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R. Federer Interview - Pre-Event
Sunday, June 20, 2004
THE MODERATOR: My great pleasure to introduce Roger Federer, our reigning Wimbledon Champion. Who would like to ask the first question?
Q. You look as if you're pleased to be back. Welcome back.
ROGER FEDERER: I am. Now it's a few days ago since I arrived, but it's very nice every time I step on the grounds and can play a little bit on grass. It's a very nice feeling.
Q. You had a good workout on grass the other week, didn't you?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah. Well, it was the best preparation I could have hoped for. Obviously, a little bit surprising always because, you know, French Open was tough. Then to get the motivation right away, you know, it's easier said than done.
But went good really from the first match on, and also in the practice I've been feeling well. So I'm really well prepared.
Q. How different do you feel this time around coming back as champion?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, it's different. Different kind of a pressure, I feel, because last year it was more about, you know, trying to make that first breakthrough in a Grand Slam really, go further than a quarters or a semis.
And this year it's trying to defend the title. All the focus I feel is on me. Also from my own side, I put a lot of pressure on myself. When I step on court on Monday, it's going to be strange feelings.
Q. Winning the Australian obviously has had a big effect on you, as well.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah. I mean, everything I've achieved since Wimbledon has only helped my career because I've become much more ‑‑ I have much more experience now. I feel more secure on the court. So this will definitely help for Wimbledon. But I've never been in a position where I could defend a Grand Slam title.
So this is a new situation for me, too.
Q. Do you feel the players' attitude towards you has changed since you became champion last year?
ROGER FEDERER: Not really. Maybe players do less jokes about me now than before, I don't know (smiling). I don't know if that's really the case. But I have to say, I get along well with a lot of, you know, the players because I speak three languages. That makes it easier.
Q. Coming in here last year, people had been saying, "When is Roger Federer going to win a big one?" Well, since then you've won two big ones, The Masters Cup. So you put that behind you already, well behind you. You're not coming in here with anything to prove except maybe to yourself.
ROGER FEDERER: Yes, that's also the way I feel. And I think, you know, I'm very happy that this last year has been so great to me. So I don't have again such enormous pressure on my shoulders coming back to Wimbledon.
I'm happy I've, you know, really done some really great results in this time. Yeah, and so now it's ‑‑ yeah, it's about Wimbledon, and trying to do well here, because this is really my favorite place to play tennis. Hopefully I'm going to do well here.
Q. Interesting first game for you, isn't it, with the British interest?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, of course. It's going to be, you know, special to see how the crowd's going to be. His side, my side, I don't know. But it doesn't really matter for me. It's a very special moment, which, you know, is obviously a moment I've been really looking for since a long time because I know since a long time when I'm going to play.
I don't really know my opponent. You know, I know more about him now than a few days ago. Yeah, so it's going to be interesting to see how well he can play.
Q. How conscious are you of what happened to Lleyton in the first round when he was defending last year?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, very. I was watching that match. I was like, well, I think Lleyton ‑‑ you know, it's going to be difficult match, but I think he will go through. I think he won that first set quite comfortable, then he couldn't control the serve anymore.
Obviously, I hope the same is not going to happen to me. You never know, all I can do is just try a hundred percent and hopefully it's going to be enough.
Q. After last year win, you already came back here in December, I think, with BBC special. What exactly was the reason?
ROGER FEDERER: I was invited by the chairman, Tim Phillips, because I was coming here in the evenings for the BBC sports award, Sports Gallery, I don't know what it was. I was here, you know, in the afternoon for lunch. I came back. You know, while I was here, I also did some TV stations, some Swiss, some British. It was nice to come back because it was very quiet and very calm. Because I left in such a hurry, you know, after this tournament.
So to come back, you know, kind of just relax, I don't know, get the atmosphere in, was very important for me.
Q. Did you go to the Centre Court or not?
ROGER FEDERER: I did.
Q. What about feeling?
ROGER FEDERER: It was very nice. It was unbelievable. I'm happy I did it because only coming back one year later, I think it would have been a pity. I could have kind of in a way already prepare for December what's coming up for me now. This was special moment for me, too. There was no lines, no net, nothing. But there was a fence around the court because of the foxes. Not even I could step on Centre Court.
Q. What about weather? London is always raining almost. Do you think can change something?
ROGER FEDERER: No, I don't think the weather has an effect. Last year I think against Fish, I came off the court two or three times because of rain. Also against Lopez I couldn't even warm up. I'm used to rain breaks and all these kinds of things.
They shouldn't play any role in the end score.
Q. But it works in Paris for you?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah. Paris is more of an effect of the rain, or of the weather.
Q. When did it sink in that you were Wimbledon Champion? It was emotional at the moment you won the title. Did it take weeks? Months?
ROGER FEDERER: No, to me it seemed ‑‑ of course, you realize what you have achieved right away. But you speak to all the people. You cannot still believe it. It kind of goes on and on and on and you never know when it stops because everybody asks you, "How is it? How was it? How does it feel? Tell us a little bit about it."
But of course for me the moment, I think, when I shook, you know, my opponent's hand and the umpire's hand, I sat down in the chair, I could not control my emotions anymore and I really realized this is reality.
Q. Tim Henman said on the verge of these championships that, whereas some people may look further ahead, look to see who you might meet in a semifinal, in a quarterfinal, is that really something that you ever look at or do you just concentrate on getting through the first game?
ROGER FEDERER: Obviously, I look at the draw, you know, at what is possible for some of the seeds. But then again, you know, both seeds have to win a certain amount of matches against tough players, which is always difficult.
I don't even know who I might play in the semis. I think Coria is ‑‑ is he? Yeah, I think he is. I'm not even sure, you know.
But normally I only look at maybe where my first seed is, you know, the first one, two, three matches at the most, just to know a little bit. If I win, at least I know against who I will play. But not more than that.
Q. In terms of recognition coming back here, have you noticed anything different this year? Have more people been recognizing you at all, maybe at the airport?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, at the airport, of course, some people saw me because I was waiting for my physio.
But other than that, on the grounds, there were no spectators so far, only players. There's a lot of greeting, of course, because you don't see each other all the time. I saw Tim Phillips. You know, he showed me around again a little bit. We had tea together. It's nice. I feel very welcome here. This is a nice feeling.
Q. Are you staying in the same place? Keep your routine the same?
ROGER FEDERER: Staying in a different place. I don't know if that's good or bad. I'm not very ‑‑
Q. Somewhere a little more expensive?
ROGER FEDERER: No, because last year's place was a little bit tight, you know, so I wanted something just a little bit bigger. Yeah, we'll see. But everything is fine, so...
Q. He asked you about some of the outside influences. But after winning a Grand Slam here, winning the Australian Open, how do you feel different within yourself?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, kind of I know what I have to do leading up to Grand Slams, because this is a thing I was not sure in the past, because I would come to grand slams and just prepare the way I would do for a regular tournament or any other tournament. This is ‑‑ I don't think that's the right approach to do it, because it is a very big change. You know, it's going to be a tournament over two weeks, best‑of‑five sets. If you're knot ready for that, somehow I think, you know, you could ‑‑ I've experienced that, you know, I failed in the first round. I lose in straight sets. The road is way too long to make it to the finals, whatever, once you're down.
So I've changed a little bit my preparations for Grand Slams. That's really a thing I've learned over this past year.
Q. As a player you cannot bet, do any betting. You know things because you are inside. You are the champion. If you can put some money on a new name, a young player, a specialist on grass, which could be the biggest surprise?
ROGER FEDERER: I don't know if there is a person which is very unknown to the people who can win this tournament. I think it will be more or less on Roddick or Henman. For me, they're the most ‑‑ biggest threats in this tournament to anybody and to me. So that's the way I see it.
Q. How have you changed your preparation? You mentioned you've done a few things different.
ROGER FEDERER: It's more of a mental preparation, too, and getting earlier to Grand Slams, because years before I would always play the week leading up to Grand Slams because most important is that I have confidence that I play matches because I'm a match player, not too much of a practice guy.
I found the way also to have motivation in practice and not let it influence me that I'm not playing the week before, and that already has changed many things for me.
Q. How has your preparation changed? You say it's different at the majors compared to some of the other events. How has it changed? What was it like before you won your first major? What was your preparation like?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, now because I'm not playing the week before the Grand Slam, I'm coming very early already to the venue. I'm already arrived on Tuesday, which is six days before. It's basically like a Davis Cup preparation in a way. You know, you have a few days where you can work on some things, and then the last few days I play a lot of points, sets, so on.
This is I think maybe a thing I wasn't doing until one or two years ago. I would only play tournaments because I would get in because I was not sure what my ranking was like. I would need points and this kind of stuff.
But since, you know, I'm up in the Top 10, obviously it makes it easier to schedule, you know, the tournaments.
Q. Are you aware a little bit of the nuances or the specific things with playing on a brand‑new grass court, as it will be for your first match?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I don't know.
Q. It's a little more slippery, takes the slice better. Did you know that?
ROGER FEDERER: No. Thanks for telling me (smiling). I'm happy I attend the press conferences, I get to know something about the court.
I didn't quite know that, no. When I arrived Tuesday, Wednesday, and I played my first time on the outside courts, you know, I assume that it's very similar to the Centre Court. They were brand‑new. Yeah, so, I'm used to it I think.
Q. You said you felt Tim Henman was a big threat. Do you think sometimes that pressure that Tim Henman ‑‑ do you feel a similar thing now as a champion, people have said you have the ability to go on and be one of the great Wimbledon champions of all time, is that something that ever weighs on your mind?
ROGER FEDERER: No. I think the pressure he has is totally different to the pressure the other players have here at this tournament. First of all, I think he's coped very well under the pressure he's had because he's the only maybe British player, men's and women's side, who has a real chance to win the tournament. This is why the focus is so much on him, which is absolutely normal. And I think he has done really well under these circumstances.
For me, you know, the pressure comes more from myself to perform well. Yeah, so it's a different kind of pressure. You know, he has all the fans. He knows they're all behind him if he walks on court. For me, they come to see nice tennis. But of course, maybe some will be behind me, but maybe some will be behind my opponent. It's a very different kind of pressure.
I think it's a little bit more difficult for him because he's playing in his own home country. But in a way it can also help him, you know, at very important stages of the match. Then the opponent could become very nervous and so on.
Q. His performance on clay in France did that surprise you?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, after the first two rounds, he won in five sets, then to make it to the semis is obviously a very good effort because, I mean, he was looking like he's not going to make it there.
But, you know, I know how well Tim can play. I wasn't surprised once he got through those rounds, that he really went so far. I didn't see anything of the semis, but he almost made it to the final. So it's a great effort. Of course, there's maybe more talk about him now in Wimbledon because of that. But he deserves it. He played well. And I think it's going to give him even more confidence knowing if he played semis at the French, that he can do even better here.
Q. Have you got plans to watch the France game tomorrow night?
ROGER FEDERER: I don't know. France against Switzerland, yeah. I hope Switzerland wins because we still have a chance to qualify. Are they playing at 7?
ROGER FEDERER: We'll see how long a five‑setter will take (smiling). If I can, I will watch.
Q. Nice thoughts about Mats Wilander, Todd Martin, former players. Can you say to us how many former players, how many coaches offer to you to become your coach?
ROGER FEDERER: Not too many. Honestly, really few former, let's say, players or top players who play on the senior tour have offered their help. There's not much I can say about that.
Q. You have Davis Cup where you can represent your country. Of course, you've got the Grand Slams. But you've been very clear how important the Olympics are to you. What makes the Olympics special beyond the other things that tennis players have?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, the combination to be there with other athletes and to be in a team, you know, for a week. You know, representing your country is very different to basically representing your name in a tournament.
You know, what I experienced in Sydney in 2000, was for me one of the best two weeks I've ever had in my career. So this is also why I'm going back to Athens. And hopefully I can enjoy a similar, you know, good time over there. Because it's really such a special place in that village, then the atmosphere around the grounds, it's also very nice to see other sports. Somehow that really hit me; it was a really nice experience.
Q. You said you know more about Bogdanovic than you did on Thursday. How have you done that?
ROGER FEDERER: It's very easy. You just ask a few people, few players, few coaches. Well, you get to know a few things. A little bit of his results, obviously I could do that myself.
Q. Anybody in particular you've spoken to that's been useful?
ROGER FEDERER: No. You know, maybe ‑‑ no, not really. I've just asked around a little bit, if they know him, how does he play, these kind of things.
Q. Can you ever prepare yourself for the X factor, the unknown ability of someone like Bogdanovic to suddenly raise their game against the champion?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, that's going to be there anyway. You know, that little bit of doubt, how well he's going to be. I think I will have to, you know, find out as fast as I can during the first set, I would say. And, you know, at the latest I should know after one set. If I'm up or down, doesn't really matter, but there I should know how he's going to play, on his shots, on his serve. Yeah, it will be interesting to see how I will handle that.
Q. What have people told you about Alex Bogdanovic?
ROGER FEDERER: Won't tell you (smiling). I'll keep it for myself. Maybe he's listening. I don't know.
Q. What can you come to expect from him then?
ROGER FEDERER: You know, I expect a tough match. Of course, it's important to know what he can do, the way he plays. But then again, I'm at such a level that I can really just concentrate on my own game. And I think, you know, it should be good enough if I'm playing well and I'm really focused and staying calm, because this is, like I said, a new situation for me to come to a Grand Slam and defend this title.
We'll see. He's a lefty. You know, I don't play very often against left‑handers. So this already makes a change to everything . Yeah, we'll see how it goes really.
Q. This match could really set the tone for your whole defense of the title?
ROGER FEDERER: It could. It's very important. Every first round in every tournament. I think last time I lost in the first round was at the French Open last year. So it's a long time ago. I hope I can keep it up.
Q. Roddick hit a 153 miles an hour serve at Queen's. Can you talk about how power and speed, the ever increasing power and speed in the game is affecting certain shots, the way that you play?
ROGER FEDERER: Wonder if those speed guns are right, really. I've heard players who say the speed gun was all over the place in Queen's. But I think he even hit it wide on the ad side. How is that possible?
I know he hits the serve very hard. Well, I think it will only ‑‑ the game will only get faster from here. I don't think you can do much to slow it down. Of course, you can increase the size of the balls and stuff, but I think that's not what we want. There is enough good return players out there who can handle a serve like that. This is why I think nothing needs to be changed right now.
Q. Sampras often talked about how much he enjoyed that moment, walking out on Centre Court, first match, first day of the tournament. How much have you thought about that and what do you expect that to be like?
ROGER FEDERER: I've put a lot of thought into that, how is that going to feel. But I can really only tell you after the match really how it felt and how it was. Because now I'm still also preparing myself mentally for that.
You know, physically I'm fit and everything, so it's going to be interesting to see.
Q. Players always talk about improving. How do you feel you've improved since this time last year? Are there aspects of your game that you're happier with or is it more a mental thing?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, it's not only since a year, I would say it's more over the last two or three years now I've been really playing with confidence since a long time. I had very little of dips, you know, where I wasn't playing well for a long time.
So I think a lot came when I started to improve really much was my condition, my physical strength, and then at the same time, you know, the mental part of my game also start to really become much more of an advantage because it used to be a disadvantage ‑ and I know that. I think this has made the biggest improvement in my game.
I think my backhand is much more consistent than it used to be. And I think this has just increased the whole level of game for me. I can play very consistent now. I'm not in a rush when I'm playing like I used to be sometimes.
Q. Have you watched last year's final?
ROGER FEDERER: Oh, yeah. Many times (smiling).
Q. When was the last time you watched it?
ROGER FEDERER: This I don't remember. I think beginning maybe of this year or so, yeah.
Q. Do you look at it for strokes and strategy or more motivation?
ROGER FEDERER: No, more for enjoyment. No, obviously, because everybody was saying how well I played in that match, how unbelievable it was, the semis and the final. Actually, right after the match, I wasn't conscious actually how close he was in the first set, third set and everything. So, yeah, I was happy I came through that first set last year.
It's more for me important to live through those kind of moments again and to see how it really felt. It's definitely, you know, a tape I want to keep forever.
Q. When you watch that tape, do you marvel at how well you played?
ROGER FEDERER: I don't understand.
Q. Do you look at that and are you amazed at some of the shots you hit in that final?
ROGER FEDERER: Sometimes I am, but sometimes I'm also disappointed that I see shots that, "How in the world did I miss that shot?" Or, you know, "How in the world did I make that shot?" Both ways.
I think I'm living through that kind of match again like as if I was playing. Even if everything is going the way I want, I miss a shot where I'm not happy with, I am disappointed, the same if I watch the tape again. This is the way I feel also.
Q. Can you be surprised about yourself on a tennis court?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, sometimes I can be, especially, you know, in a match situation where I hit a shot which I would only, you know, tend to do in a practice because it's such a low‑percentage shot and you make it. Sometimes it happens in important stages of the match. This is incredible. Then also I'm surprised, you know, I could pull it off.
Normally I'm playing very much with the percentage. I've learned to do that, and it's working, so I don't have to change it.
Q. Obviously Wimbledon is very special to all the British players. It's called The Championships. What is it for anyone around the world to play and win here?
ROGER FEDERER: I think ‑‑ no, I'm sure, it's a tradition. The grass court, everything around it, the whole atmosphere, Centre Court, these are the things which make this tournament very special. Grass court season is so short. When you come here, you know, it's so special.
It's very difficult to imagine if you have never been here. Once you've been on Centre Court and you've seen a match or you've played a match there, somehow you fall in love with this place. This is also what happened to me.
The first time I played here against Sampras, the first time I stepped on court as a junior in '98, I remember those memories like it was yesterday. This is I think for any player around the world a very special moment.
"The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work."
Go Federer, Nadal!!!