as a guy, as a player, as a kid. Everything gets blown out of proportion. I think that’s his opinion. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter much to me because I know what I need to do to beat those guys. He didn’t even need to write me a letter, but he did. So that was very nice of him.
Q. Having said that, when you go out against Novak and Rafa, do you have that fire, that confidence that you once had or is it a little different these days?
ROGER FEDERER: I think I’ve always had, for sure. For sure, for instance, I went into the French Open final not maybe as confident as other finals when I got crushed. I think the result sort of showed. I think against Rafa, in particular, I don’t want to say you don’t believe 100%, but you’re kind of in doubt with your game. He takes advantage of that. It’s happened to me maybe a couple of times. But I think that happens to all of us a bit. When you come into playing one of the top guys who is on fire, you’re not playing exactly your perfect game, it’s going to be tough to win. I mean, sure, you try, you do everything you can, but sometimes your game is not working the way it is. Maybe you are in the semis or the finals, but it doesn’t mean you’re playing the best tennis of your life. The fire has always been there clearly. I’ve always enjoyed my matches with both guys. Particularly the rivalry with Rafa has been very special. I don’t even know what to comment about it because I think it’s normal that I have massive fire and power to play against those guys.
Q. Roger, can you talk about the US Open and how you approach it? Do you feel it’s another opportunity this year or the final opportunity? What is your mindset going into it, winning it so many times?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, just a great feeling coming back to New York. Honestly, I liked it from day one. It was one of those tournaments I right away fell in love with. Just the buzz and energy over there. Sure, it was a bit overwhelming at first. I kind of always liked to play there. Difficult with the wind, humidity, the city behind it, the whole deal. Having to deal with that was quite interesting. Every time the US Open rolls around, I’m very, very excited. I don’t feel it’s my last chance, not at all. I see many more chances to come. Maybe it’s the last Grand Slam of the season, fine. But still there are many more tournaments than just Grand Slams. I know I’ll be being measured very often just by my Grand Slam results, which is fortunate or unfortunate depending how you look at it. My game is in a good place right now and I’m excited to see how I’m going to do at the US Open.
Q. Asking you about Mardy Fish, it’s taken him such a long time to get into this position. Did you always see him as a potential top-10 player? Are you surprised it took him so long?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I just think he’s always been a very talented player. I think he has always shown that. I think what was lacking maybe was his physical ability. By maybe not being physically in the best shape he could have been for a few years, that maybe took him down mentally, too. I think he’s been playing really well. He’s always had one of the most wonderful serves in the game. He’s been a very fluid ball-striker with good anticipation, which we just talked about before. I think that makes it a tough combination now. He’s mentally tough. He’s a dangerous player. He can play aggressively, take time away from players, which many players don’t like to see. So for me that he’s in the top 10, it’s not a big surprise. I think for him obviously his next step is to try to do at the US Open, last 16, quarterfinals. But then again, it starts from scratch for everyone. You have to wait for the draw to come out. Hopefully you’re in the best shape possible for that time before the US Open. On that, he’s still got two Masters 1000s coming up where he does usually play well at. I think he’s always at his best in North America. He’s going to be a tough player to beat. He’s a good friend of mine. I always enjoy spending time with him. It’s nice to see him doing so well.
Q. Are you surprised he seems a little reluctant to take that top American role from Andy Roddick? Does that surprise you at all?
ROGER FEDERER: No, it doesn’t surprise me. I think they’re very good friends. Like you just said, because of Andy being up there for so long, he probably doesn’t even feel it sounds right to be the No. 1 American. That’s what it is. He deserves to be the No. 1 American right now. It is what it is. It’s written in black and white and he deserves it. Mardy and Andy know that. But they have a lot of respect for each other, and that’s a very good thing.
Q. You’ve won the US Open five times 2004 to 2008. Which of those tournaments stands out in your mind and why?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I guess the first one always kind of stands out just because of it being the first one. The finals were so incredible for me against Hewitt that I kind of look back on that one in a big way. I think actually the year I defended I think it was against Andre Agassi in the finals, I had to play him there. I thought he might retire if he won the US Open. There was a huge buzz before the match. I was the new world No. 1 who was almost unbeatable. He played a great match, got really close in the match, was able to come through. For me those two stand out a lot. All the other ones are very important to me, too. If I had to pick two, I would pick those two maybe.
Q. Roger, you’ve had so many goals over the course of your career. What are some goals as you move forward? You’re thinking about mixed doubles at the Olympics, the Olympics were a target of yours, that’s where you wanted to play until. What are your goals as you move forward then?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I think first of all it’s important to stay healthy and see how long the body allows me to play because the mind is there. I love my traveling. I have no problem. That’s a good thing. I still think, because I’ve been so fortunate to be so successful, you just want to get back to those winning ways, get those feelings as many times as possible, trying to win all those tournaments that mean a lot to you, it almost doesn’t matter which one it is. I’ll probably be picking the tournaments I like to play the most at this point because I’ve achieved so much. That’s a very nice situation to be in. It’s important that I work hard, I practice well, I do all the right things. Olympics is obviously part of that. We’ll see how things go in the next years.
Q. How much attention will you be giving Davis Cup as something you might look to secure as well?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, also same thing. I just played a Davis Cup tie in Bern now. I go tie by tie at this point. I’m looking forward to seeing how I’m going to fit it in the schedule or not. That’s still up in the air. I haven’t decided about Australia yet. I hope I can do that in the next week or so and then go from there really.
Q. Roger, you spent four, five, almost six years as the No. 1 guy, everybody always chasing you. You’re in a different place now. Have you gotten accustomed to that? Are you okay with it? Do you not mind approaching from a little bit behind two other guys? Is it something that still gets to you a bit?
ROGER FEDERER: No, no, no. I mean, it’s what it is. I’m aware that Novak had to do something extremely special to get past me. Same thing for Rafa. I think we all had to do something very special to get past each other in the rankings. I think that’s a good thing. If someone wants to become world No. 1, 2, even 3 or 4 for that matter, you have to do something really good. Either you’re extremely consistent or extremely successful at the highest of level. You have to win a massive amount of tournaments. I’m at peace with myself because of it. There’s nothing else I can do. I had my chances to do well or not. From that standpoint, I’m very laid back about the situation. Sure, I’d love to be world No. 1 and not No. 3. I still think No. 3 is a good ranking. It’s not number I don’t know what. I’m at peace with that. Do I approach the tournaments differently? Well, maybe a little bit obviously. I think when you win 90, 95% of your matches you go into a tournament slightly more confident. Other than that, there’s not a huge change because I know my abilities. I don’t want to say I’m overconfident, but I also know what I can do and I also know, how do you say, my limits. Hopeful that allows me to play the best tennis I can each day.
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