Roger Federer opens his 2012 tennis season later today in Doha against Nikolay Davydenko. Yesterday, the 30-year-old Swiss met the local press in Qatar to discuss the state of his game, his thoughts on the upcoming year and playing with injuries.
Federer roars into the New Year on a 17-match winning streak after claiming consecutive titles in Basel, Paris and London to end 2011.
Here’s the presser:
Q. We kind of talked a little bit about this in Abu Dhabi, but just maybe talk about what you saw in Djokovic after the year he had? How do you beat him this year? How do you kind of ascend back to No. 1 and overcome him in some of the bigger matches? What’s your thinking on this?
ROGER FEDERER: I guess you’ve got to play your best tennis against the best players in general, you know, in those big matches. But still, one good match is not going to guarantee you an improvement in the ranking necessarily.
World rankings are based on 365‑day play. So obviously you need big matches and big wins at tournaments to move forward, but you need consistency. He was definitely the most consistent player of this last year, and he looks like he’s in good shape again for this upcoming season.
So it’s obviously someone who is going to be followed very closely not just by the media but also by the players. I think we’re also all feeling pretty well, as well, so it’s going to be interesting for all of us to see who’s going to have the best start to the season.
Q. When you have as good a finish to the season as you had, how much of an advantage is that for you to take into a new season, or is the gap too big for there to be a connection between the two?
ROGER FEDERER: No, I mean, the gap is not that big, but it’s definitely a change in, you know, in continent, first of all. Secondly, you’re going from indoor to outdoor, so that takes not a whole lot of adjustment to do, but it is different. You know, you’re playing with, again, the wind and sun and shade and night session, day session, which is all eliminated sort of indoors.
So that’s just something you have to adjust to. Especially now here playing in the Middle East, it’s usually always night sessions. Then Australia, the bigger matches usually are at night, but you have to come through the day sessions to sort of get there. Especially the semis and finals are both played at night in Australia. You basically want to play your best at night now, and this is when conditions are a bit slower, a bit cooler, it’s not that much bounce, but it definitely plays slower than indoors.
So it takes a little bit of adjustment, but then again, you can definitely take confidence from the end of the year and sort of just carry it over because you’re in a good mindset. You know, you just believe that you’re doing the right things in the court. You’re not second‑guessing yourself. From that standpoint, confidence is‑‑ it’s a huge part of our, you know, life sometimes as a tennis player.
But for me, obviously I would like to start the tournament well here, and so I have had a good start in this new season. But regardless, I’m ready for a good season. I feel energized, ready to go. Even though the season was long and tough, I had a nice break and great preparation, and I’m really eager for another season, so that’s good.
Q. There are a lot of priorities this season, are there not? There is the Olympics, and obviously winning another Grand Slam is always a priority. And do you also consider becoming world No. 1 again a priority amongst all the various ones?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, I don’t know. I mean, you have to go step by step, and right now focus is on Doha, my first round. It’s a tough one against Davydenko. And then I do hope I can move on and defend my title here and then go to sort of Australia and make my move over there.
Then I have a lot coming up in February, as well, for me. So it’s going to be an interesting next two months for me, because I will be playing a lot of tennis. So I hope that I will hold up well physically.
Mentally it’s not going to be any problems whatsoever. I hope I can really find a good groove that then is going to sort of give a good direction as well what’s going to happen then later on in the season when really things are going to pick up, especially through French, Wimbledon, Olympics, and the US Open, which is going to be a key sort of a swing.
But right now the focus is on the beginning. And all the other‑‑ you know, Olympics, world No. 1, Wimbledon‑‑ all that comes way later, which is not right now in the back of my mind right now.
Q. Your Web site suggests you dropped a tournament. Is that correct or not?
ROGER FEDERER: Which one?
Q. It suggests ‑‑well, Dubai.
ROGER FEDERER: No, I’m playing Dubai.
ROGER FEDERER: I only announced it later after I announced the plan. That’s why. I added Rotterdam, which I didn’t play last year.
Q. We welcome you here in Doha.
ROGER FEDERER: Thank you.
Q. We just want to ask you, it’s not the first time for you in Doha, of course. If your conviction or your judgment about the Qatar ExxonMobil is 100% okay, what do you want to say, Everything is okay except that I wish I could see it next time in Qatar ExxonMobil Open. Thank you.
ROGER FEDERER: See what next time? Sorry.
Q. I say it again. What is your hoping about the Qatar ExxonMobil tournament? This is the first…
ROGER FEDERER: Let me answer the first one, not that I forget the first one (smiling.)
I think it’s a really nice tournament. I think it’s had a great start to its career. You know, it’s the 20th year here now in Qatar, and I heard it was an amazing tournament sort of the first 10. And they struggled midway through a bit, but I really think it’s picked up again a lot now. The last years it’s been a wonderful tournament, and I’ve always enjoyed coming back.
They make it a special experience for us, the players. And also, because it’s the first one of the year, it has a special feeling and a special touch to the players and to the feeling of how we enter the new season.
Yeah, I know a little bit of the culture in this part of the world, because I do spend some time here, so it’s a very friendly environment, and I feel very welcome every time I come back.
Q. And the second part of the question is what you want to see, what you didn’t see here in Qatar ExxonMobil in terms of facilities, organization, anything, anything you want to say, Okay, everything is okay except that I want to see it next time?
ROGER FEDERER: Oh, I guess you can always improve, you know, a tournament, but then again, I think for the size tournament this is and the amount of players that come through, the venue is plenty big enough. They’ve hosted, you know, the World Tour Finals for the women here, so they know how to run big events. They’ve organized this tournament for 20 times.
So they have the know‑how and they’re very experienced people running the tournament, you know, and many people I know very well over the years now. I think that’s what I mentioned, again, they know how to keep the players very happy. I think they try extremely hard to keep the fans very happen, which is very important, and the media.
I know this might be a tennis hall, but they remodel it for the media so everybody is happy, and then facilities for sponsors, as well, I think is very good from what I’ve heard. I just think some of the slight touches, you know, that people like or maybe make it very Arabic‑‑ I mean, they have many different themes, kids parks, be able to see the players practice, have kids clinics, but they have all of that. So I don’t know exactly what more you can do. I just think it’s just really well run and really a perfect tournament.
Q. I want to ask you how seriously you think the players participating look at this Qatar Open?
ROGER FEDERER: How serious…
Q. How seriously they’re playing.
ROGER FEDERER: Oh, very serious, of course. We’re playing for points, we’re playing for prestige, and we’re playing for, you know, a good start into the season.
So, for me, this is, you know, a key moment now to really make sure my game is in place for the whole season. I would rather start good than bad. There’s no doubt about it.
I have played well here in the past. And I can only speak for myself, but as defending champion here, I’d like to repeat what I did last year and a few more times here before. Players will be playing very serious; I can promise you that.
Q. Welcome back to Doha. Good to see you here again.
ROGER FEDERER: Thank you.
Q. Are we going to make a remake of the final last year? You’re going to start with a tough match against Davydenko. Are we going to see the remake of the final?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, we have a remake. We know that’s for sure now with me playing Davydenko in the first round. I think it’s definitely an interesting draw. It couldn’t have been more difficult, to be honest, even though I don’t quite know the level of Nikolay because I haven’t seen him in the offseason, but knowing his potential and him being a world‑class player for so many years and still today, it makes things difficult and dangerous in particular.
But then again, I’m confident about my play. First rounds are never easy regardless of who it is against, but in particular against him. So I’ll better be playing well; otherwise it will be a difficult night.
Q. We talked about you came off the end of the season very strong, and one of the advantages was your health. We were reading a lot about Djokovic with his back and even recently Nadal with his shoulder. Obviously you talked about your mental game is there, but physically do you draw some confidence from that that you know players much younger than you are having struggles with fitness and you’re coming in pretty healthy?
ROGER FEDERER: Sure. I mean, I’m happy to see I’m holding up well. You know, I definitely think that’s a key to success, as well, you know, as much as it is playing well and, you know, all these things, being well‑prepared. But also one looks at the big picture, longevity, not just thinking in the very moment and that I didn’t panic after some really tough losses through the summer, and I was able to actually not only just maintain a good level of play but I almost increased it towards the end of the season. It was good for me to know.
I never worry at a moment like this right now that I won’t hold up for the entire season, because I do, I think, plan decent or well, so I manage all the expectations, you know, for myself and the tournaments.
Sometimes you just go through tougher moments. I remember here two years ago also I started the season with an incredibly sore arm, you know, and here in the last year was great.
This year I’m feeling fine, too, but then again you just need one match for a little tweak, and then you’re battling something small or minor. As long as it’s nothing major, you can still play, but it definitely puts the focus elsewhere. Instead of being just happy to play, now you’re worrying about your injury and you’re not focusing too much how you’re playing your opponent but how you’re actually coping with the little injury.
That’s also part of a good player, being able to put that aside and just be able to still play good tennis. And I promise you have I had a lot of pain throughout my career, and I’ve managed to play with it and you just go with it.
Q. Nadal talked about putting a little bit more weight on his racquet to kind of step up his game I guess to challenge back for No. 1 and those finals. Is there anything you did offseason that you’re bringing to the table now this year that you think could elevate you back to No. 1 or elevate you in those final matches, or does it work like that for you?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I think the offseason has been too short to take any major, you know, change, anything crazy. I mean, I have had what, 20 days of practice? I don’t think anybody can reinvent themselves within three weeks. Given three months, things can change a bit.
This is not the time to change a whole lot; plus, I have been playing well. I’m confident. So this is really when you want to try to take it in your stride. I had a longer break after the US Open/Davis Cup, so that was more a time where I could work on my game and it actually showed later on in the season.
It’s just important to have the right balance between rest and matches, and I think I have that right now. So I hope it’s going to pay off now. We’ll see how it goes.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
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