Roger Federer has his guns trained on Slams and silverware. The 17-time Grand Slam champion, who did little of note on the big stage last year, understands that it’s an uphill task, but he isn’t stepping back.
In an exclusive chat with the Satyamev Jayate, the 32-year-old artist said he wasn’t playing for consistency, but was going for greatness, a season studded with titles and trophies.
How have the two big changes you’ve made this year — racket switch and bringing on Stefan Edberg as your coach — affected your game?
I’m not thinking about the racket anymore which means I’m settled with it. There are no questions in my mind, that’s a positive thing. It feels like I’ve been using it for longer than a few months. I’ve always wanted to make this change, move to a wider frame. I tested it long back, but was unable to make the move. Brisbane and then Melbourne gave me the confirmation that it’s been a good switch, an easy one. No drama. It has given me greater power, especially on my serve, it’s easier on my backhand and I have fewer mishits which is what I expected of the racket when I made the change.
Stefan’s has been an inspirational and motivational partnership. At this stage in my career you are not going to see me make any technical changes, the way I hit my backhand and forehand, it’s the little details, tactics. He’s one of the great players in the game and I enjoy talking to him about his time, the rivalries of his era, I relate to it. I find his talk inspiring. He also gives me great insight into the modern game, I enjoy picking his brains over dinner or after a practice session.
How disappointing was it losing to Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open?
It’s not the first time I’ve lost to Rafa. I thought I had a good run in Australia, reaching the semifinals, of course it was disappointing to lose. It’s not any more or less disappointing than my previous losses to him. When you’re playing well and doing what you have to it’s easier to bounce back from these matches. I feel my best tennis is ahead of me. I’m looking forward to the coming months, how they’re going to play out. I feel like I’m going to be a 100% again by around April.
Physically I feel fit, which is encouraging. I can run for every ball. I’m waking up in the morning with no pain. I think this is as good as I’ve felt in probably a year. Looking ahead, I want to stay injury free.
Do you think Rafa can eclipse your Grand Slam record of 17 titles?
Could Rafa eclipse my record? Yeah, absolutely, I think he can. The good thing though is that I’m still playing and my goal is to add more titles to my count — and not just Grand Slam titles. I love any tennis tournament I play in and Dubai is an important tournament for me.
How do you deal with the demon of doubt, especially in the past year when things haven’t been going your way?
Doubt, the questions, they’re always there, in the best of times and in the worst of times. Everybody deals with it in a different way. Doubts come with loss of confidence, it can be because of injury, bad form or just something you have to deal with as you get older and your body isn’t the same as it was. I believe though, whatever, it may be, if you identify the problem and work on it you’ll find a way past it. First you need to admit you have a problem and then deal with the issue. The worst is to walk around pretending all is well, when it’s clearly not.