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An Interview With: Roger Federer

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Q. When looking at the draw, it appeared you had the toughest first-round match of the top four or five seeds. I know he gave you difficulty the last time you played. I think you mentioned that on Saturday. What was it about today that made the match look so easy?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, that's the thing. You just don't know how these matches are played out. Yeah, looking ahead, it definitely looked like a very tough draw in the first round. For me, anyways. But then again, today was much faster than Shanghai. It's a different place and different conditions. It allowed me to play fast-court tennis against him, which wasn't really the case in Shanghai. Plus I wasn't quite sure how conditions were there. The ball was flat and wasn't bouncing at all. I don't know. I just got a little bit surprised how big he was serving, as well, over there. I think I was better prepared here this time around. Plus, I'm playing very well at the moment. Playing with confidence. Got off to a good start. Then the match obviously can be very different.

Q. You come in after a win in Cincinnati. Tricky opponent. To play in such a dominant fashion as you did right now, how good do you feel at the start of this campaign?

ROGER FEDERER: I feel good now. I actually wasn't so confident yesterday and today. I just felt like maybe could be one of those matches I just couldn't see it coming. So thankfully I took this match extremely serious. I thought at times almost I was taking it a bit too serious. I got that lucky in Shanghai, so that's why that was just -- it was just creeping around in my mind that maybe today was going to be a bad day. Plus I had practiced with him, you know, here, I don't know, the day of the draw, and he was playing very well in practice, too. It wasn't just Shanghai I was looking at. I'm happy I'm through. I'm happy I played as good as I did. Now at least I know how conditions really feel in a match environment. Looking back at the match now, I feel like I played pretty freely, considering it was the first-round match, which is always not easy to do.

Q. You were saying something about the court. Do you think that roof, when it's completed or even now, has really changed Ashe? 

ROGER FEDERER: Yes, it has. Forever. (Smiling.) I don't know if it's a good thing or not, but old Ashe was great. I loved it. That's all I knew until this year. But of course I like the feeling of these big center courts with the roof on. We're used to it Australian Open, Wimbledon, Shanghai, other places. So for that matter, I like it. I think it's going to increase the level of play from all players. If you think about it, probably more so the top players, because you know what to expect and you're not going to have to fight the wind as much. If you don't have to fight the wind you can play closer to the lines and make it better tennis. So probably it might be better for the top guys, my opinion. Then we will see with the conditions next year when it's fully sort of covered and it will be interesting to see how it's going to play indoors really when it's going to rain. And also just I do feel like it's quite loud, you know. Maybe in American sports it's quite common that the fans do talk during games or matches. I feel like the roof might bring that back down, so, you know, you hear the crowd speaking more, which before I don't remember hearing ever.

Q. There seems to be a really relaxed look on your face. How relaxed are you? How do you blend the relaxation with the passion to capture this thing again?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, now I'm very relaxed after this match. I was relaxed after being up two sets to love and a break. That's when I started to feel good. But like I said, the last one-and-a-half days I was feeling good, but somehow cautious about this first-round match and all of a sudden about the entire tournament. I think now that I'm into the tournament I know what to expect. My fitness is good. I'm confident from last week. I have had the perfect preparation in a way that I had enough time off, I had enough practice, I had enough matches, so everything is looking good. But then again, you have to, you know, win every match that comes. Looking forward to seeing who I play next. I think they are playing soon. Coach went to scout and he'll let me know what's up next.

Q. What was your first reaction when you found out Kei Nishikori lost yesterday? Did you have any thoughts?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, I was watching it at the end. I saw Benoit Paire serve it out. I know Benoit quite well, so I knew it could be potentially a tough match. Kei has been going through a tougher spell. Did he play Wimbledon? He didn't play Wimbledon. He did play? He pulled out, right. Pulled out there, pulled out last week. I don't quite know what the problem is. But still, he won Washington? Did he win Washington? Yeah, so he's been doing well again. He beat Rafa in Montreal, I think. So you could have expected a run again like he did last year, so it definitely was a surprise. But Benoit has a game to be dangerous, and if he isn't mentally there on the day, things like this can happen unfortunately for Kei.

Q. What did you think about the broadcast interviewing players in the middle of matches, if it's something you thought you might do at some point?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, I have done it in exhibition matches, never in a real match, I don't think. In the beginning also we didn't have interviews going onto the court. That was already weird, but we got used to that. Who knows moving forward what's going to happen? What I heard is they didn't really go through the ATP, which would be the normal thing to do. I think they went straight to the players. That's not the way to go. But we'll see what's gonna happen, you know. I understand the idea, but what's too much? What's enough? All these things. I understand pushing the boundaries and being more accessible. For me, in some ways it's -- I haven't done it in 17 years, so why start now? At the same time, you might think, Who cares, you know? Honestly I think I'm pretty relaxed when I'm sitting there at the change of ends. But you don't want it to impact your game and you don't want to look back and think, What a stupid move that was in hindsight, you know. Then you're frustrated about it. So I don't know. I understand the request, but I'm not sure if many players are actually doing it.

Q. If in a few weeks you will play Davis Cup. What are your thoughts on facing Holland on that tie in general?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, we're confident because Stan's on my team. Basically the same team as last year, which was a winning team. Plus we're playing in one of the arenas that we won the quarters and the semis. We hope that a lot of people are going to come. We could pick the surface plus the balls, so I think we're clearly the big favorites going in. Yeah, I always enjoy playing in Switzerland, so clearly I'm looking forward to it.

Q. Since you have been coming in occasionally on the second serves, have you noticed any of these guys making adjustments on those? And also, can you just describe that feeling when you're coming in on that? Is it a little bit scary?

ROGER FEDERER: I mean, I used to chip and charge some, you know, back in the day, last few years. Against certain players I did it more than others. So I have done it, but not in the way that I do it right now. So, yeah, sometimes, you know, I stand there and I'm like, Should I or shouldn't I? And then it's like, Okay, whatever, I'm going (smiling.) The good thing is when you do it, you have to play committed. There's no way around it. So when you do it, you're fully committed; whereas if you stand back and chip and charge sometimes you can hit it and you can still check it and decide to stay back. I kind of really like it, because whatever is committed in tennis is a good thing. That half and half always backfires, it seems like. So, yeah, today was tougher just because he was averaging maybe 105 second serves, which is big in our game. So against guys that serve around 80, 85, 90, it's much easier. You feel like they drop it shorter in the box so you can even step it up a bit closer and you can even generate some pace sometimes. But so far I have really been enjoying it, and I hope I can keep it up against all these players.

Q. You have always had a good serve and relied on your serve. We are always told players try not to think about anything about the serve. What sort of things go through your mind in those few seconds?

ROGER FEDERER: Not a whole lot. I don't think so. What am I thinking? I don't even know. I'm just thinking where to hit the serve, but then still I have a change of heart. Sometimes when the ball is in the air I go the other way. Yeah, then you think of maybe what has happened the last point, you know. But now maybe you're serving ad side, not the deuce side, so maybe patterns are different on that side. It's constantly rechecking what has happened the last sort of minute to whatever, an hour it might be, and then you take decisions from there. But on the serve itself it's pretty much, Okay, I'm going to backhand or body or forehand. And if you go there, how are you going to go there? Kick? Slice? Hard? Not hard? How close to the line do you want to go? So those kind of things.

Q. Quite a lot.

ROGER FEDERER: A lot, but not when you've done it a million times.

Q. Some time ago Djokovic said that even if he has won only one US Open, he made four finals. He says it's probably my best results, even if he won. I would like to know, how do you consider your best? Only when you win it or if you had ten finals in a row or you lost five that would be not a great achievement? Which one?

ROGER FEDERER: I mean, obviously winning helps or it always makes it look better than it actually is. It's like Cincinnati for Novak. You guys maybe think he can't play tennis over there, but he's been in the finals five times or something like that. Same thing here. If you told me Novak only won one US Open I would say, No, no, no. He's had two or three. In Australia it was very, how you say, he always wins whenever he's in the finals, seems like, except maybe once. So I think it also depends on where have you had early losses. I think early losses have a bigger dent than you think, you know, when you consider it. Wimbledon I lost a couple of times early. I don't think he ever lost earlier than the third or fourth round maybe, so that's why maybe this has been my consistent slam. Personally you always think at the US Open I always play well even though maybe didn't win the most. So it's a feeling that probably he has here.

Q. Some people think you may be playing your best tennis. Would you agree with that?

ROGER FEDERER: Yes. If I win the tournament here yes, maybe. Not if I win a first round, because these rounds are here to just keep on progressing and moving forward and doing the right things and giving yourself confidence and getting to understand the conditions. Of course I'm very pleased with the first-round performance, but not really more than that. I will take it match by match, of course. I'm not thinking too far ahead, as I know some people are. I'm just happy that the last, I don't know, one-and-a-half years I have been again very, very consistent. I'm able to play good matches consistently. I'm playing the right way, and also in a way that's fun for me. If I decide to have long rallies and stay back, I can do that. If I decide to move forward and step it up, I can do that, too. That helps if you have those two games. It's great to have against any opponent out there, because not every opponent plays the same way. Same for my second-round opponent. I have no clue how he's going to play me. At least on a faster court I know that probably I'm going to make him hit tough shots and I'm going to keep attacking and see if he can come up with passing shots or shots on the back foot and all these things which are not easy to do consistently.

Q. Pete Sampras would often say that Andre continually made him a better player. Novak recently said that you made him a better player. Would you take a minute and just talk in your career against your top rivals, how a handful of men have made you a better player?

ROGER FEDERER: Totally. I mean, of course you need those players that explain to you that you have maybe a horrible backhand. You're like, Oh, okay, I better improve that. Or guy is fitter in the fifth set every time you play him. Okay, maybe I better start improving the fitness, for that matter. So, yes, there is definitely a few players that have done that to me. I think in the beginning it was Lleyton, you know, who really was a big challenge for me, and Andre Agassi. For me to play those guys who had dominated the baseline as much as they did was difficult for me. It really made me feel like a bad baseliner to an extent, until I realized I had to move better and be more consistent, have variation in my game. I started to figure it out bit by bit. Then of course the likes of Henman and Sampras explained to me how serve and volley was played, you know, the art of sort of pressuring the opponent. I think that was, for me, very interesting to play against them or to practice with them. Then later, of course, this whole generation of Rafa, Novak, Andy, probably Rafa the most, lefty, challenged my backhand the most throughout my career. I realized I had to return differently every single time I played against him. I think it made me definitely a better player there, as well. And then that new generation - I would call it more of a new conditions, you know, with the strings, the court surface had slowed down - I just had to adapt to all of that and become just a physical player from the baseline with a lot of topspin and use the conditions from today to still be successful.

Q. How has Novak pushed you? How have you had to improve?

ROGER FEDERER: I felt with Novak it was always pretty straightforward. I didn't feel like I had to adjust as much against him. He was just very good. And I saw the rise of Novak. I don't know. I didn't feel like I had to adjust as much. It's just a difficult player to play against because he's just that good.