Roger Federer reached the semifinals at the Australian Open for the 13th time in 14 tries on Tuesday night by thumping Mischa Zverev 6-1, 7-5, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
Federer smacked 65 winners during the 3-set, 92-minute affair and it set up a showdown with countryman Stan Warwinka. Federer owns Wawrinka winning 18 of 21 meetings and all 13 matches on hard court.
After his win over Zverev, Federer talked about facing Stan Thursday night and the surprise of returning to the semifinals of a Grand Slam so quickly after a long injury layoff.
Q. Did that pretty much go according to plan?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, there are several plans when you enter a match. I think it definitely went as good as it possibly could have gone.
So I’m pleased with the way I started the match. Right away again got off to a great start against him, like I did against him a few years ago. After that, naturally everything’s easier.
Second set was definitely a key to shut it down for him. It was good that I was able to break back after he played a good game there.
Yeah, then in the third set I think I was rolling.
It was a nice match. I think I played great. Mischa had a wonderful tournament, so well done to him.
Q. There was a time in the match when he went to a baseline strategy. When he went back to net play, you started breaking him again. Were you surprised he went back to his serve and volley?
ROGER FEDERER: He always serve and volleyed. Never changed. I think if you look at the stats, I think he serve and volleyed first, second 100%. I think you’re wrong. I hope you’re wrong (smiling). My recollection is that he came in all the time.
Q. Of the eight matches you’ve played since you’ve come back after six months, what has been the thing that’s most surprised you?
ROGER FEDERER: I think winning back-to-back matches in best-of-five sets against quality, great players. Really that’s been for me the big question mark, if I could do that so early in my comeback.
I felt I was always going to be dangerous on any given day in a match situation. But obviously as the tournament would progress, maybe I would fade away with energy, you know, that kind of stuff.
I think now that I’m in the semis, feeling as good as I am, playing as good as I am, that’s a huge surprise to me. Like I said on court, if someone would have told me I’d play in the semis against Stan, never would I have called that one for me. For Stan, yes, but not for me. I honestly didn’t even know a few days ago that he was in my section of the draw or I’m in his section.
I figured it out eventually that he was playing on my days, but I never really looked in that quarter of the draw because that was just too unrealistic for me.
Q. Can you look at Stan, the dynamics have obviously changed from when you first started, now that he’s a three-time Grand Slam champion, talk about how those dynamics have changed.
ROGER FEDERER: Look, like a lot of guys, I was able to play them when they were young, which is, I guess, for the head-to-head an advantage. I don’t care much about head-to-heads in general because I feel like every day’s a different matchup.
So I think in the beginning, he was really struggling on faster courts. I played him in Rotterdam and other places. You could sense in his footwork, the way he was returning, that he was uncomfortable on them.
That’s why it was incredible for me to see that his first Grand Slam he was going to win was the Australian Open. If I would have called any Grand Slam for him to win it was always going to be the French, because he moved so effortless on clay. That’s his base. That’s his DNA really.
I think he’s done incredibly well on all the other surfaces, including grass actually, also indoors, hard and fast. He’s become such a good player, I super respect that, that the guy is able to transform his game around like that, in his footwork, in his mind, also in his game plan.
That’s his transformation, and I like what I saw. He’s always been a believer that he can do it. It shows how far you can go.
Q. Given how well you’ve played without having played for six months, do you think, going forward, you might be able to take longer chunks off?
ROGER FEDERER: Play a tournament, take six months off (smiling). I’ll have no ranking eventually because I won’t be able to win every single time I come back.
I always felt like breaks were important for me. If you think back, I always played, but I always also took bigger vacations, bigger breaks. I know you don’t know exactly what I do in my time off, or when you don’t see me after Wimbledon, what I do until Cincinnati or the Canadian Open or what I do after the year is over.
I remember some years I wouldn’t hit tennis balls for four to five weeks. I think that was really important for me to look at the longevity aspect.
Sometimes I was talking to the team and thinking it was too much time off almost, because I had all this momentum going for me, I would just throw it out of the window for longevity.
It’s so nice to play when you’re confident, because to get that kind of confidence after winning a slam, not playing anymore, it’s a bit of a waste actually. You should be playing then because you could just keep playing with confidence.
But I guess looking back overall, it was probably a good decision to take. I hope the six months are going to help me in the future. But I think it’s still super early stages in my comeback, that I first want to play a couple months now on tour, and really reassess, maybe by April, how then the schedule is going to look like down the road.
I will probably never be able to play 27 tournaments a year anymore. We know that all. But maybe instead of playing 22 you play 18, instead of 20 you play 17. That could totally happen. You always need the right balance, I feel like, enough practice, enough matches, enough time off. I guess as you get older, everything becomes a bit different.
Q. What is the biggest change you’ve seen in Stan off court in your relationship since he’s won these three Grand Slams and is ahead of you in the rankings? Has that shifted the dynamic between you two?
ROGER FEDERER: I don’t recall exactly when that started to happen. I remember giving Stan a lot of advice on how he should play certain guys. What I like with Stan is if I would tell him something, I felt like he was able to do it. That showed me that he’s a great player, that he’s got a mind of somebody who understands what I’m trying to explain him.
Some players, you tell them something, they’ve just got no clue what to do, what it means. Stan had that early on, so I think he was a great learner.
Then the day came where he didn’t call me so much any more. He called me less and less. I also felt like I didn’t tell him any more, because he created his knowledge, his base, had his team. Only from time to time would I give him advice if he asked me.
Otherwise I was happy that he was able to let go and go on his own path. I don’t remember when that was, but I think it was sort of a few years before his first Grand Slam.
Q. Have you ever asked him for advice?
ROGER FEDERER: Of course, I have. We always used to talk to one another, naturally in Davis Cup, because then you were on the same team, you would talk about players. It has happened. But it has been 95% of me giving him advice.
Q. Do you think he knows your game better than anybody in the draw and therefore represents a greater danger?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I think him and Rafa know my best game. I played him so much. Stan and I practiced so much together. With Rafa, I only practiced once in my life, whereas with Stan, I can’t even keep count anymore. Yeah, I guess those two guys know me very well.
Q. Is it strange, here you are in the semifinals, and a guy who you grew up with was just announced to become a Hall of Famer in Andy Roddick? Did you see him here?
ROGER FEDERER: No, I didn’t even know he was going to be here. Next thing you know, someone told me that he’s here.
I’m like, Wow, that’s so cool.
I hope I run into him. I’m very psyched for him. I think Andy’s a great guy, enormous tennis player. So well-deserved really. So I hope I can run into him. I hope he’s not taking the first flight out again and I missed him, because I’d like to congratulate him.
I’m always happy to see old friends that I can even call Hall of Famers now. It’s very cool for him. I’m super happy.
Q. For Americans, your ’09 final with Andy was huge.
ROGER FEDERER: It was tough, as well (smiling).
Q. Talk about Andy, that match, and particularly his forehand to the open court. You often say that one shot doesn’t make that much of a difference, but talk about that shot, that match.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know if he wants to hear about that.
Look, he deserved it maybe more than I did that day. I don’t know. Maybe it was just meant to be for me. Mirka was pregnant. I had just won the French. Things were going my way, I don’t know. Of course, I fought as hard as I possibly could. I had to get lucky as well in the process.
Like you said, he did have that one shot. Who knows if he makes that what’s going to happen. I didn’t break him, I think, for, whatever, three and a half, four hours. Of course, I was frustrated myself.
Somehow I stayed in the match and was able to get it in the end. It’s definitely one of the great matches that both of us ever played because it was also played at Wimbledon, under the circumstances.
I came off of a tough final the year before. I had a brutal loss to Nadal. Of course, I wanted to get back to winning ways at Wimbledon. It meant a lot to me.
If I’m not wrong, he won the last match we played against each other, and I won the first, so everything in between is a blur.
Q. He stated you were lucky he retired because he won the last match. He was joking.
ROGER FEDERER: We joke a lot, the two of us.
Q. Do you feel the faster courts this year are helping, let’s say, the older players in this tournament?
ROGER FEDERER: Older players? I don’t know. I understand what you’re saying.
I don’t know. Possibly. I think with faster conditions, the older generation, I’m saying like anything before 2005, they are used to faster courts. From that moment on, it was a switch. Maybe it was shortly before that. I’m not sure. But we had to grow up in faster conditions.
I remember my indoor courts that I used to play on in Switzerland, they were lightning. I mean, I was playing on carpet or something like this that was shiny. You hit a slice, you could stay on the baseline, you knew it was always going to come to you.
Then everything changed as time went by. I think if you look at also Venus, she loves the fast courts. She always has. I think it just is natural for her to play well on this surface because maybe there’s less thinking going on, you just play with instinct. That’s maybe what older guys can do very well because they don’t get frustrated in faster conditions.
It’s also an art to learn that. You see with Zverev, who was able to attack the net all the time, not getting frustrated. Sometimes it very tricky against that kind of player because we just don’t see it so often.
But I generally enjoy it because I like when he puts in a nice volley past me. I just think it’s a nice play. I think there’s nothing you can do about it. Then you kind of move on. That’s why maybe I stayed as calm as I did today. Maybe it has helped me, too, in my comeback, no doubt about it.
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