Roger Federer met the press today at the Australian Open. Topics included his back, the state of his game and more.
Q. There’s a general feeling coming into this year of unpredictability about the men’s game. Do you share that?
ROGER FEDERER: To a degree. I still feel like the top four guys are going to play well again. The question is just whom. There you have what you say, you’re not sure what’s going to happen next.
I think we have a good year in store because also right behind us we have very good players at the moment who can really break through. Some of them really showed again how good they were at the World Tour Finals, also had a very good year themselves.
I think all the other guys in the top are going to play a good year. I think it’s an interesting year ahead of us. Like you said, I don’t quite know what’s going to happen yet. I feel good about my own chances. But then again, that doesn’t mean much because the others are really playing well at the moment.
There’s no injury concerns from all the top guys. So that’s really good news. We hope that Soderling can come back eventually as well, Cilic and other players, that everybody is healthy again.
Q. Tell us about the decision you had to make in Doha, how frustrating it must have been with a guy with your fitness record.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, it was a tough decision to make, no doubt. You can imagine I think things through many times before I take a decision like this. It was really the only right decision to take. We’re talking about the first tournament of the year, it not being a finals, already being on painkillers basically for two matches, being in a lot of pain.
Yeah, it just didn’t feel right to play at all because there was no point. I could barely play. It was on a level that maybe if it’s the last match of the season, fine, you can somehow get through it, but not like this.
That’s why I really, you know, hoped that things improved quickly. Didn’t quite do that. I only started to feel better around Tuesday. Today was my first practice where I could play again at a hundred percent. Yesterday I felt good, too. No pain. But at least, you know, I was out there playing full on, but still just a little worried or scared, let’s put it that way.
Today all that’s gone, so I feel like I’m back to normal. That’s a good feeling to have coming into the Australian Open now.
Q. You haven’t missed a Grand Slam this century, which is a very consistent record. Is this as close as it got and have there been other close ones?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, if it would have stayed the way it was in Doha, yeah, then obviously things would have gotten really difficult, let’s put it that way. You don’t want to enter a tournament on painkillers, in a lot of pain, knowing it’s going to take two weeks. Bestoffiveset matches don’t normally allow you to come through that way. You could always think with a day off, sometimes two days off, miracle things happen. You all of a sudden wake up and you’re good.
Q. Had there been other close calls?
ROGER FEDERER: Close calls? Don’t remember quite a whole lot, no. Usually I have the schedule lined up in a way that I should be okay. But then again, freak accidents happen. Didn’t Murray have a wrist injury once and that got him out of the French and Wimbledon, at least one of them?
That stuff, look, never happened to me. When I had my twisted ankle, that was at the end of the season. I almost missed the World Tour Finals because of it. I had more close calls for the World Tour Finals than Grand Slams, to be honest.
Q. There was an announcement during the offseason that you and Martina Hingis decided you would not be pursuing the mixed doubles at the Olympics. Can you talk about how that decision came about.
ROGER FEDERER: How what came about?
Q. The process of you two reaching that decision.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, uhm, I mean, I called her up. I was like, I think we need to talk about this whole mixed situation. She was asked a lot in the press ’cause she mentioned that my team contacted her. You know, I was on vacation. She was playing World TeamTennis. She had to answer all the questions. It was a bit unfortunate for her really because all of a sudden she was in this pressure situation wanting to get more information that she didn’t have.
I just let it run its course. I didn’t know how far it was going to go anyway. But the conclusion to it was she’s a wonderful person. I’ve looked up to her in a big way because she’s only a year older but made the breakthrough so much earlier. I remember seeing her play very often. I always was a big fans of hers. For me, it was the only player I could imagine playing mixed together with at the Olympics.
At first I didn’t even know there was a mixed at the Olympics. I just thought it could be a nice opportunity to get an Olympic medal for Switzerland. I knew it was going to be difficult for me in terms of playing so many matches, then her coming back out of retirement.
I just wanted to see what was her feeling. She was the one to basically also tell me I should focus on winning singles and defending my doubles. She’s very happy staying in retirement. She thinks it’s the only right thing for me to do. She basically took the decision for me, which was very nice of her. We were very happy I think at the end of the phone call and didn’t have any hard feelings. She was very nice.
Q. When did you have this phone call?
ROGER FEDERER: In the offseason after London, one week afterwards I guess.
Q. With the back injury, is it a spasm or something you think is completely fixed now? Do you think it might flare up?
ROGER FEDERER: No, I feel like it’s gone. I said it was a back spasm. It was muscles just went super tight on me within two points. Yeah, my back wasn’t the same for five days to a week. So that was kind of how I predicted it to be. To play on it, take more chances, then maybe even going worse, then it flares up the whole time, that’s not what I want.
I took a lot of treatment two or three years ago when I pulled out of Paris. This is where my back was actually worse. Now the last sort of two and a half years or so I feel like my back’s gotten really solid and rarely has it happened, but it happens occasionally. It’s happened during Grand Slams, I remember a few occasions.
That’s just part of our life, I guess, sometimes. You just hope it doesn’t hit you at crucial times. Even if you do have that back pain, you get through your match, like I said, maybe over the course of four or five or six days during a Grand Slam, that can go away. That was the case for me in 2003. Then I won my first Grand Slam.
Look, sometimes it goes away, sometimes it doesn’t.
Q. Physically when you’re training and playing, does it feel like it always has done or does it get a little bit harder during the offseason now that you’ve turned 30?
ROGER FEDERER: Not at all. I felt great in the six weeks off I had after Davis Cup here in Sydney. Took six weeks off, didn’t go to Asia. I was able to practice well, once I had sufficient vacation. Now also had a great buildup. It came as a big surprise to me, the back spasm.
I feel my game is really right where it needs to be, even though now the last few days have been pretty much of a waiting game, seeing how it goes. I still feel that I was able to hit the ball enough. The day after I arrived, I went out for 20 minutes at least. I don’t feel like I’m coming from way back. I feel like I’m ready to go. If matches were to start tomorrow, no problem. Even today would have been fine.
I have a good mindset and physically feel really fit because the buildup has been a good one.
Q. It’s a long flight from Doha to here with a bad back. Did you have to do anything special on the plane?
ROGER FEDERER: I tried to sleep as much as I could, then sort of got up and did some exercise. Actually, made it all the way through the flight. Believe it or not, my back started to feel a little bit better, which was a bit of a relief.
I was worried about that, too. Playing in sort of those cold conditions. We had a lot of wind in Doha this year, then knowing the long flight I had. Who knows how I would have touched down here in Melbourne and how I felt. I’m happy with how things went.
Q. (Question regarding ending the previous year in excellent form.)
ROGER FEDERER: I think it’s only helpful that I finished so strong. I had so many great finishes to the year. I remember every time it has helped me to have a good mindset on vacation, during the buildup, then at the beginning of the year. Very often did I take this momentum into the following year.
I hope it’s going to be the same again. For this, I need the Australian Open to start well for me, win the first few rounds, get hopefully on a roll, see how far I can go.
Yeah, it’s definitely only an advantage. I feel really confident when I’m hitting the ball. Yeah, so I’m feeling really good, which is a good thing.
Q. With all that success at the back end of last year, do you feel you were playing as good then and even better than you were when you were clearing up with all those Grand Slam titles?
ROGER FEDERER: Possibly. I think it was a very good performance from my side. I played solid from the early matches of the tournaments till the very end. Usually also saving a lot of the best for last, like I used to, like you usually do, at the end of a tournament, if you’re playing really well.
Was it better? I don’t know. I think it was just really good. Now I know it’s indoors as well. Indoors is based on a lot of shotmaking, onetwo punches, which changes here. Conditions are much slower so you need to work the point more. It’s going to get much more physical, which I don’t mind, and be more mental, which I also don’t mind.
It’s going to be different tennis than at the end of last year and I’m aware of that. That makes it interesting for me to change things up again and for all of us really, then take it from there.
Q. Probably more from an Australian point of view. Bernard Tomic, have you been able to keep up to date on how he’s doing?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, I’m not going to talk about this leadin week. I think it’s all about preparation. I think he played well in Brisbane, I didn’t see who he beat because I had my issues myself. I remember it was more the match I played against him at Davis Cup in Sydney. I know conditions were quite unusual there, as well. Grass was like it used to be. It wasn’t sort of perfect like we have it at Wimbledon where you can play much easier from the baseline.
I saw how tricky it was to play against him, what a potentially good player he can become. Now it is obviously Grand Slam time, much more physical like I said before. It’s going to be interesting to see how he handles first the expectations, then the heat, the long matches. I think if he gets through the first round, he can play a very good tournament. Then again, his first round is very difficult. Verdasco is a quality player. Seems like he’s in good form. So I’ll say he’ll have a good year, let’s put it that way. But I think he could do very well here as well.
Q. Player meeting tonight?
ROGER FEDERER: I’ll be going, yeah.
Q. Do you chair that?
ROGER FEDERER: No, like you guys now.
Q. Do you think it will be a long one?
ROGER FEDERER: I don’t know. I usually try to keep it short and to the point. It’s a change. We have a new CEO and chairman. An Australian this time around. It’s exciting times, as well. We wish we could have kept Adam, but he had other plans. Now Brad Drewett I’m sure is going to do a very good job in the future. It’s his first speech to the players, which I’m sure it’s going to be important to him. Then we take it from there. There’s always issues we talk about at the council or board level. I hope we get through this meeting okay and then we’ll see how it goes in the future.
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