Federer ready to surprise himself again: 4 things we learned from his press conference in Geneva
The former world No 1 discusses his form, clay and his hopes for Roland-Garros and Wimbledon
Roger Federer makes his much-anticipated return to the ATP Tour this week when he plays on clay at the Gonet Geneva Open and all eyes will be on the Swiss as he begins what he hopes will be a successful spell taking in Roland-Garros and – most importantly of all – Wimbledon. Here are four things we learned from his press conference with reporters on Monday.
1- “Just focused on myself”
The performance of Rafael Nadal, in beating Novak Djokovic to win a 10th Internazionali BNL d’Italia title in Rome on Sunday laid down a marker for everyone on the Tour as they head to Roland-Garros at the end of this month.
But Roger Federer, back in action two months after his return to action in Doha following 13 months away because of two knee operations, has that inner-confidence all champions possess. Despite the form of some of his rivals, the 39-year-old says he’s confident that when he gets matches under his belt, he will be a contender for titles again.
“I am just focused on myself,” he said. “I’m just concerned about where my game is at the you know, the guys on tour are all back in a in a good rhythm. The level that everybody is producing is great. Obviously, I want to achieve that as well again, too. I need to do my thing. I need to play 10 matches to be able to give you a better answer.”
2- “I surprised myself there a little bit in Doha”
Federer will only really know how his knee is, and how he feels, when he sets foot on court again but the way he performed in Doha in March gave him a big confidence boost. His win over Dan Evans showed he can still compete at the top level and though he was clearly fatigued in his second-round match with Nikoloz Basilashvili, he still had match point. With a couple more months of fitness under his belt and plenty of practice sets played, he knows he can do it.
“Going to Doha, I was particularly worried about the level,” he said. “And then the first set I played in practice, against Danny (Dan Evans). I was able to win it in practice. I was like, what? I’m able to play at this level. So I surprised myself there a little bit. Now we’re on clay. So I’m almost more focused on the clay than the opponent, to be honest. But I think the moment I am healthy or able to get matches again under my belt could use to being out on court, serving for hours and then recovering and doing the same thing again, that will all just increase my confidence. And then I believe I will be part of the top tier.
“Now, obviously, if you want to be up there, you have to play good 50 matches the season and then that’s another level. When you get older, it’s harder to play those 50 or 80 matches or 100 matches like I used to play. So you’re in a completely different space. One thing is for sure, the generation of (Stefanos) Tsitsipas and (Alexander) Zverev and (Andrey) Rublev and (Daniil) Medvedev have all again gotten better naturally because they have more experience. Dominic (Thiem) won his first slam and in the meantime, Rafa and Novak are still where they are.
“Of course, there is a question marks all around my level right now. We will find out a little bit more tomorrow. But in practice, things has been going I’ve been going well, so I’m happy there. When you come back from an injury, you are anyway in a different place than everybody else so that the players are there. I’m here at the moment, so that’s why I’m excited about the comeback. That’s what my focus needs to be on and not about trying to be at the same level as Rafa Novak right now.”
3- “I hope that clay is also going to help me for the grass”
It might sound a bit illogical but playing in Geneva and at Roland-Garros is something that should help Federer as he builds towards his main goal, a big run at Wimbledon, which will not come as a surprise to anyone who has listened to Federer in recent times.
“I hope that it’s also going to help me for the grass,” he said. “And I’m convinced that hitting a lot of balls, you know, that you have to really power through the ball like you have to on clay, because otherwise you’re not going to have an impact on the surface, is going to be beneficial for me for the grasscourt season.”
He’s right. Getting matches in on any surface will help, but doing it on clay will build strength in his legs and the pure fact of hitting more and more balls will build confidence so he can really go all out on grass.
Winning a record ninth Wimbledon title at the age of 39 would be an astonishing feat but he will look at 2019, when he reached the semi-finals at Roland-Garros and then went on to be one point away from the title before losing to Djokovic, as evidence that it can be done.”
4- “I don’t feel super comfortable talking about it (Zverev’s allegations)”
In the last question of the English section of his press conference, Federer was asked for his thoughts on Alexander Zverev, the German who has been the subject of off-court allegations of abuse by his former girlfriend.
Zverev was part of Federer’s Team8 management group until the beginning of this year and the Swiss was asked if the allegations had anything to do with the decision and if he thought the ATP had a role to play in setting standards when players are accused of domestic abuse or other actions in their private lives.
Federer said Zverev’s decision to leave Team8 was something his agent, Tony Godsick, had been in charge of. and did not want to comment on the allegations themselves. But he was interesting when discussing whether the ATP should set codes of conduct for players off the court as well as on it, as some other sports, notably team sports in the United States, have done.
“We’re independent contractors, I guess, so it’s maybe more complicated than others. I don’t know.,” he said. “…I guess when you’re employed at a club or at the league, it’s something very different, in my opinion, because then you get a salary from there. But of course, there needs to be certain code, like…we have on the court. But that one’s also got more and more strict over the years, you know. So now you want to move over into the private life as well. I feel like for that we have other other set of rules, like governments…
“I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about it, to be honest. I understand, Ben (Rothenberg, the reporter), you want to write something about it, but you understand me too, that I don’t feel super comfortable talking about it.”