from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
by Thomas Klemm
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
Almost 34-year-old tennis star Roger Federer thinks he is far from quitting. In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Swiss talks about the secret of his self confidence, the advice to his four children and the gulls of Monaco.
Mr Federer, your two younger twins are now one year old. Is travelling for tournaments more exhausting for the parents or for the four children?
For the parents. Through the many bags you are not as flexible, but like a storm on the go. Although it is funny that we are many people and you can hide in the group. But we always prepare for the worst case. Just like for a tennis match we pack up ten t-shirts, three pairs of shorts, three pairs of shoes and extra shoelaces. You have to make sure you have got enough clothes on the court, if it starts to rain four times, and so you do not have to wear sweaty pants again at the end. That's all already happened.
But the stress doesn't seem to affect you...
I think it's an absolute privilege for Mirka and me to experience something like that as parents. We even know it so well enough. The first time I was travelling to tournaments I was 13 years old. Twenty years later, I am still in the process, so I can have a bit of what is called travel experience.
To show a child how to behave on the road, how different cultures and cities are, where you have to mind the cars especially, this is an incredible school of life. It's surprising to me saying that I have such a big family and still play.
When I used to have a vision of myself as a tennis player, I was always travelling alone; maybe with the coach, parents, a friend or a woman. But never with a family. That is why I am experiencing a completely different section in my life and in my career over the last six years compared to the first ten years.
After the final defeat to Novak Djokovic in Indian Wells in mid March you skipped the Masters tournament in Miami and granted yourself a couple of weeks off. Did you spend time with your family?
We had a big break after the Australian Open, when we were two weeks on holidays. After Indian Wells, the goal was to spend much time in Switzerland to practice, while the family went skiing. It was important to work with my fitness coach Pierre Paganini on my conditioning. I needed a break after Australia as urgently as I needed the last conditioning break. Last year I played a lot of tournaments, including the Davis Cup. That was very good for my game, but eventually you realize that you have done little work: it was the conditioning on the treadmill or to be on the tennis court for half an hour to play the forehand crosscourt, to get the feel of what it's like to storm into the ball.
How do you decide if you play a lot like last year, or take some time out like this season?
It always comes down to how successful you are playing. If you do not play well, it does not seem much. If you play good, the water is fast running up your neck and you think: Oh God, this is now all a bit too much. Usually you play better if you have a lot of confidence and rhythm. It was a little risky here that I did two weeks of vacation after the Australian Open, and then I attended two tournaments with a very strong field in Dubai and Indian Wells. I had to take the risk of losing early. That's why I was so happy that it went super in each of them.
Edberg recalls some things in my mind that I knew, but he wants to emphasize again. He is a man of few words. If he says something, then I hear him very interested, maybe I ask one more question, and that's it.
Roger Federer about the time he spends with Stefan Edberg
What are your plans for the rest of the season?
First of all, Australia was a total disappointment for me because I've played so bad against Seppi. I have no idea why it went that way there, so stupid. After that I kept on playing again as good as before with my tournament win in Brisbane. For the clay court season, I still have not made up my mind a lot. The first tournament you never know what to expect. After Monte Carlo, I hope that I can play really well in Istanbul, Madrid and Paris and at last reach the semifinals at the French Open. This is in my head, but I have to deal with it again. And it is clear that the grasscourt season with Halle and Wimbledon is the highlight for me. Especially this year, when you can even put more priority on the grasscourt with the extra week between Paris and Halle.
You spoke of a new phase in your career. To what extent does this also change, for example, whether you play for Switzerland in the Davis Cup or not?
The country is always there when I play. People think sometimes a bit one dimensional, that only the Davis Cup counts for Switzerland and nothing else. I am against this way of thinking. It was refreshing for me to have been in the Davis Cup last year. But can you play the same tournament for 15 years? Somewhere in your mind you can not.
Although it is caught in a net, because you have to play some tournaments and also want to play for the goals to be pursued. But you need to make something completely different to have variety in life. I get lots of exhibition matches with Sampras or Dimitrov. Although I realize that these matches are not like Wimbledon or the US Open or Basel. But it saves the fire in me. I do not want to have the feeling someday that I say: "Ok, now I have played all tournaments 15 or 20 times, that's enough, now I stop." I want to keep that exciting.
Another high point in your career should be the Olympics next year in Rio de Janeiro. Will you maybe join Martina Hingis there in mixed doubles?
She asked me in Dubai if I've been thinking about that. I have always admired Martina as an exception. For me it was always something special to share the court with her. But it's hard for me to say now whether I play only in singles or whether I should compete in all three competitions.
With Stan Wawrinka I will play in doubles, as well. If you are in two or three events here, there is certainly a greater chance of a medal to bring to our country.
When you had announced two or three years ago that you wanted to play in Rio, many people were skeptical that you would continue until then...
We're not there!
Yes, but aren't you surprised that you have been traveling for two decades without major injuries as happened to other professionals?
Yes and no. I'm surprised that I'm on tour at almost 34 and for the last 17 years. That I can reach Rio, I'm not surprised, because my goal was always to play as long as possible. I used to think that I myself have benefited to be allowed to play against Andre Agassi. He has thereby given me the chance to hit with him several times. I am very grateful to him that he has remained on the tour and, bang, just was not going away. It means a lot if you continue to play even though you can not win every tournament. For yourself you have to accept that it's more likely to lose, but for others you fulfill their dream to play against you. That's been my goal, to play as long as I stay fit.
Novak Djokovic has won quite a bit this season, you also had a good start with the tournament wins in Brisbane and Dubai, and the finals at Indian Wells. How do you assess the sporting status quo on the tour?
For an answer you must go back nine months when some people in the top four had issues. I said then: Murray had back surgery, Nadal was not fine, I had back problems, let's wait to see who is at the front when we are all fit. Although the Raonics, Nishikoris and Berdychs are all very good, now the four of us are in front again. I think that especially Djokovic, Nadal and I have something special.
We pull it through on any surface, have physical, mental or play extra capacities that often allow us to win. Especially Djokovic has a perfect game, he knows exactly how he must play primarily on hard courts.
Since not so many players attack him, it's too little dangerous for him. And when things get dangerous he finds a way, not least because of his self-confidence.
Therefore, I expect that the same people who are now in the top 10, more or less will be standing there at the end of the year.
In the front of the court everything happens very quickly. But if you're coming to the net, then you know that it works long term: your opponent has in mind that he is not allowed to play a short forehand
Roger Federer on serve&volley tennis
How would you compare the current situation with that of 14-15 years ago, when you were among the younger generation coming up?
There were more of us who have come up at the same time, compared to the generation we have just spoken about. Formerly Hewitt, Roddick, Safin, Ferrero, Haas, Kiefer and I were so numerous that we have forced many older people to quit. If now thirty players aged 17-22 came in the top 100, there would be not as much space up there, they would automatically override the others. I follow the younger professionals, practice with them or give them advice. I think it is important for the professional tour that we have young players here. Sometimes requests come. But I go to the people that break the ice a bit and make it easier.
Could you imagine to take care of a player after the end of your career?
When I see how many emails my manager Tony Godsick gets, and how he must stay tuned seven days a week around the clock, that's not realistic with my family for me.
You could work for your daughters in the future...
I will support them and see how far they can get no matter what sport. For me it is important that they are interested in sports, because of coordination, athleticism, and because it would help them learn to lose and win. I can safely support them, but I'd rather not coach them.
Your daughter sometimes rebells against you during trainings, as you have described some time ago via Facebook. One of your daughters has doubted that you have given her the right tip.
I told her: Hey, you're doing wrong, you have to make it this way. She then replied: No, no, my coach tells me to do it. But it must be said: she has not implemented what the coach has told her.
Who do the girls hear more, their coach or the successful dad?
I don't care, they just want both of us to listen.
If you are in Switzerland and, like recently, train at the club grounds in Zurich, do you like the amateur tennis players to be there with you?
It's important that people greet me normally and behave so. I'm not a superstar and say: now roll out the red carpet and so on. I go to the court to train, eat lunch at the club. I want to be integrated and find normality.
For almost one year and a half you have successfully worked together with Stefan Edberg. Did he improve your game at the net?
First of all, you have to be fit for the offensive game. If you are not physically fit as I wasn't in 2013 because of my back problems, then it does not matter what coach you have. However, it is motivating, inspiring and a dream for me to spend time with Edberg, have a coffee and discuss the seagulls flying over Monaco.
That we from time to time talk about tennis is also clear. But actually only in small doses, because you can also get much information. Edberg recalls some things in my mind that I knew, but he wants to emphasize again. He is a man of few words. If he says something, then I hear him very interested, maybe I ask one more question, and that's it. On the net I feel as good as ever. I spent hours practicing the volley technique with Tony Roche in 2005, with Stefan I have practiced more on the way go to the net.
For an amateur player, it's frustrating when he advances to the net, but the balls fly past him...
This is for us professionals, as well.
What do you do about it? How do you manage to remain faithful to your strategy and continue to move forward?
Sure, staying back at the baseline you have a better feel. You have time and can control everything better, while in the front of the court everything happens very quickly. For each attack you have to be motivated and clearly analyze what is happening and why. I think good net players can distinguish between a super passing shot by their opponent and a bad approach shot of their own.
But if you're coming to the net, then you know that it works long term: your opponent has in mind that he is not allowed to play a short forehand, otherwise there is an attack. I have a feeling that you have to show your opponent it can happen at any time.
How important is it for you or to collect world ranking points?
It is important in the setting of a tournament list of the top eight seeds. This helps the big names to go on in the draw in the early rounds. But in the end if I'm number 6 or number 10, who cares. I care for number 1. I go hunting for points to get the chance to come back to the first place of the world ranking with one or two Grand Slam tournament victories.
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