Roger Federer: I’m Feeling Better Than Last Year At This Time And Mentally I’m More At Peace
Roger Federer took part in a special US Open Series teleconference today from Cincinnati where the Swiss is the top seed and four-time champion.
Among a number of topics Federer discussed, he spoke about his thoughts on the Olympic gold medal match, the rigors of this summer’s schedule, the old generations vs the new, he return to the No. 1 ranking and his kids.
Federer will open play Wednesday against the winner of the Jarkko Nieminen-Alex Bogomolov match.
Q. Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open and Rafa Nadal the French Open, you Wimbledon, Andy Murray the gold medal. Would you consider this year’s US Open to be sort of a tiebreaker to the tournament of who has had the best year?
ROGER FEDERER: Obviously it gives you a direction, yes. But you have the ATP World Tour Finals at the end of the year and there’s still a lot of tournaments to play for like Shanghai and Paris, so forth. It’s not just only I think the US Open, otherwise the winner wouldn’t play the remainder of the year. I think that’s not going to happen. It is interesting, obviously, that three different guys have won three different majors this year, plus Andy the gold. It definitely sets a great tone for the US Open, there’s no doubt about that.
Q. I’m wondering if you have had the time or taken the time to analyze what happened at the gold medal match. It was so lopsided, so out of the character, not what we’re used to seeing.
ROGER FEDERER: Honestly it took me five minutes to analyze really. I didn’t need to kind of sit down and go in a dark room and cry over it and kind of understand what happened. I think I understood rather quickly what happened. I thought Andy played a good match. The beginning of the match was very close. I had some chances there. Had some chances in the second set. I think I missed nine breakpoints, I didn’t make one. That obviously doesn’t work in a big match like this against a great player like Andy. Once he was in the lead, obviously he did really well to keep the lead. Yeah, I think that was it for me. Maybe I was emotionally drained a touch. Maybe I was a bit tired from the Del Potro match. I thought Andy did really well to put the pressure on me. It was out of character for me to lose nine games a row in the finals. That’s obviously something that can happen, but I guess I got myself to blame, and Andy’s great level of play. For me, I moved on really quickly. I was happy for him and disappointed for me. I was still very happy to get the silver and the medal for Switzerland.
Q. Could you look back to Wimbledon a little bit? Everybody always tries to retire players when they hit 30. It seems like the game is skewing a little older now.
ROGER FEDERER: I think you’re right. I mean, I think over 30 players in the main draw of the French Open. Seeing, for instance, how well Tommy Haas is playing, how many of my generation are still playing and playing well, it’s nice to see really. I remember when I was coming up on tour how many great rivalries we had in the younger generation. When I came up, we came up, basically there was still Agassi, Sampras, Moya, Henman, you name it, all the older guys that made the tour work. I think we had so many great young players coming up, it’s nice to see so many guys are playing well, holding on and winning titles really. I think it’s really good times in tennis. Like you say, you have the older generation, you have the generation of Rafa that’s extremely strong as well, and now the new generation is coming through as well with Bernard Tomic, Milos Raonic, David Goffin, Kei Nishikori, all those guys. It’s good times in tennis right now. But I do hope we get even some more better younger juniors coming through in the next couple years.
Q. With a longer-than-normal grass court season in 2012, such a short turnaround to prepare for New York, do you think it’s tougher to make the switch from grass courts to hard courts this season? What are the precautionary measures you might implement to ensure you can stay healthy now?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, there’s no doubt about it, this is not an ideal preparation. I mean, it’s amazing, for instance, what Novak was able to do. It’s not impossible, but it’s just very hard on the body and mind to travel halfway around the world, go on a different surface, win, then back it up week and week again. Obviously, the US Open is only coming up. That hasn’t even started yet. It’s been tough. In the past you would take maybe a few weeks off for a top player, then prepare for three brutal weeks on hard courts, then come over here wanting to fire out of all cylinders. This year it’s different. Obviously we stayed on grass. Now all I have is four days on hard courts before I play my first round here probably against a top 30 player or top 40 player. It makes it obviously very difficult and a big focus for me to get through my first-round match over here. Obviously physically I feel fine. The body did hurt maybe the first couple of days just because the movement is a bit different. But I think everybody has a bit of issues like that in the beginning. So it’s just important to be professional, sleep enough, eat healthy, do all your treatment the right way, all that stuff, so you will manage the next like over six months on hard courts now. That’s the most brutal surface out there. It’s a big stretch coming up for all of us really.
Q. You just said that physically you feel fine. How do you feel mentally and emotionally going into this year’s US Open as opposed to last year? Can you look back a little bit on last year’s Open.
ROGER FEDERER: I’m very excited, very happy. Back to world No. 1. I’ve had a magical summer for me. Really ever since the French Open, it’s been a good year all around anyways, but winning Wimbledon, getting back to world No. 1, there’s been so many things happening for me, it’s been a wonderful last few weeks. I feel like I’m feeling better than last year because I was a bit shaken up against the loss by Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, and even through Montréal, it was a tough situation. Cincy I didn’t play all that great, lost to Tomas Berdych. I came into the US Open not quite sure of how I was playing. I was actually playing really, really well. I had that brutal match with Novak, up two sets to love. I feel like this year mentally I’m more at peace. Then again, that doesn’t give you any – how do you say – idea yet of how you’re going to do at the US Open and Cincinnati. We all have to wait and see how that goes.
Q. You mentioned about reclaiming the world No. 1 spot in the ATP world rankings. You surpassed Pete Sampras’ record by doing that this summer. At your age, at this time in your career, how important is it to you to keep surpassing records like those of Pete’s?
ROGER FEDERER: I don’t know how important it really is for me. I just think it’s a motivation, a big one, for me to be able to have the opportunity to reach such great records, you know, equal, tie and break records like these. It obviously kind of gets you going. It motivates me to play against younger generations. It motivates me playing in front of full stadiums. All these things add to the great puzzle and life I’m living as a player. It makes easier, all the sacrifices, all the traveling, playing we do on a daily basis. But it’s not most important. But obviously it’s a nice thing to have and one I hope I will be very proud of once I retire.
Q. The US Open has record prize money again this year, $25.5 million. You’re somebody that travels all around the world. Can you tell us if you’ve seen how the economy has affected different places? I imagine pro tennis players are insulated because the tournaments take very good care of you as you travel. But can you talk about if you’ve seen any change in how places have been affected by the economy over the last few years.
ROGER FEDERER: By ‘places’ you mean tournaments, right?
ROGER FEDERER: I think we’ve gone through the crisis – who knows, maybe there’s another crisis on the horizon here – actually pretty good, considering how bad the economy was from 2008 till now. We’re obviously trying to sign on some sponsors during that time for the tour because we lost Mercedes and others. I think we’ve actually gotten through this financial crisis, economic crisis, really well. I think also, obviously because it’s a one-week or two-week event, you have an entire year to look for ways trying to make your tournament sustainable. Obviously you hope that they had long-term contracts. Obviously some did get unlucky, that the contracts ran out right at the time that you didn’t want it to run out. Obviously then it was a dangerous and difficult situation really for those. They asked the ATP for relief, the council and board. That’s what we discussed and tried to make it a good decision for the tournament but also for the players, because you want to keep the jobs alive for all those players, that they can travel the world and still make money and have all those possibilities to play tournaments. Overall we’ve gotten through this pretty good. Yeah, we hope it’s a successful tour, and I feel it is.
Q. Could you address the fact that a couple weeks ago they announced that Wimbledon in 2015 will move into the summer an extra week, so there would be three weeks of grass court play prior to it.
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I think it’s a great thing. I think it was very well-received from the players. From what I heard, everybody was in favor of it. Think back at how the tour used to be. We used to have three Grand Slams on grass, and now we only have one. We barely have one month of tennis on grass. Obviously it’s nice to keep that surface alive a bit more. It gives just a bit of a bigger rest between the French Open and Wimbledon, so that completely makes sense. Obviously, you have to understand every change brings problems from time to time. But I’m happy that Wimbledon and the US Open were able to sort out that kind of a situation because it wasn’t an easy one for the US Open, but a very good one for the players. I think Wimbledon is excited about it, too. I think it has many more upsides than downsides to it.
Q. For those of us who weren’t at Wimbledon for the Olympics, how different was it? Was there anything you missed that you would normally have at Wimbledon? Anything you liked about the Olympics?
ROGER FEDERER: Yes, many things I missed from the Wimbledon tournament. I guess you also felt that it was just a completely different event. Those things we thought we were very nice, then other things we had to get used to. I think it was nice we had to adjust, that it was a completely different feel from Wimbledon to the Olympics. I think overall it was a well-run tournament. At times it almost felt like the site was too big for the Olympics. I can only speak from experience from Sydney, Athens and Beijing. They all created the stadiums for the Olympics. They were not as big, obviously, as Wimbledon. Hardly any is, except for the US Open. I thought it was great to have such a big site, but at times it was too spread out, I thought it was. Then again, it didn’t change the fact that we had great atmospheres in the stadiums, that it was a very unique place to play tennis at where there is so much history.
Q. When your girls were born, you spoke about wanting to be around the game long enough for them to be aware of who you were as a tennis player and what you had accomplished. What do you think their sense is now, because they are a little bit older, and what do you and Mirka tell them?
ROGER FEDERER: It was really Mirka’s wish more than mine. I’m just happy I’m still playing and things are still going so well for me, that I’m actually able to feed them almost on a daily basis. That’s what I was worried most with Mirka. Maybe with having twins, it was going to get extremely difficult to travel the world with them, see them enough, that it was not going to actually pull me away from the game. That was my biggest worry. It was really Mirka’s dream to have them still see me play from time to time. We’ve already had that now. So I don’t know exactly what they think of me. As their dad, they know I’m a tennis player, that I do play a lot of tennis, but I don’t think they understand that it’s actually a job. They don’t understand, I think, the difference between a match and practice. It doesn’t matter. They sit in stadiums. They’ve created obviously some of the most unique moments in my life, having seen them, you know, at let’s say trophy ceremony in Basel, trophy ceremony particularly at Wimbledon this year. Those are memories no one can ever take away from me and Mirka. That was a very intimate moment for me and Mirka even though it was in the eye of the storm with everybody watching. It was a great, great feeling for me. I hope they also look back and were happy we did those things. We really try to protect them as much as we can. Life on tour is good with them. I’m happy the way things are going.
Q. Do you want them to play the game?
ROGER FEDERER: Not necessarily, no. If they really, really want to, I’ll support them. If they don’t, I’m very happy they do something different, as well.
Q. There’s been a lot of talk over your records. There’s two that don’t get a lot of attention. You’ve never retired from a match once you started plus you’ve played every Grand Slam since 2000. What pride do you take from those?
ROGER FEDERER: I wonder how many close calls I’ve actually had to retire during a match. Maybe a handful where I was just thinking, man, I’m in too much pain, I maybe actually shouldn’t be playing. But I can just play, or I have so much pain, but I know I won’t injure myself more. It was more kind of like some of those moments. Obviously playing the consecutive Grand Slams, you don’t really think about it. I’ve never actually entered a Grand Slam just to enter to keep that streak going. I guess I was always lucky enough and prepared enough to feel like I could do something and play well or even at times obviously win very often at Grand Slams. So that’s not one thing I thought about. But every match I play, not retiring after a match for me, that’s something that’s almost normal. If you do enter, you’re supposed to be playing. I’m happy also I’ve played schedules from always January till November basically. I’ve never taken a full season off after the Open. I’ve never taken more than, what, eight weeks off from the tour. I’m obviously proud of this. Then again, it doesn’t mean that much. I know other players have many more problems trying to do that all the time and some just can’t because it’s not possible with their body or they’ve gotten unlucky much more than I have over the years. I think I’ve taken great care of myself and mentally I’m very strong to be able to handle all of that, I do believe.
Federer also held a press conference on site. Here’s some video:
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