Tennis ace Roger Federer opens up about biggest challenge at 36, his advice to Andy Murray and more

Monaco: After an incredible 2017 where he won two Grand Slams, it was going to surprise no one that Roger Federer won the Laureus Comeback of the Year and the Laureus Sportsman of the Year awards at a glittering ceremony attended by the who's who of world sports. Given an injury ravaged 2016, Federer's twin Grand Slams were proof, if any was needed, that the Swiss maestro is still among the best.

Roger Federer poses with his Laureus trophy collection.

Roger Federer poses with his Laureus trophy collection. This year, he won two trophies – Laureus Comeback of the Year and Laureus Sportsman of the Year.

In an interview with select journalists before the Laureus Awards ceremony on Tuesday, Federer spoke about his biggest challenge at this stage of his career, the aesthetics of his game, what Andy Murray can do to extend his career, and of course, his eternal rival and friend Rafael Nadal among a host of other things.

Edited extracts:

On advice he would give to Andy Murray to prolong his career:

From my own experience what I have learnt is to become patient. When you're injured, you should only comeback when you are 100 percent. Not to comeback when you're 92 percent or 85 percent or whatever the number is. You got to feel like you can win, that you can run for every drop shot that gets hit or every top shot that gets hit behind you. You have to be able to try to get it. If you can't do that in practice, there's no point. I've come to realise that especially when you're coming from an injury, it's better to wait. It happens sometimes during a tournament that you're hurt and you're struggling. But nobody knows you're hurt, then it's okay. But if people know you've had a problem, then it's really best to sort of wait it out, train really hard, get back out when you're 100 percent.

On the aesthetics and style of his game:

I've never really tried to imitate other players. But I try and move the best each time on the court. It seems elegant to a lot of people because tennis became a very aggressive moving kind of a game. Maybe with my one-handed backhand, using the slice, seeming that I'm playing a high-impact game, make it seem low impact, made it quite elegant. I think I have been very fortunate. My movement has allowed me to stay more injury free than others. I think the pounding on my body has been reduced due to my movement to some extent. I do play offensive tennis. When you do that, you dictate where you're going to go. When you play defensive tennis, you're at the mercy of what your opponent is doing. It was never a goal of mine to play elegant tennis, but it just happened that way. It happened organically.

Considering the scrutiny over Boris Becker's financial problems and his marriage, are Germans too harsh on Boris Becker?

I have no idea. I've followed Boris' career since I was little boy, you know. He was such a champion when he was younger. He was an idol to so many along with Steffi Graf. He enjoyed the game. And when you do enjoy the game, you have to accept the other side to the coin. Of course, sometimes he didn't deserve it and sometimes he probably did. He did a great job with Novak, and he did a great job as a player. And the rest is something really personal, so I don't want to comment about that.

His biggest challenge at this age:

Staying injury free at this stage of my career. Getting the balance right between practice, matches, time off, family, media and sponsors. There are just so many things going on. So getting the balance right too. My team's rock solid, you know. I have a wonderful team, they help me a lot. My wife's always there for me, my parents are always there for me. So from that standpoint it's all good. I think managing the schedule and staying injury free. When you get older, you have to put in a bit of extra and different kind of work that you did when you were younger. So you have to be careful. But you don't want to be so careful that it becomes almost not enjoyable anymore. Luckily enough, I don't have to practice that much any more or I don't have to do certain types of exercises to feel better. I don't need to play so much tennis. I just need to play good tennis. That allows me to take sufficient breaks. So when I do play I should be sufficiently hungry and motivated. It's an interesting stage of my life. I never thought I would play with a schedule I have right now. I always thought I was going to play 20 or 25 tournaments every single year till I retired.

On having a fear of injury going into Rotterdam earlier this month after the one picked up last year:

I can't worry about injuries all the time. Otherwise, I will never be free. It's like being locked in a cage and I can't reach my maximum potential on the tennis court like that. So, I can't be scared. Some injuries do occur, but then I try and manage those the best I can. Going into Rotterdam I wasn't worried of getting injured to be honest. I was very much excited to become the World No 1 and win my 97th title. That was the overriding fear, if any. Of course sometimes when you're not feeling well, like at the US Open last year when I went in with a bad back and then other body parts started hurting. That is when you're like 'I hope I come out of the tournament in one piece.' I always make a conscious effort with my fitness coaches that they get the opportunity to ask me 'How are you feeling?' or 'Are you feeling anything?' I was doing a fitness session this morning and my fitness coach did ask me, 'How are you feeling?' It's just a normal thing when you get older to worry about it, but I really try to push it as much on the side as possible.

On the newer generation replacing his generation and someone going on to win 10 Grand Slams: 

It's definitely hard to see one player (from the younger generation) right now getting to 10 Slams. It's hard to tell right now. It's easier to say that a lot of the promising youngsters are going to win a Slam or two. But winning 10 Slams is not something you can predict. I don't think anyone predicted that I would win 10 Slams when I was young. Maybe they did with Rafael Nadal. It's very hard to predict. But once you get rolling, like Novak Djokovic or I did, three or four years later you've won eight or 10 Slams. It's crazy. Momentum and confidence are big things. Someone's going to follow in our footsteps. Right now, we're like a shadow over the game, the big guys. We don't allow them to completely flourish yet. The moment we're gone, it's going to be very, very exciting.

On the one aspect of Rafael Nadal that he would like to have:

If you look at his footwork on clay, it's probably the best in the business. It's why he's won so many French Open titles. I love his forehand. And of course his fighting spirit is great. The way he's managed to play through injuries and managed tough moments. It was very interesting for me to play with him at the Laver Cup and see how his mind works. He's always trying new things, but also knows what he's good at. That's why he's one of the greatest players to ever play the game.

The author is in Monaco at the invitation of Laureus

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Updated Date: Mar 02, 2018 16:12:36 IST

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