Roger Federer hasn’t played a match this season but the 4-time Australian Open is hardly concerned on the eve of season’s first Grand Slam.
Q. Before the aircraft lands, do you think your great friend and mentor, Peter Carter?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, I guess I do. Parents always come around every year to watch me play, which is nice. I feel very welcome here. I know the people well. I have good feelings here, good friends.
So it feels sort of a home away from home to a degree.
Q. How has the preparation been this year? Anything you’ve done differently the last couple of months?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, very much so. It’s been very relaxing, the last few one and a half months. Not many appearances, no press almost. Just focusing on getting ready mentally and physically really.
Obviously, I went to South America, played some matches there for me, which was good for me, because I didn’t play any tournaments leading up to this event. That was good to do that after a few weeks of vacation.
Now I feel fine. I arrived really early, two, three days earlier than in the past, which has been quite nice. I feel like I have an extra two, three days of a cushion, which is honestly good to have before a slam sometimes.
Q. Is kind of a challenge for you? Is it fun to try a different way of getting ready for this tournament?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, for me this doesn’t feel incredibly different. For me to play exhibition matches like at Kooyong, not play those at all, doesn’t make a difference for me. I can practice as hard as I want, make it feel also like a match.
But, of course, maybe somewhere you do feel more pressure going into the first round. I have a lot of experience. I feel like if I’m playing well in practice today, at this age, I know where my game’s at, there’s not going to be no negative surprises because a lot is in your racquet, you do serve, you do move the way you do, and that nobody can take away from you. As well as you’re well prepared, you just have to go out and do that.
Of course, nerves play a role. Playing well at the right moments only comes with playing enough matches. The year never really stops. It sort of resets. Not like I haven’t played for six months. I’m ready to go and eager. That to me right now dominates. It’s important to be fresh going into a new season because the last couple years have been tough on tour.
Q. If you had gone into Wimbledon not playing the two weeks before, would you have been as confident?
ROGER FEDERER: Yes. I’ve done it many different ways. I’ve taken chances after Wimbledon only playing one event leading into the US Open, risking a first round loss. Very often I did go on and play well because I was well prepared.
Here it’s the same thing. I purposely didn’t play a lead up tournament that I’d be fresh for the beginning, hopefully going deep into the tournament. That’s the goal obviously.
Yeah, like you mentioned, I think it’s nice sometimes doing it slightly different than every year the same thing. Otherwise it feels like a déjà vu and that’s not always a good thing.
Q. Do you think you’ll be your best early in the tournament or your form will build?
ROGER FEDERER: It always determines on matchups. Some make you play better, some make you play worse. Sometimes you only play as good as your opponent allows you do. Depends on conditions, heat, wind, night session, day session.
We’ll see. Obviously you hope to start bad but you win and in the end you save best for last. That’s not how it goes. I play to win every match right now. Obviously you still hope that the better the opponents become, obviously your game automatically raises to the occasion as well.
Yeah, I’m not thinking too far ahead right now. I’m just focusing on my first round.
Q. You get asked this at the start of every season, but do you still love the game as much as you did five, six years ago?
ROGER FEDERER: It’s hard to remember back how it was when I was sitting here six years ago. But, yeah, I’ve enjoyed myself. I think it’s always a bit of a test for me going into the practice season. Am I hungry and motivated to wake up, go on the practice courts for hours? There was not one problem.
For me, that was good news. I was eager to improve my game, change it up a bit from all the tournaments I played this last few years now, to go on the practice court and try to improve my game there. I also go into the gym and get stronger again.
I enjoyed it. I think as long as that’s the case, that means I love it very much so. Today I take much more pleasure out of doing the gym work than I ever have. I used to honestly not really like it at all until I was maybe 22, 24 maybe at times. Today things for me make sense. I know why I’m doing them. I know they’re necessary. Sometimes it’s not the thing you want to do every day of the year, but I know it’s only a handful of weeks, then obviously you give everything you have.
Q. Your focus is obviously on your first round opponent. A lot of people have been talking about the potential matchup with Bernard Tomic. How have you seen his progression, his hopes for this year?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, obviously you would think he’s definitely going to go up in the rankings than down after last year’s season, which was a bit of a rollercoaster for him.
I didn’t see anything at the Hopman Cup. I saw, yeah, 30 minutes maybe in Sydney. I don’t know what I can tell you, but I’m sure he plays similar to when he was playing well last year.
He’s a good player. We know how talented he is, what he can do. It’s obviously tricky playing him in Australia. He usually plays his best over here. Even the pressure you might think it’s a problem. That’s what people usually say. But I always say it’s best to be playing at home. You have confidence that you believe you can upset top guys. I’m sure he believes in that, as well. He’s also got his work cut out, you know, in the first few rounds. He will be making a mistake about thinking about me in the third round because he also has to get there.
Q. Is he a player you can see jumping into the top 10 in the next 12 months?
ROGER FEDERER: I think we should go step by step, see how it goes. Let’s speak in a year’s time. Everybody wants to jump from what’s his ranking 60 to 10 in a year. It’s hard to do. 10 is a big ask. Don’t forget how tough the top 10 players are right now.
Yeah, let’s go step by step.
Q. This is going to be your 53rd slam in a row.
ROGER FEDERER: Still here (smiling).
Q. Wayne is at 56. What does the record of 56 mean?
ROGER FEDERER: I know he played a ton in a row. I used to ball boy him, then I played doubles with him. Obviously he’s a good friend of mine. Something I’d like to share with him.
Then again, if I’m ready to play, I hope I can make it, I was thinking back how many times I’ve played already in the main draw of a slam. It’s been a lot. For many years I also came here for qualifying, back in ’99, for the juniors ’98. I go back 15, 16 years already I’ve been coming here every single year. A few times also for Davis Cup.
Longevity has always been something that’s been important to me. I’ve planned the season accordingly this year again, that I will not miss the majors because of injury. But then again sometimes you get hit with an unlucky injury just shortly before a slam. There’s obviously nothing you can do about it. The best of five, the rule in tennis, it takes to get deep in a tournament, there’s no easy ways.
I’m excited that I’ve played so many in a row and I hope I can keep the streak alive and see where it stops. We’ll see how it goes.
Q. He said he was surprised. Are you surprised?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I am, too. It’s not something you really plan. You play when you’re ready. If you’re not, you’re not. When I was coming along, guys would not go to Australia. Like Moya wouldn’t play Wimbledon because he just thought, I’d rather take that time to get off and get ready for some more clay after Wimbledon. It was normal.
I came through that period of times a well. But I felt my game suited all the service surfaces, so I thought, Might as well go to all the different tournaments. Next thing you know, we’re here talking about it. It wasn’t something that was planned in any way.
Q. At the end of every year we say last year can’t possibly be better than the year that just finished. How do you think 2013 can outdo 2012?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, it’s difficult. There’s no Olympic Games. There’s an opportunity less there. But I’m hoping for another good year. They’re all different in many ways because this last one was very emotional. Obviously getting back to world No. 1 was a major goal of mine for last year.
So this year it’s maybe more of a transition year for me, you know, making sure I practice enough, I rest enough, to look at the longevity aspect, the tournaments I enter, that I’m in full force. That’s really what counts for me. So every tournament I play, I want to put myself in the position to win it.
I know I won’t win all the tournaments I’ll enter, but it’s important that I enjoy it and I try as hard as I can and put myself deep in the tournaments like I did last year really. I had very few early losses last year, and I hope I can keep up that good streak I have going.
Q. Perhaps the sport as a whole, not just as an individual, looking at the sport in general, what can tennis do to move on and to improve?
ROGER FEDERER: There’s always things we can do to improve. We try to do some subtle changes, I guess, then we do that are more extreme. I think tennis is seen in a very good way right now from fans and media alike, which is great. So it seems like it’s a great experience for the fans to come see the sport.
It’s not just a good live TV sport, but it’s also especially great coming to the grounds and seeing it live. The athleticism, just the whole energy that builds around a big match, night sessions, day sessions, the activity around the sites, always seem as good thing to do. That’s good.
Then obviously you always have to think ahead for all the slams, the whole ATP Tour, you want to make sure that the game is as good if not obviously better, that’s what you have to aim for anyways five or 10 years from now.
Q. Now that you made the experience of playing in South America, can you explain the enthusiasm you felt there? Wouldn’t it make sense to have a bigger tournament there that players like you could play every year there?
ROGER FEDERER: Look, this was obviously very unique because there was a big focus and emphasis on me showing up because they’ve never maybe seen me play live over there. So the excitement level was sky high, you know.
I was deeply impressed by the atmosphere, by the love for the game, for the appreciation they showed for me showing up. They made it one of the most fascinating trips of my life to South America.
So, of course, I’d hope to go there more often in the future. Obviously, this sport has gone extremely global in the last few years, or many years now, the ATP decided way back when. It looks like it’s only going to happen more often. The more global it goes, the more grueling it becomes. Asia having the Masters 1000 there, having the Masters Cup back then, it spreads the world of the tour for us.
I think it will be ready. At least I think it’s nice to see the top guys and top women going there for exhibition matches. That’s also a way to showcase tennis and our talents down there. It seemed they were very happy.
Who knows, maybe exhibition tours like this are going to happen more often in the future if there’s not going to be a tournament there.
Who knows, maybe they’ll get the World Tour Finals eventually. It’s not easy to get a Masters 1000, it’s not easy to snatch up those sanctions. Time will tell. The next five years are obviously key for South America with the World Cup, the Olympics, and the good players South America has such as Del Potro and other players. I think it’s a good time for South American tennis.
Q. Would you recommend to stage a Masters 1000 in South America?
ROGER FEDERER: It needs to make sense. Don’t forget, if you add one, you almost have to take another one away. Who deserves to have one taken away from them?
It needs to be thought through thoroughly or you just add one. Then again, maybe other places also deserve one. I don’t think it’s right now on the agenda. I think South America are happy the way things are right now, they would like some minor improvements. That’s all they care about. They just got Bogota, as well, which I think is a good thing. But we’ll discuss more about those kind of things in the future, I’m sure. It’s going to be interesting.
Q. When you look at the people that have a chance to win this tournament, anyone besides yourself, Andy and Novak that are contenders?
ROGER FEDERER: Yes. I think many of the top 10 guys have had a very good season. Look at how great Ferrer’s season was, we know the talents of Tsonga, Berdych won Davis Cup. Del Potro seems solid. He seems back as a contender for a slam. There’s always other guys just outside of the top 10 who I feel can always make a run for it. Obviously with Rafa not in the draw, that might mean for some of the players they only have to beat one of us, of the top three, maybe none. Who knows what the draw is going to do to us.
But I think so, that there could be some guys making deep runs at this tournament, yeah.
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