Catching up with Roger Federer in Cincinnati

Five-time Western & Southern Open champion Roger Federer held his pre-tournament press conference today at the Lindner Family Tennis Center. He talked about his health, his new racquet, and his enjoyment of this setting. Here are the highlights:

How would you sum up the last month?

RF: Yeah, not great, to be honest. I was ready to get over the Wimbledon loss as quick as I could, which I did. I took a short break and then started practicing extremely hard and things were great. I tested racquets and was ready to go to Hamburg and Gstaad and really play tournaments I really enjoy playing, but I couldn’t enjoy them in the end because I just had too many problems with my back and my body. I still ended up playing because it came gradually through the tournament at Hamburg. Midway through and all the way until Gstaad basically…I still was playing OK. It wasn’t like I couldn’t play at all. So that was the frustrating part, that I couldn’t actually play proper tennis, get into the right routines, play the right shots at the right time, because you start compromising a bit. So for me it was a disappointing last sort of two weeks there, which clearly I lost some time. But I was very motivated to come to Hamburg and Gstaad right after Wimbledon, so that was another sort of setback I had to get over as well. And then pulling out of Montreal wasn’t something I really wanted to do but it then gave me more time to work hard and come here really well-prepared. That sort of tougher moments I had to get over – the Wimbledon loss and then at Hamburg and Gstaad, just really not feeling well in moments. But now I’m fit again and I’m mentally motivated, which is very important at this part of the year right now.

Where are you racquet-wise here – are you going back to your old racquet or are you sticking with the bigger one?

RF: Yeah, that was like pushed aside in a way. I was just practicing all the time with the prototype I had. I played also Hamburg and Gstaad with it but because of the issues I had, I couldn’t even really focus on how was I feeling the ball. I was just trying to get through the matches, really. So, yeah, we’ll see how it goes. But so far I am happy with the racquet.

So you are using the bigger one?

RF: I am, yeah.

Not sure about media around the rest of the world but we’ve tried to retire you for three years. At age 32, what is the hardest part of this job as you’ve gotten older and what is the biggest motivator to stay in it?

RF: Well, the motivation is the passion, clearly. Because I think if the passion doesn’t overweigh all the rest, the end is extremely near. As nice as the travel is and playing matches and practicing and all these things, I think if the passion is not there, it just becomes so much harder and then you might be doing it for the wrong reasons. For me, there’s no question about that – that my passion is sky-high and that’s why I’m still doing it. I love what I’m doing and I feel very fortunate that I do have this opportunity day-in, day-out to do it. But clearly I’ve played a lot of matches. I’ve played for a very long time. I feel like I just have to do more in terms of getting ready today than I ever have. When I was younger, a teenager for instance, I would jump up and down for two minutes and then go, ‘OK, here we go.’ For a five-set match today, it would take a half an hour. It’s no problem but that can also really sort of wear you out eventually to do all these little things next to it, just to be actually somewhat ready. It’s like a car. You sort of need to warm it up. And for me, that’s a bit of a change but it sort of happens gradually, to be honest. I haven’t quite felt this huge effect of the new generation coming through yet but I have felt that the game has changed, so you can see that two ways. Is that fun that it changed or is it actually somewhat of a letdown that it has changed so much that it’s all baseline game now? So I just have to adjust to those new conditions over the years now because when I was coming up things were quite different still. But I see it more also as a positive, an opportunity for me to improve again as a player and adapt. That’s what you have got to keep on doing – you have to keep on improving and enjoy what you’re doing and then I think you’re on the right track really.

After Gstaad, did you take off some time immediately to let your back heal or is it a treatment issue?

RF: I got right into it the day after, really. I had a meeting that night, what I was going to do, because thankfully my back didn’t get worse throughout the match in Gstaad. What was it, one hour, just a serving contest with (Daniel) Brands? It wasn’t physically taxing but still, there might have been maybe a slight risk of getting it back to worse or maybe making it the way it was in Hamburg. So I didn’t do the extra time there. What I did was basically I just started to work in my back a lot and on my strength training. I just did that for many days in a row until I felt good enough to go on the tennis court. Basically I started working out on the following day already.

Is there one thing you’re focusing on now?

RF: Getting my game back together, really, and my body. So far so good. I’m motivated. I’m feeling better and I am entering Cincinnati with a good mind set. That’s, right now, it’s key. Now if I could win more matches, that would be good because I did win a title here, and that makes me think I can do something great here. As every other event, you always struggle in the first round.

You’ve won this tournament five times. It’s a tournament you circle on your calendar and is there anything about it that sets it apart from other Masters 1000 tournaments?

RF: Yeah, I mean I think every tournament around the world, maybe 250, 500, 1000 or Grand Slam – it doesn’t matter – has its own sort of feel for it. This one has a great history. I think it’s over 100, 125 years old, so you feel that this tournament has been around for a long time. Some players or some people might say, ‘Oof, it’s not got the big city next to it right away. You don’t see the skyline right as you look away from Center Court and stuff.’ But it doesn’t matter. I think what you find here is you find great fans, people who really enjoy this tournament. A lot of it is the volunteers and people who work here. I think they really wait for this tournament to come around. And clearly for us, we can leave and you sort of forget you played here because you look forward to let’s say New York or so forth. But I’ve always enjoyed playing here. I think that also shows in the matches and in the games I’ve been able to play successful. I like a quiet week like this to be quite honest. I used to like doing more crazy when I was younger. Everything had to be fun and non-stop all the time doing something but I also like it when it’s a bit slower. Here I can take more time for fans and practice and friends. You name it, whoever comes along. I always enjoy my time here in Cincinnati.

Is there any specific about this event – the surface or the balls or weather – that has allowed you to win five times?

RF: I’m not sure. Maybe it’s also the timing of the calendar. Who knows, maybe it gives me enough time to really feel comfortable on the hard courts again. I know it’s a very important week. I’ve also played equally great the weeks sort of before Paris – the Hamburg week, the Madrid week now. I usually always play very well there. OK, now it’s switched with Rome. But for some reason always a couple of weeks before Slams, I usually play well. No doubt that also the surface, I like it a bit faster maybe, even though most my success is on the slower hard courts because that’s just the way things are today. But I really like Center Court…I like the day and night sessions here. I don’t mind the heat anymore. I used to struggle in the heat when I was younger and really worked hard to get used to humidity and heat. And for me that’s no problem, so maybe that’s an advantage for me today as well. I’m happy in the surroundings here. I think it helps as well to be in a good mind set.

Date: 10th August 2013, Source: Cincinnati


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