Ahead of the start of his 2014 Grand Slam campaign, Roger Federer met the press at the Australian Open over the weekend.
Federer, who lost in the final to Lleyton Hewitt on the faster courts of Brisbane last week, remains upbeat and guarded on the slower courts in Melbourne.
The 32-year-old who won the tournament four times will be joined by new coach Stefan Edberg in the first round on Tuesday afternoon against James Duckworth. The Swiss is an a very tough quarter that includes two former finalists Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Murray.
Here’s his full presser:
Q. Do you rate this year the best condition you’ve been in for a couple years coming into the Open physically?
ROGER FEDERER: Hmm. I don’t know. I don’t know. I can’t recall all the years prior. I remember playing well here last year. Had a couple of tougher ones where I was sort of sick slightly before the Australian Open. But this time around I haven’t been sick or anything for some time. My back’s been in good shape since Hamburg pretty much. No, you know, setbacks.
So, yeah, I mean, I feel good. My confidence is there. I’m happy I played Brisbane, so I know where my game’s at. I’ve practiced. Now I’m just managing my energy and my practice sessions, getting used to the conditions here. Yeah, can’t wait for the tournament to start now.
Q. What do you know about your first round opponent, James Duckworth?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, my coach went to see the Nieminen match against Duckworth in Brisbane because I was playing the winner after that one. I saw the Duckworth match here last year against Kavcic when they were playing in the heat in the fifth set and all that.
I don’t know him that well, but I know he’s got a powerful first serve, likes to play aggressive tennis. I’ll have to get some more feedback from my coach.
Q. You and Lleyton were enjoying the faster courts in Brisbane. How have you found the courts here so far?
ROGER FEDERER: Not as fast. Brisbane was quicker than this. But still depending on who plays and how you play, you can make it more of a fast paced tennis. I played the other night against Jo, things clearly slowed down in the nighttime. It’s not going to be 40 degrees at nighttime either, so the ball’s going to slow down.
For that reason you need a faster paced, you know, court just to help the guys who want to play for a little bit more, otherwise it becomes a game of just waiting, being patient, all that stuff, which is not a problem if the tournament wants to see that kind of a tennis.
But I think it’s nice. It’s a little bit faster than last year, but not a whole lot.
Q. What are you hoping to get out of the change to a bigger racquet?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, it’s the same like before: I just hope to play good tennis and be successful really.
I’ve wanted to change for a number of years, but I kept on playing well in the slams, kept on playing well on the tour. Things were just going so well I only did minor changes to my racquet. Since 2002 I haven’t fiddled around the racquet head size.
After Wimbledon this year I finally had a bit more time and I’d like to do an initial test. I was going to do some more after the US Open, but I wasn’t in the mood for that, so I waited for the end of the year and did some more testing there.
Now I’ve really been putting in a lot of hours on the racquet. It feels good. I’m really looking forward to playing now with that racquet here at the Australian Open as well after playing Brisbane already.
Q. What do you make of your half of the draw with yourself, Rafa and Andy Murray all in there?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, a draw is a draw. You guys debate it; I play in it. That’s basically it. I focus round for round. That’s the only focus I need to have.
I’ve had tough draws in the past. I’ve had easier draws in the past. Then again, you don’t want to, you know, play poorly at the end of the day. You want to play good tennis. That’s what my goal is for the first week.
You know, you can’t win the slam in the first week. That’s my first goal, get through the first week and get into the tournament really.
Q. Do you think Andy is a contender? Back from a back surgery.
ROGER FEDERER: Never had surgery so I can’t answer that question. Haven’t seen him play. So I have a really difficult time telling you if he’s a contender or not.
Playing wise, absolutely. He’s played great at Wimbledon, here at the Australian Open last year. Won the US Open. I mean, he knows how to play on the hard courts. Been one of the best in the last few years.
So without the surgery, clearly would put him as a favorite. Now that he had that, I don’t know where his game’s at. I hope for him he is where he wants to be and that he can put himself into position. I’m sure he needs a few rounds to get also settled into the tournament.
But normally he would be absolutely, yeah.
Q. How about you, are you in shape to win?
ROGER FEDERER: We’ll find out (smiling). I don’t know yet.
Q. Rafa was saying he was a little disappointed they made the courts a little bit faster here because he thought people enjoyed the longer points and rallies. Do you find that slow court tennis is more entertaining than a faster court? A matter of taste or what?
ROGER FEDERER: Got to ask a hundred kids on the grounds right now. There’s tons of people you can interview there.
I think even these conditions here, we’ll see long rallies after all. We’re not talking about a lightning speed court. In Brisbane it was fast, but it wasn’t lightning either. This is like medium, if that.
I don’t know what the big problem is. Really can still play from the baseline, no problem. You can stay back, return from the back. You can do all that stuff if you want to. It’s not like it’s impossible.
Even does it on the indoors where you don’t think that’s possible. That’s how he beat me in London anyway.
Q. Most pundits have talked up Novak and Rafa’s chances at the Australian Open. Is there still belief in you and other members of the top 10 that you can knock Novak and Rafa off their perches?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I think it’s normal that they are considered, you know, the one and two favorites for the tournament. Of course, we do believe we can knock them off, yes.
Q. You brought Stefan Edberg into your team. Quite exciting for everyone.
ROGER FEDERER: Mostly for me. I didn’t bring him in for you guys (laughter).
Q. How do you see it working as a dynamic? Do you consult with him before matches? Talk to him when you feel like it?
ROGER FEDERER: I didn’t do that in Brisbane. I mean, we spent one week together in Dubai. He’s arriving here in the next few days. Yeah, I mean, we’ll see how it goes really, for all of us to find out it’s going to be, how he wants it to be, how I want it to be. We’ll talk about it hopefully as the tournament goes along.
If it doesn’t, we’ll go back to practice maybe, do something different, and you figure things out on the practice courts again. Clearly I hope he’s coming here for matches. Then always on the day off we have time to talk about things, how we’ll manage it.
I mean, look, my life on tour is pretty much settled. It’s always solid routines. He’ll just fit in nicely into that. I’m just really excited that he’s taken up the offer because I didn’t think he was going to do it because he’s got a life. He doesn’t need this.
For me, clearly it’s very exciting to have him as part of the team. I’m looking forward to every week I’ll spend with him on the tour this year.
Q. I know you enjoy listening to stories that former players have. Have you shared that with him?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, a little bit. Whatever it may be. It’s interesting and it’s fascinating how he went through his career, how things were back in the day. Especially his days, those were the times I remember from TV. That’s kind of what’s very exciting, just hanging out with him. That was the idea, as well. If it didn’t work out, he would say, I’m not ready for this, at least I would have had a few nice dinners with him and able to spend time with a childhood hero, which would have been plenty to fuel my motivation, inspire me for a few weeks or months, I’d say.
But now that he’s going to join on the tour, you know, that’s an ongoing thing, and I’m looking forward to that.
Q. You’re seeded sixth here. Lowest you’ve been seeded here for a long time. Do you feel like you’re the hunter rather than the hunted here?
ROGER FEDERER: I definitely have less pressure this year, less to lose. I’m not the defending champion or any of that. So, yeah, I should be able to play more freely, and other guys are supposed to make their move or defend again, all these things.
So, yeah, things are maybe a little bit more comfortable this year around. But at the same time maybe the draw becomes tougher in the process. But, you know, I’m happy I’m back here. I’m happy I’m able to continue playing tournaments and Grand Slams, whatever in a row, a Grand Slam streak. I’m very proud of that. I hope I can keep playing for a long time.
Yeah, I’m looking forward for this event. At the end of the day it all comes down to how well I play to see how big my chances are to go really far and win the tournament. But, you know, I’m very focused right now of getting through the first week and making sure I get things underway nicely. I don’t really look much further than actually my first round opponent always.
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