Roger Federer: What we learned from his weekend of interviews

The 40-year-old discussed his fitness, Wimbledon, dealing with the media and how he’ll know when it’s time to call it a day

Roger Federer

After a couple of months of relative silence since his exit from Wimbledon and subsequent announcement that he would need a third knee operation, Roger Federer was back in the public eye this weekend, on crutches at the Laver Cup and giving three interviews in all.

The latest of them came in Britain’s GQ Magazine and here’s what we learned from Federer’s three main interviews, as he recovers from that third knee operation and looks ahead to the future.

Federer on Wimbledon: “Looking back, I’m actually grateful”

In an exclusive interview with British GQ Magazine, Federer said a couple of months had given him perspective on his Wimbledon experience this summer, where he reached the quarter-finals but knew he was a long way from full fitness.

“Looking back a little bit, I’m actually very grateful, very happy I was just able to play,” he said. “I mean, my last year and a half, it’s been really difficult. It’s been hard with the double knee surgery I had last year and rehab was really slow. In some ways I wish I would have been in better shape for Wimbledon this year. But at the end of the day, I made the quarters – I played Wimbledon, still. You can never take that sort of thing for granted: remember, other guys never had a quarter-final in their life at Wimbledon and I’ve had so many that I think I have got to have a little perspective and see that actually, overall, it was a really good tournament for me.

Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2021
Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2021 © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Federer on stress facing young players: “I can’t imagine going through the beginning of my career with social media”

In the GQ interview, Federer also shared his thoughts on some other hot topics, including Emma Raducanu’s US Open triumphs and the struggles of Naomi Osaka, who continues to battle mental health issues, and how the relationship with the media needs “evolution”.

“I was following Emma Raducanu’s incredible run in Wimbledon and also Naomi Osaka these last few years – it’s been amazing, both of their stories,” he said. “But it hurts when you see what happens and when they don’t feel well. The stress is so great. And I think a lot has to be down to social media: the first ten years of my life there was no social media, maybe I had just a website, then the next ten years social media was everywhere.”

Federer said he feels the players and media should sit down together to discuss how best to go forward from this point.

“In regards to this, the press situation does need to be reconsidered. I think I’m one of the athletes who’s done the most press – ever. And I agree that it’s always the same. Always. I think players, the tournaments, journalists, we need to sit down together in a room and go, “OK, what would work for you and what works for us…” We need a revolution. Or at least an evolution of where we are today.

“I think we do need to help, coach and mentor the younger generation more. I can’t imagine going through the beginning of my career with social media; I have no clue how I would have handled it. For every ten nice comments there’s always one negative comment and, of course, that is the one you focus on. It’s a horrible situation. Even when I am feeling down I know I need to act a certain way in front of the world’s press. We need to remember that tennis players are athletes and professionals, but we are also human too.”

Djokovic, Nadal, Federer
The Big 3 have won 20 Grand Slams each – Tom Flathers AP

Federer on the Big 3’s Slams record: “Someone will beat it one day”

After Novak Djokovic fell just short of winning the US Open – and completing the calendar-year Grand Slam at the US Open this month – there remains a three-way tie at the top of the all-time Grand Slam list, with Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Federer all on 20.

When Pete Sampras set the target of 14 with his US Open triumph in 2002, it was a mark many felt would never be beaten. Two decades on, three men have 20 and the target is likely to increase. Nevertheless, Federer believes it will remain a record only for so long.

“I think yes (it will get beaten by someone else one day). I feel like nowadays – and this is not to take anything away from Rafa, Novak or myself, for that matter – but I feel like it’s easier to dominate through the different surfaces nowadays. Back in the day, yes, we did have three grass-court events, but maybe the margins were slimmer. I feel like there were hard-court players, clay-court players and there weren’t so many players who could play on all surfaces. Sure, [Bjorn] Borg did it, but things were different. Players weren’t chasing one Slam after another like they are today and record after record. Nowadays such a strategy is much more part of your career. So, yes, a new, incredible player will, I believe, break our run of 20 Grand Slams eventually – but not overnight.”

Federer on fitness: “Eventually I’m going to be back on the tennis court”

Talk of retirement, it seems, is not at the forefront of his mind as he contemplates the long road back to full fitness, having just turned 40.

“I’m feeling actually really good,” Federer said in a video interview from a sponsor event for the Laver Cup, an interview carried on Eurosport. “I’m recovering well. Rehab is going really good, I’ve had no setbacks. Every day is a better day, I’m feeling strong and excited for what’s to come.

“I experienced it a little bit last year and I was actually surprised how somewhat easy it was for me to go through the rehab process, because I know it’s not everybody’s favourite thing to do, especially as a top athlete but after all these years as travelling it was also nice to be at home, having time for the family and other things.

In an interview with Jim Courier at the Laver Cup, Federer outlined why he is ready to do whatever he needs to.

“So now I just have to take it step by step I have to first walk again properly, run properly, then do the side steps, all the agility work, and then eventually I’m going to be back on the tennis court, but it’s going to take me a few more months and then we’ll see how things are at some point next year but I have to take my time. I don’t want to rush into anything at this point – this is also for my life I want to make sure I can do everything I want to do later on and there’s no rush with anything. I’m actually in a really good place, the worst is behind me.”

Roger Federer at the 2019 Laver Cup
Roger Federer at the 2019 Laver Cup ©

Federer on retirement: “I’ll know when the time is right”

At 40, time is not on Federer’s side as he looks to extend his career but he will only call it a day when the time is right.

“Like any athlete, you will just know when the time is right,” he told GQ. “I am not going to be the one that’s just going to stick around because I want to stick around. You know, I still want to play exhibitions down the road and have fun and go to markets in places I’ve never been before. The fans mean a lot to me, but I do not want to abuse my body. I still want to run around with my kids and ski… So I think you just know.”

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