By Dhananjay Khadilkar
Roger Federer, 16-times Grand Slam champion, has declared his intention to end the 2011 season in style by winning the Paris and ATP world tour finals in London.
The Swiss Maestro was out of tennis for a span of six weeks, missing the entire Asian Tour. However, the rest has paid off for him as he won his home tournament at Basel last week.
How important was the second tournament win of the season last weekend in Basel?
RF: Once I past first rounds, I was more relaxed. The danger was to come back from six weeks, take an early loss and come here to a tough draw. Once in the semis at Basel, I was more relaxed. I could concentrate on playing tennis and not promotional and media commitments. Plus, the pressure to win matches was a good feeling to have. Now, I feel great after having had that break. I played well without any problems to my body. It’s going to be a tough week here, playing five matches in five days.
Do you still go through nerves after coming back from a six week break and playing in your home country as you did at Basel?
RF: There is normal nervousness before the first round. You feel the pressure, feel insecure at break points. When you are practicing on vacation, you don’t feel that. But after six weeks, you have to turn the fire on. For some, it is hard to cope with, for some it comes naturally and some have to force it. It was good to feel the nerves going into the first rounds. However, not having played before Basel was nice for a change because for so many years I played in Madrid the week before Basel, came to the tournament at the last minute and didn’t enjoy the tournament. This time I came early and could prepare well.
There has been a lot of talk among the young players about the need for a change within the ATP, particularly the schedule, the share of prize money and Davis Cup space in the calendar. What is your opinion?
RF: It’s nothing new, really. Quite honestly, I have been on the Tour for more than 10 years now. I don’t remember one year going by without any talks. The moment we have players with little niggling injuries, the press brings it up and then it becomes a story. If one of the top players mentions one thing, everybody follows suit. You get different opinions and stories get created out of that. It’s always tricky. It’s good to show the positive side than the negative one, a tendency I find comes up a bit too often in tennis. Clearly, we need to make changes. But it need not be done always publicly, in the press. It just makes it difficult for players to see and talk to each other. I haven’t seen Rafa since US Open. I haven’t had a chance to speak to him since then. We are trying to figure things out.
What do you think about some young players’ statements about strike?
RF: The whole idea of strike is always a difficult one. I tried to strike once in Davis Cup in Switzerland but I couldn’t because of my contract with the Swiss Tennis Federation. It’s a very hard thing to do. Till this very day, we have never striked or boycotted. If you do, you have to miss what’s dear to you. What would that mean if you strike Wimbledon or US Open? That’s something you have to think about twice. For example, in NBA, players are missing games. This is what hurts them the most. I think the problems are not that great for us to have to do such a thing. Normal common sense can solve so many problems within our sport before we look so far. We have to find the right CEO etc. It’s absurd to talk about it at this moment.
What is your opinion about the bonus issue? Novak (Djokovic) is in a situation where he gets quite a lot of money if he playes here even though he does not have full fitness. Do you sympathise with his situation?
RF: It’s a good problem to have, right? Is money everything? Clearly not. It helps. I think he has made so much this year, it shouldn’t matter. It’s his decision. Sure, it’s unfortunate if he misses out here. Does he deserve it (bonus)? Maybe, yes. He has fulfilled commitments and has been wonderful for the tour. He’s clearly been great for the game, especially this year. I hope it works out for all parties.
Paris Masters is the tournament you haven’t won. Does it remain your ambition to win it?
RF: No doubt I will love to win here in Paris. I have attended this tournament many times now. It’s true I have never made it to the finals. I won’t say it’s a surprise, but I have played very good in indoor tournaments, where I made my breakthrough. So not to have made the finals after all the success I have had is disappointing. But there are many reasons behind it including injuries and preparation. Also, I didn’t feel quite comfortable at the centre court up to two or three years ago, similar to Roland Garros.
Watch the entire interview below: