ATP Press Conference: Roger Federer, Feb 26, 2007
ATP TENNIS MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 26, 2007
GREG SHARKO: Good afternoon and evening for some. Thanks for joining us today with Roger Federer, who joins us from Dubai where a few hours ago he won his first-round match to extend his match-winning streak to 37 in a row, going back to the beginning of last year's US Open.
As many of you know, today marks the 161st consecutive week Roger has been No. 1 in the ATP rankings, breaking Jimmy Connors' almost 30-year record of 160 straight weeks. Roger's streak began on February 2, 2004, after winning his second career Grand Slam at the Australian Open.
In addition, it was also announced today that the Swiss Post is honoring Roger with the Roger Federer stamp which will be unveiled in a special ceremony in his hometown of Basel on April the 10th.
Again, we thank everyone for joining us. We'll try to get as many of your questions in as possible.
Q. When you look back at that 2004 Wimbledon final, how big of an effect was that on creating the streak that's followed?
ROGER FEDERER: Hello, everybody, first of all.
Coming back to the question, Wimbledon '04 was a huge moment for me. Andy was working with I think Gilbert back then. I think it was when he was playing really well at the time. Me, too. It was really between the two of us for the No. 1 spot. I was holding it at the moment.
I mean, I remember coming back after the rain delay feeling that Andy was playing so well. I didn't know exactly what to do. I told myself, I'm getting in so many troubles here staying at the baseline, I need to play a bit more aggressive. I decided that on my own. He had Brad Gilbert in his corner.
To come away with the win, coming through, saving actually a lot of breakpoints in that fourth set, it was just huge. Looking back, maybe that was the most important match for staying at No. 1. If he would have won that, I think he might have gotten it back. But it didn't happen. It is one of the moments where really I could raise my game at the right time. I think that's why I stayed No. 1 for so long.
Q. Has there been another time since then where you were on the court and you didn't know exactly what to do?
ROGER FEDERER: I think with Andy it's obviously more special because of his serve. He doesn't allow you to maybe get into that rhythm like you want to, whereas with like Rafael, you are going to get into a good rhythm. It was usually against Andy or then maybe on clay against Rafael at times, I felt like it's really hard to play against him, to win points, do that over and over again. I think these are usually the players I've felt it the most against.
Q. Have you heard from Connors or maybe who else have you heard from about the streak?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I haven't heard anything from Jimmy. I also didn't read any quotes of him or anything. I don't know if he's going to talk about it or say anything about it.
Anyway, for me it's a great record to break. He's had it for so long. It's hopefully going to take some time for somebody to beat it. As my streak is going on, I'll try to extend it.
Quite an ironic story with Jimmy Connors, if I look back, because not only did I beat Andy Roddick in that finals where I saved match points against me in Shanghai, Jimmy actually coaching him right there, and that actually guaranteed me to break the record today. But also in Basel, in my hometown tournament, where I actually used to be a ball boy, between being a ball boy and playing, I got an award for best junior in Basel under 14. Jimmy Connors and Mansour Bahrami were playing an exhibition match and gave me kind of an award, which was a watch back then. I walked on court, had a picture taken with both of them, then walked off again. I was so nervous. Whoever would have thought I would have broke the record. Looking back, it's quite an amazing story, I think.
Q. Do you still have that watch?
ROGER FEDERER: I don't know, seriously (laughter). I don't know if I still have it.
Q. Who else have you heard from? Have you heard from Sampras, Agassi, anyone?
ROGER FEDERER: No. Well, Henman wrote me today. Some friends wrote me as well and everything. But nobody like of the caliber of Agassi.
Q. When you're away for four weeks, do you stay in touch with tennis? Do you follow it every day with what's on the Internet?
ROGER FEDERER: Between the Australian Open and Dubai?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, look, I wasn't following too much the Davis Cup ties, except the one from my friends from Switzerland. When I started practicing again, I started following the results, whereas before, right after the Australian Open, two and a half weeks, I hardly ever looked at the results. I just looked at who won tournaments really. That's usually what I did.
Q. Do you follow because you're a fan or because of doing research as a professional?
ROGER FEDERER: No, just because I'm interested in who is playing well, who is winning. There's so many tournaments on right after the Australian Open, there's two or three every week. It's always interesting to see who's kind of playing well. Basically more like a fan, you're right.
Q. The Grand Slam, is that like the next goal for you?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I think it actually -- you know, we had this conversation one year ago really after winning the Australian Open in 2006. Now it's coming along again. I'm in exactly the same situation: if I win the French Open, I've won four in a row, which is very unique as well. Of course, if I would win the fourth, it would be the calendar Grand Slam.
It's not really a goal I set for myself. The focus is so big on the French Open that I cannot think beyond that because I've never won it. And I think it would be different if I would have won Wimbledon and the US Open, that would come first, the French Open last, then I would think about it more often. But right now it's really the French Open is a tough one to win, and I really hope I can do it this year.
Q. Are you going to do any different preparations this year for the French?
ROGER FEDERER: No, I mean, same thing: Indian Wells, Miami, Monaco, Rome, Hamburg. I hope I can play all of them. I think they've changed the format a little bit, where it's not maybe best-of-five finals in Rome this year, maybe some seeding for top guys at the Masters Series, so it's going to be easier to play more. I hope I can play well again.
It's going to be the same kind of plan really, yeah.
Q. Obviously you just broke Jimmy's record. People say it's a foregone conclusion you're going to break Pete's record. At some point do you start looking at the women's records? Steffi's record for No. 1 is 186 weeks, Margaret Court has 24 Grand Slam titles. Do you start looking at those a little bit?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, not really (laughter). It would be great to be the best ever tennis player, men's and women's. But I think we'll have no chance of ever beating Martina Navratilova's over 300 titles, you know, singles, doubles, mixed. It's incredible. Also Margaret Court's records. I've heard about them. Of course there's interest, too, in the women's game. Still obviously I'm more focused on the men's. I didn't know the streak of the women's. I look definitely at most titles, most Grand Slams won, most weeks at No. 1, these are the really big records, plus the one I've won just now.
I am dreaming about maybe ever breaking those, but we'll only know at the end of my career.
Q. At Indian Wells you have a chance to win this record four consecutive times. You'd be the first player to win four consecutive Masters titles. Do you think about these other records? Not on the same par as other records you've broken, but do you think about them? Are they a motivation for you at all?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, I've said it many times: I really enjoy playing against history, against breaking records. But usually it's the media, you know, that reminds me of what I'm doing. I would only know a handful of all those records. But then I get reminded like, Hey, buddy, you're about to be the first, this stuff.
It's definitely very interesting. I'm not just playing against the other guys; I'm playing against the entire game and the past. It's a lot of fun. There's a lot of talk about it. I enjoy that.
Q. What would it mean to maybe win four consecutive at Indian Wells? You used to struggle at that tournament.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I did struggle. I remember I played first in qualifying there in '99, lost in the first round of quallies. Never really warmed up to me because it was really a quiet tournament. I was much more the guy who enjoyed Miami and everything. I ended up really, really liking the tournament because it's actually nice before Miami kind of having a really laid-back tournament. The center court is so beautiful, the site, what they've been able to do over there. I really like it. It would be something very special, of course, to win it four times in a row.
Q. Do you remember anything about the last time you lost out in Indian Wells?
ROGER FEDERER: It was against Kuerten?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I remember, it was center court. Yeah, I remember playing that match, of course. I was the favorite actually going into that match I thought. I kind of had a game plan. It totally backfired on me, I remember that (laughter). That's what I remember most.
Q. What was that game plan?
ROGER FEDERER: Me and Peter, we knew Gustavo really enjoyed serving the backhand. The first 15 serves went to my forehand, so I wasn't ready (laughter).
Q. I read that you went on a helicopter ride above Dubai. Can you talk about some of the highlights? Did you take off from the same helipad that you hit some balls with Agassi on?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, we took off from the same heliport where we played tennis with Andre. The tennis court was gone, I saw. It was a helipad now. Took off from there. Went over the Palm, went around the Burj Al Arab, went over the World, saw a bit of the highest tower they're about to build here. Actually was quite nice to see Dubai from the sky really because I've done helicopter rides in Switzerland, in the mountains, I've done it over New York City, which I thought was probably the most incredible experience so far in a helicopter. It's special obviously taking off and landing from that helipad where I played tennis with Andre. It was very special. I really enjoyed that. It was on Sunday.
Q. Do you expect to meet Nadal in the final, maybe avenge the loss from last year?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, he's got a very difficult draw with Baghdatis first up. The draw is really tough here. I think there's eight out of the top 15 players here. Very tough tournament to win. The conditions are really quick. I had a lot of trouble today when I played. I could not get the ball back from his serve. Usually I'm pretty good at it, but I couldn't do it. I still definitely have to find my game first as well. Raf also is very far off from making the finals.
Have to wait and see, but I would love to play him again.
Q. What does it say about Connors' record that it lasted so long?
ROGER FEDERER: What do you mean?
Q. What does it say about his game, that he was able to maintain that record for 30 years?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, I think that was one of his records. But I think the biggest record of all what he was able to achieve is win the 109 titles, play for so long. He played till he was 40 years old. That is an incredible effort. Then you have streaks like the 160 weeks he had, so he definitely marked the game the way he approached tennis and what he's been able to do for tennis is great. He's one of the all-time great heroes for all of us.
Q. I know you haven't played much since the Australian. What have you thought of the first few weeks of the season with respect to some of the changes the ATP has made with scheduling and stuff like that?
ROGER FEDERER: You mean especially with the round robin?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, you know, I remember having a meeting exactly one year ago. We were asked what we thought about it. I thought it actually kind of makes sense, the tournament gets to see the stars twice and everything. I was kind of in favor a little bit of thinking, you know, trying it out really.
Then the more I thought about it, the more I saw of it, I was actually not so for it because I'm the classical guy who always thinks the past was great, the knock-out system in tennis is fantastic, you have one bad day you're out, you have no chance of coming back.
We see it now sometimes, if a guy gets injured, he pulls out, he doesn't allow the other guy to come through who actually would have a chance and stuff. To me it seems like it's not the right approach for tennis and I hope it's not going to happen next year.
But I like the idea of having, you know, we try out, like the Hawk-Eye. Maybe I don't like it, but if the fans and most of the players are for it, I don't mind having it. It's just more like I like that we try things out. Especially now with Etienne coming along, I think it's important that we talk a lot with him and the players, get the game going up and up and up.
Q. You don't think the tryout is going particularly well so far?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I haven't been in one and I won't be in one, so... It's going to be hard for me to really judge. From what I've seen and heard, players are not really too much in favor of it.
Q. Has the ATP spoken to you about working with them to help win over other players? Have you taken a leadership role in figuring out whether these are good ideas?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, we have regular top 10 almost top 20 meetings and also player meetings where everybody can attend and has to attend actually. We do talk about the steps of going forward. I think that's very important, that the players do have a word as well.
I think it's important also that the ATP and the ITF try to work together as much as possible because, I mean, the ATP and the ITF tours are very important, both of them. That has always been my dream, that we all have a perfect schedule and everything. But it's always going to be so difficult because of the long-time placement of the tournaments. It's going to be always hard to change.
That's what actually my big goal is for the next few years, is try to give as much input as I can as a player from my experiences. I hope when I leave the game that it's better off.
Q. The Sony Ericsson coming up, Tiger Woods is going to be playing here also, which is unusual for the two of you to be playing in the same city. Do you plan to go watch him over at the Doral? Have you become closer friends since the US Open when you had that meeting? There's a lot of discussion about who's more dominant in their sport, you or him. The idea that in tennis you can't have one bad day like you were saying, whereas in golf you can have one bad round and come back. Do you ever think about things like that? If you had to say who is more dominant, is there an answer?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, to come to the first question, I had a lot of contact with Tiger since the US Open. We caught up in Shanghai. I went to see him play, had dinner with him there. We spoke over the New Year's, Christmas. We had a few calls again during Australia and everything.
Yeah, I'm definitely going to catch up with him again in Miami. I also saw him here in Dubai actually playing the final round. I saw him at the Gillette, the razors we did together. That was fun to see each other again. So we definitely going to catch up in Miami. I don't know if I'm going to see him play. I hope he's actually going to come see the tennis. Otherwise I'm going to try to see him over at the golf and definitely we're going to have some dinner together.
Coming back to the domination, I actually had a funny comment at the Gillette sponsorship. They asked me also about the difference, what you think about who's more dominant. I said, Well, he's got it easier, he's playing on grass all the time, whereas I have to go to different surfaces. He was like, Oh, there you go. It was quite funny (laughter).
Q. If he had to play golf on clay...
ROGER FEDERER: That would not be so easy, wouldn't it? I'm just kidding (laughter).
It's fun to compare with the greatest other athletes. I like the debate going on.
Q. Is it fair to compare two people in different sports? Do you think it's possible to say one person is more dominant in a sport than another or do you think they're so different?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, I think what he's achieved is incredible. He's been able to win all four majors, stay at the top for so long. The impact he's had on golf is incredible. He's so charismatic and everything.
I mean, I'm a big fan of Tiger. It's always hard to compare different sports. But I think when other athletes actually, like at the Laureus, for instance, they vote for their respective best athlete, I think that kind of is the best thing actually which can -- they have the most knowledge of how tough sports is and they can maybe make the best judgment. I think Michael Schumacher, me and Tiger, we've all won twice. Lance Armstrong won. It really shows they've picked it seems the best of that year. I think we'll see maybe this year again who they're going to vote. I have had maybe my best year. I hope I can win again.
I think it's great when other former athletes vote for the ones who are competitive now. Then maybe we can find out.
Q. Which award?
ROGER FEDERER: The Laureus Sports Award in Barcelona.
Q. Speaking of Tiger, have you heard from him with regard to the Connors mark?
ROGER FEDERER: No, not yet. I'm waiting (laughter).
Q. In getting to know him, is there anything about him that's surprised you now that you've gotten to know him?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I've gotten very surprised actually, to be honest. I thought he was very calm and everything. But he's the opposite. Yeah, I don't know what to say. I always have to laugh when I speak about how Tiger is away from golf. Even on the golf course, he's kind of joking around in a final round. That's why I'm so impressed with Tiger and I'm such a big fan of him.
Q. When you lost to Guga and your match plan backfired, when was the last time that kind of happened?
ROGER FEDERER: To be honest, by saying, This guy loved serving to the backhand, I stopped doing that. You know what, I said I'll take every serve the way it comes, rely on my strengths instead of thinking too much about the other guy's game. To be honest, I remember that match as actually being a bit of a wake-up call and not relying on the other guy's game a little bit, but improving my game.
To be honest, that's what I do now: I don't think too much of the matches any more; I just try to go in there and try to play my best. Hopefully that will go my way.
Q. The streak speaks to incredible fitness. One injury could have knocked you off stride there. Is that because of a fitness regimen, the scheduling, knowing when to take time off? What would you attribute it to?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, I definitely think scheduling is a very important factor to my success. I've always decided with my condition coach back in 2003 and '4, I always said, if I make it to the very top, I'm probably going to play less so we have more time to work, more time to recuperate, more time to get ready for tournaments. I've only had one really bad injury when I twisted my ankle a couple years ago. I was out for like three weeks or four weeks.
Yeah, I think that is definitely one of the keys to success, staying injury-free, having the right scheduling. Unfortunately, Davis Cup didn't have space in that scheduling, which I'm very sad about. Leaving my fellow players on the side is a hard thing for me to do. But I've played that every year, as well. Eventually I hope that Davis Cup is definitely going to become my priority. But next year it's going to be, again, the Olympic year. That's going to be a big goal for me, as well.
I think scheduling's key. What I've tried to do as well is have three times one month off per year. Obviously one is after Australia like now, one in the off-season at the end of the year, and one usually after Wimbledon. That's actually helped me try to heal injuries, try to get ready, mentally also get away from everything in tennis, the media, and come back fresh and having something to say.
Q. The nice story you mentioned earlier about getting a watch from Jimmy, have you actually told him this story? Is he aware?
ROGER FEDERER: We haven't had that much time to talk about it. He was gone from the game for quite some time. Then he came back as Andy's coach. He was actually commentating a little bit in London. No, I mean, never really had time to talk about this story with him. It actually came to my hind later on. I actually got pictures from fans who found that photo, gave it to the local press in Basel, or we had it there, the fans found it. Actually I remember of course I met Jimmy a long, long time ago.
Q. Obviously this latest record, yet another achievement, does it feel quite strange that even if you hung up your racquet tomorrow, you walked away from the game, you'd always be considered as a legend?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, it is actually quite funny or strange to maybe be playing and people already have broken records. Some call me a playing legend even though you never are as long as you are playing. I'm not in the Hall of Fame or anything. It's a lot of fun for me because the last three or four years have been incredible. I've had so many things in my life. I had to adapt to situations in terms of sponsoring, many offers I had to say, Look, I can't do it because I want to do tennis and maybe not attend red carpets and all this stuff. It's been a very interesting couple of years for me. That's what I really enjoy. I'm still doing what I love most, is playing tennis. People have a great interest in me. I have many fans around the world because tennis is such a global sport.
No, I mean, it's great. I'm looking forward to many more years to come really.
Q. You mentioned earlier how Jimmy was still playing when he was 40. What do you think you'll be doing when you're 40?
ROGER FEDERER: I doubt that I'll still be playing because the game's so demanding these days. Yeah, very tough on the body with the hard courts and everything. Yeah, just becoming more brutal.
I think I'm really at the stage now when I start thinking much more about my future after tennis. I mean, I have the Roger Federer Foundation. Obviously I would like to dedicate much more time to that. Maybe family, marriage. I don't know what's coming. I'm definitely getting more and more focused on also what's after tennis.
Q. You mentioned Tim Henman sending you a message. Was that a text or letter?
ROGER FEDERER: We don't write letters anymore (laughter). We write each other texts. Sometimes we call each other. I was wondering what he was doing, where he was. He said he was in Vegas, doing fine. He congratulated me for the record and everything. That was nice.
Q. Is he one of the guys you're closest to on the tour?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, we get along very well. It's usually my former doubles partners or my Swiss friends. To be honest, I get along very well with many, many of the guys, thanks to my three languages I speak. You know, I came through with a lot of guys through juniors, as well. I have a lot of friends on tour. Tim was a different generation. But now over the last few years really we've gotten closer. He's a very nice guy. So I always like to hang out with him and practice.
Q. Without wishing to intrude on a private text, can I ask the gist of what he said?
ROGER FEDERER: He said he was at a huge hotel in Vegas. What else did he say? He's looking forward to seeing us in Indian Wells actually. He was actually very polite.
Q. Well, he's English.
ROGER FEDERER: Absolutely.
GREG SHARKO: Again, we thank everybody for joining us this afternoon and evening. Information on Roger's streak can be found on ATPTennis.com.
Roger, good luck the rest of the week, and in your pursuit of the another record within reach, Guillermo Vilas' winning streak of 46 matches in a row back in 1977. Again, congratulations from all of us and all the best.
ROGER FEDERER: Thanks, guys.