A ‘laid-back’ Roger Federer tunes up for US Open
TORONTO — Roger Federer is enjoying the good life.
At 33, he has 17 Grand Slam titles and a family now four children deep after his wife gave birth to twin boys in May. Now, as he plays in a U.S. Open tuneup at the Rogers Cup, he considers himself “more laid back” than at any time in his career.
“I see the positive side of things today,” Federer said. “When I was younger I felt much more pressure. I felt like I had to do what people said, and I would listen to everything. Today I kind of go my pace, and I really enjoy it in the process.”
Federer got off to a fine start in Toronto on Tuesday night, advancing to the third round with a 6-2, 6-0 victory against Canadian wild card Peter Polansky. The second-seeded Swiss star is going for his third title of the year.
He still has “the determination to go out there and work hard and still have the motivation, which I think is something that’s really, really important,” said former star Stefan Edberg, now Federer’s coach. “It’s been good to see him making some progress this year.”
Federer does not feel the obligation to play as many tournaments as he once did. He is ranked No. 3 and taking a simpler approach to the game.
“I feel like I don’t really have to prove anything to anybody, even though people are always going to disagree with that,” Federer said. “For me it’s about how do I feel in practice, how is my motivation, how am I actually really playing, how do I feel it, rather than how is everybody else thinking they see and know it. I can analyze it much more clearer today than I ever have.”
Federer has seen plenty of changes in tennis since turning pro in 1998. Back then, he said, there was much more turnover between No. 1 players.
Since February 2004, the top spot has rotated among Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Federer hasn’t been No. 1 since 2012, but he spent a record 302 weeks there.
Change also has come in the way rackets are made and strung.
“I think some tournament directors are probably sick and tired of just the big-serving matches where there’s no rallies whatsoever, and it got very physical and athletic from the back of the court,” he said. “And, in the process, we lost a lot of volley players.
“Coaches everywhere, around the world, have made sure that their players are very good just forehand and backhand players and good servers, but neglected probably a little bit of volley play, even though I do believe there is a place for it. But it became harder and harder and everyone who had success was a baseline player.
“Clearly then, you inspire the next generation by doing that. And I think now we’re again at a crossroads a little bit where things are speeding up.”
But, for him, things are slowing down. At his peak, he was counted on to do news conferences in English, German and French. Federer will still gladly do that or help build ticket sales for a tournament. But he’s also prepared to step back.
“I feel like less is more because people already know a lot about me,” he said. “And I think the stage is also for other players to make a name for themselves.”
Still, there’s an opponent across the net. That never changes.
“It’s also about improving at this stage of your career,” Edberg said. “There is still room for improvements.”