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An Interview With: Roger Federer

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Q. What is it about Stefan that made him your idol when you were younger? Was that at all intimidating when he first became your coach?

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, it was really Boris and Stefan. Boris a little bit first, and then little while later Stefan became my idol. I don't know how it happened. I had friends around me that said, Edberg plays so nice and started all these things. I started to watch him closely, and, you know, I liked the way he played and the way he behaved on court. I also had a one-handed backhand by then so I could really, I guess, relate to some degree. Yeah, that's why, I guess. And then, I mean, yeah, I think with idols or heros, it's always intimidating sort of forever to either just like speak to them or see them or spend time with them, because it's just not something you ever thought was going to happen. So when I called him, I expected, you know, a negative answer clearly. He doesn't need to do this in any way. So, you know, I'm thrilled that he took the opportunity, I guess. He sees it as a really big opportunity to help me and get me to winning ways. It's going really well. I'm really pleased how we're able to manage everything, because he hasn't followed the game very closely the last 15 years, but he has a lot of experience as a player. And, you know, with the information that I have, Severin, my coach has, I think we really make a great team. He really enjoys himself on the tour now.

Q. Did you personally make the call to him?

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, of course.

Q. You played two great tournaments in Toronto and Cincinnati, but you played mainly at night. Then it seemed to me the finals in Toronto you played daytime. Does it matter to you that you probably will play here night sessions as well and then come the semifinals or finals hopefully you have to play in the daytime?

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, I hope I have that problem. It's perfect that we're talking semis and finals already. It wasn't like that last year. No, I'm happy that I did play some night and some day in the last two weeks, because especially in the European circuit, you know, whether it be clay or grass, you don't usually play much at night. Or hardly. So next thing you know, it's like you're going through a stretch where you never play or practice really at night. It's all day. So it was good for me to get through some night sessions in Toronto. The switch was tough for the finals because I finished sometimes really late. So from that standpoint it wasn't ideal. But I'm happy how I was able to back it up physically and mentally. The following week in Cincinnati it was tough. I played a lot of tough three-setters, long matches, late matches. Now I feel like whatever. If it's day or night, you have to be able to manage both anyways, so I'm ready for both. Clearly always like playing night sessions here, but then again, as long as I keep winning, it doesn't really matter.

Q. Considering all the great battles you have had over the years with the top 5 players, are you at all disappointed when a top 5 player is not in the mix like, Nadal this year?

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, I'm more disappointed for the fans, his fans, and the tournament, you know, who puts up a great event. It's not necessarily dependent of an event like this, on the one player, but it's more exciting with him. For us, the players, I mean, we hope he gets well and he feels better quickly and all these things and he's back on tour soon. But at the same time, I think what stands out is the opportunity, you know, to try to take advantage of him, the fact that he's not here. It's one less really difficult player to beat maybe. I mean, maybe he was not going to be in my section. Maybe I wouldn't have played him at all, like I have never played him here in the last ten years anyways. I mean, it's just that the focus is more on you or other players rather than him. Yeah, we, the players, don't wish injuries to anyone, you know. So you just hope he recovers quickly.

Q. What is the mental approach to a first-round match at a major?

ROGER FEDERER: It's not necessarily just the first round, it's just for the tournament, managing the first sort of the preparation week with press, sponsors, practice, treatment, you know, enough sleep, all that stuff. Just getting through it in a way that you're really eager to play the tournament and you don't want to get ahead of yourself. Really give the proper respect to your first-round opponent that he deserves and the danger of not quite knowing the conditions yet, because you can't simulate a match situation in a practice. You can get used to the speeds of the courts, the way the ball flies, the wind, the humidity, all those things. But the tension you do feel on a match court, it's just totally different. That can really either block you for playing great or sometimes it frees you up. That's the unknown, and that's why that first-round match is always crucial.

Q. What do you remember of this specific opponent, somebody you did play once before?

ROGER FEDERER: With Matosevic now?

Q. Yes.

I think I have only played him once in Brisbane this year, and I played him very well on a similar court. So, yeah, he's had some better wins now. This year he's really moved up the rankings. Clearly I'm aware that he can play some dangerous tennis, but at the same time, I feel like it's on my racquet. I have to make sure he has to work extremely hard and he knows the finish line is really far away and, I will try to keep it that way throughout the match.

Q. You have had a pretty much injury-free career. Not the same for Rafa Nadal. Do you see any reason why he has so many injuries in his year?

ROGER FEDERER: I mean, I can't talk for him. I don't know what he really does in terms of his fitness, in terms of his training when he's home in Mallorca, how much he trains, how little he trains. It's all, I'd say 50%, you know, next to the schedule what you play and how you play. So I feel like I have managed my career well in the sense that I believe in rest in a huge way. Whenever I get a chance to rest, I do. Whenever I can go on vacation, I do. I don't want to keep on playing all the time and feel like I'm always doing something, because I think the body and mind, they need time to heal. Especially if you have inflammations and so forth. I'd rather skip a tournament here and there rather than missing three or six months, which has never happened to me. That served me well. So I can't really comment on what Rafa did or is doing. I mean, everybody does it very differently. But clearly playing styles I'm sure has somewhat of an impact, I would think.

Q. You have played your way through a lot of life changes that you've gone through. Novak is going through that right now. What would you say to him as he embarks on marriage and parenthood and tries to play his way through it?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, what...

Q. What advice would you...

ROGER FEDERER: Advice is different than just saying something. I mean, I would wish him well. That's it (laughter). Now you want advice, then it's totally different. Then we can go into this like endless talk of how I did it, which worked and which didn't work. I have spoken to him a little bit in the past. It's normal I think when you're entering the whole family thing that many people you talk to, all you talk about is babies and how to prepare for it mentally. I think it's a very exciting time. So I think he must be quite excited about what's going to happen soon. And with the wedding and everything, I'm sure he's, you know, going through a great spell at the moment with winning Wimbledon, top of it, so things are great for him. But I think he's got to figure it out himself really, because I don't know his wife very well. I don't know where he lives exactly. So I think that all has an impact. Are they going to travel or not. But the good thing, he sees with me with four, so with one it should be a piece of cake (laughter). Honestly I wish him the best. I think it's wonderful he chose to create a family, and, you know, have kids with his wife.

Q. Not one American man is on this roster today. American men's tennis hasn't been much to write home about. We have a local guy, Noah Rubin. Has there been a buzz about him? He's only 17, but is he really the next great American hope?

ROGER FEDERER: I wouldn't know. I haven't seen him play, so I can't really tell you if he's the guy. I hope he is. I hope we're going to see great talent coming out of America the next years. Because it's not just a big country and an important market, but it has the US Open and, you know, Americans love their tennis here. So it would be nice to have, you know, top 10, top 5 potential Americans floating around. That would be great.

Q. You travel on tour throughout the year with your wife and kids. For a lot of the lower-ranked players who can't afford to do this, they're away from their wives, families, 30 weeks out of the year. Have you ever thought about what your life on tour would be like if you had to travel alone?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, maybe I wouldn't have had kids then until I would have retired. So it's basically that. Then you go down a different route. You say, Okay, I'll wait. As long as the wife is happy it to wait, too. And if not, then you know going into having kids that you're not going to be around them so much. So it's just another different mindset. Now I can imagine traveling sometimes alone without family and my wife, but I know it doesn't make me very happy. I know it doesn't make them very happy. That's why we try to stick together and do it all at the same time. It's great fun. I'm very happy I got this privilege to do it, because I know, like you say, not everybody can do it. So from that standpoint, I think it definitely has prolonged my playing career. No doubt about it.

Q. Two questions about Stan. You have been a mentor to him through the years. Can you just reflect on the success he's had quickly? The second question is: You both play one-handed backhands. Can you talk a little bit about the difference in styles of that, as well?

ROGER FEDERER: About our backhands?

Q. Yeah.

ROGER FEDERER: No, I mean, I'm so happy for Stan with the success he's had this year, particularly winning, you know, the Australian Open. Still happy for Monaco, but less happy he beat me in the final. Nevertheless, I think it's wonderful he entered the top 3 of the world playing as well as he did in Australia, beating the players that he did. It was just phenomenal, you know. I have seen Stan rise up close. I have seen him take setbacks. I have seen him train hard. I've heard him train hard through my fitness coach who we share. From that standpoint, it's great seeing someone who has put in so much effort being rewarded for it. I really think he's gotten to a point where if he plays his absolute best, you're not sure as a top guy anymore if it's in your racquet. I think that's exactly what you want as a player. I know it's not an easy thing to do for him or for anybody. And for us, either. But I really am very impressed how far he's gotten now. It's just important that he manages the new situation well, all the expectations, and that he still keeps enjoying what he's doing and he doesn't feel too much pressure of just having to reach semis and finals and all those things that are being asked of him from you, the press, and so forth. I think it's going to be the biggest challenge for him. His backhand, I think it's definitely more powerful than mine. He finds unbelievable angle. On the cross-court backhand he can hit the backhand down the line quite easily, to0. He improved also his defensive skills with his slice, so he can use that very well. As well on the return. He does a really good job getting a lot of balls back into play on his slice. I think that combination is really a tricky one for opponents, including myself.

Q. You have mentioned how many people are talking about you reaching the semifinals and finals and how they weren't here a year ago. How different is your own confidence, that you feel you can definitely get that far, that maybe there was a little more doubt this time a year ago?

ROGER FEDERER: I think last year I was trying to convince myself I did have an opportunity, because I feel like once you have had success and once you know how to win majors, or US Opens for that matter, yeah, can you always do it again. I believe it's the case, but you just need a lot more luck and the draw opening up. Because I just kind of felt like it was always going to be for me hard beating top 5, top 10 players. I felt like I had little margin against guys ranked just outside of the top 10 to No. 30 in the world. And then the rest of the field I felt like I could manage it somehow, but the confidence was, you know, going away quickly, too, just because I was just not moving so well. I was scared to have another setback, and so it was just not as clear-cut and simple as it is this year. This year I played a lot of good matches. Not just Toronto and Cincinnati, but really from the first week on I have always played really nice tennis. Then you come into this US Open just knowing -- well, you remember how it feels to win tournaments. You remember and you get used to that. You almost forget how to lose to a point and confidence rises. You're back to winning ways again and everything seems so simple, you know. It's nice feeling that way. I'm looking forward to this tournament, because I really feel like I can play a great tournament. I hope I can show that on the court this year.