Roger Federer nearly blew an epic affair yesterday with countryman Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. Federer, who had served for the match at 54 in the second, found himself down a break in the third to Wawrinka before coming back to take the match 75 in the third. The four-time Indian Well champion moves on to meet longtime rival Rafael Nadal in a blockbuster quarterfinal tonight.
Here’s what he said yesterday about his game, about his ailing back and resuming his rivalry with Rafa.
Q. What are your thoughts? Obviously you played Stan a lot, and every time almost it’s gone your way. What is it about these dynamics that help it shift to you time and time again?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, it’s true. We have had many matches actually. Considering, you know, only two Swiss guys in the draw for so many years now it’s happened more often than I thought it would. He usually plays me pretty good actually overall.
Today it was extremely close again. Okay, I should maybe close it out in the second set, but he did well to stay in it.
At the end, I don’t know what gets me through. Maybe it’s the experience or maybe a bit more calm in those moments. I’m not sure. Today I think I was a little lucky to come through it in the end.
Q. How would you rate your fitness with your back and all that? Did it bother you? Is it okay now?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, look, I’m happy. I played three sets over two hours, so, I mean, I’m happy at what level I can compete, you know, to be quite honest.
It’s a good thing. I’m hopeful that it’s going to feel a bit better again tomorrow, another step forward.
The day off I had was definitely important for me, and overall I’m very pleased that I was able to play today and play at a high level, which was important obviously at this stage of the tournament.
Q. One of the things fans always want to know is what makes great champions great. After your ’09 Wimbledon win, this picture of Laver and Bjørn and Pete was taken, one of the great pictures we have. Could you talk about what you think the common threads are between the four of you, will or determination or whatever?
ROGER FEDERER: Look, I mean, I think we all did it very differently, you know. I guess we all have different characters, different games and so forth.
Yeah, I mean, at the top, I guess, you know, you learn how to really deal with a lot of issues, you know, a lot of pressure, as well.
I mean, I think we have a pretty good life on tour as far as crowd support goes. Rarely get booed like soccer players do or anything like that. Let’s be honest, that’s not something we really have to deal with, so it’s quite nice. I hope it’s always going to stay this way, respectful towards the players in general.
But, you know, I guess we find a way, you know, to win when we’re not playing so well. We find a way to adapt our games.
And also knowing yourself, what you need to work on to become a better player, and then just handling it all at once and compressing it all together in the very vital moments of each match, you know, trying to give yourself the best possible chance to win.
Can’t always do it, you know, clearly. But I think that’s maybe one of the things to me that stand out.
Q. Obviously we don’t know who you’re going to come up against, but could you first look at potential of playing Rafa and then look at the potential of playing Gulbis?
ROGER FEDERER: I have played Gulbis on a few occasions. He’s always been tough for me to play against. It’s not always on your racquet clearly when a guy serves this big, but that’s always the case with those guys.
So it’s a matter of staying calm and waiting for your opportunity and making him work as hard on his serve as much as you can try and have an impact on that.
So he’s obviously on a good winning streak. That makes him tough to play, clearly. Yeah, I’m happy to see Ernests playing good again, because he went through a bit of a rough patch. He’s been injured from time to time, as well. It’s nice seeing him turn the corner again, because it’s not the first time he’s doing something good. I hope he can keep it up for the year.
Obviously playing Rafa, it’s a classic. We have played, you know, so many times. We know each other really well on and off the court. We know what to expect, both of us. I mean, we are both a bit suspect going into our match, I guess, you know, so it’s an interesting matchup, especially‑‑ I mean, it’s not early in the tournament. It’s still my fourth match here.
It’s not like a first round, but it still is early in the tournament. In the past this match used to be a final, now it’s a quarterfinal, so obviously it’s a bit of bad luck of the draw for both of us.
At the same time, it’s very exciting always playing each other. Doesn’t matter what stage of the tournament.
Q. I know that the LA event’s place on the calendar conspired against you really being able to play in it. Is it sort of crazy to think you might go your entire career without every playing a competitive match in this city that some people regard as the entertainment capital of the world?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, it is. It is tough I guess for Europeans overall. Plus Europeans have been really making a big step forward, you know, in the rankings worldwide, so it’s hard for us to come and play all the American tournaments.
I used to do them more back in ’99, 2000, 2001 maybe even; as well I used to play more 250s and 500s over here. But it’s true. I have never played any matches really in LA, so I’d love to do it, you know.
I was fortunate to play in so many great places, but it’s true that LA has never happened for me. We will see what the future holds, but I hope it’s not too late.
Q. There has been a lot of guys in the tournament who have been grunting very loudly, and some other players have been complaining about that. It’s been framed historically as a women’s‑only issue, and the WTA have issued statements on it. Has it ever bothered you in a match, playing or watching, and do you think the ATP should ever try to do anything about it?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s important to respect the opponent as a player, so you shouldn’t grunt too loud. You shouldn’t grunt on one shot and then not the next. I think that’s a matter of respect, really.
It’s hard to obviously control it in the moment itself, but I think if the ATP should speak to the players that are involved in this case, you know, just to make sure that they understand, you know, the importance of that, you know, that it’s just a matter of respect, and then if they want to go harsher after it with warnings and I don’t know what else you want to do, I don’t think that’s the play here.
I just really think it’s important that the umpire reminds them and then that the ATP speaks to them away from the matches, really, because they just need to understand what the deal is.
Q. Has an opponent ever bothered you?
ROGER FEDERER: Sometimes. Not very often.
Q. Where do you rank winning your 17th major at Wimbledon among your career achievements, and how will that win inspire you moving into the grass season this year?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, obviously it was a huge victory for me. Understandably so. I was also playing for world No. 1, so it was two at once. Plus my family was there at the very end. It was an amazing victory for me, for my family, for my friends. Everybody believed in me, and I loved every moment of it.
Went through a tough tournament. Had a bad back there, as well, you know, through the tournament, and at the end to play such incredible tennis was just beautiful. It all came together at the right time.
Obviously I’m very inspired by this victory last year, and for this year again‑‑ clearly I’m focused on this tournament right now, getting through, before I think of the grass season, but it’s always a privilege coming back to Wimbledon and getting another opportunity to do well there.
Highlights from the day:
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