Never to early to start, I say.
Here's a couple articles from down under with quotes from coach Roche. Good to hear that Roger's been striking the ball well in practice.
Federer focuses on milestone year
Almost impregnable, Roger Federer can only get better, Tony Roche tells Margie McDonald
January 01, 2007
FOR the hordes of players who have been humiliated by Swiss Roger Federer over the past three years, here is a scary thought to contemplate on New Year's Day.
Federer, who has won nine Grand Slam titles and held the No.1 ranking since February 2, 2004 - 153 weeks - is just reaching his prime, according to his coach, Tony Roche.
Roche believes Federer, from Basel, who is just 25, and six months younger than Lleyton Hewitt, will get better over the next three years.
"Age-wise and experience-wise, as long as he stays healthy he should be at his peak in the next three years," said Roche after returning from training with Federer in Dubai last week.
The pair linked at the end of 2004 after Federer pleaded with Roche that, if he would not take him on full-time, at least he coach him for the four Grand Slams.
Roche stopped coaching after Pat Rafter retired in late 2002, saying he wanted to spend more time at home in Sydney.
Since then the Roche-Federer partnership has produced five Grand Slam trophies to take Federer to nine and sixth on the all-time men's singles list.
If he wins his third Australian Open this month, he will draw level on 10 with American star of the 1920s-30s, Bill Tilden. And if he is successful in all four Grand Slams in 2007 he will leapfrog his hero Rod Laver (11) and Bjorn Borg (11) and Roy Emerson (13).
Pete Sampras heads the list with 14. Although, Roche said beating Sampras's record is not the priority for Federer, winning majors is.
"At the beginning of each year his ultimate goals are the four Grand Slams - that's what his schedule revolves around," Roche said. "So if it happens, it happens. He just wants to win as many as he possibly can."
That translates into Sampras's record having a short shelf-life. Last year, Federer joined Laver to become the only players to win at least three Grand Slams twice in a season (Laver won all four in 1962 and 1969, while Federer collected three in 2004 and 2006).
Federer's other goals are maintaining the No.1 ranking and winning the French Open.
Roche said staying in front of the pack was one of the chief motivators for Federer.
"Even though he's had these fantastic three years - it's quite amazing, his record, with the depth in men's tennis today and the different surfaces you've got to play on - but having said that, he's always wanting to get better and looking at different ways to do that," Roche said.
"He knows Nadal and Andy Roddick and the others are tough to beat and they're always searching for ways to beat him, so staying one step ahead of them keeps him very motivated."
The other motivation is the red clay at Roland Garros. In eight outings there, Federer made the final once - last year - when he lost to Rafael Nadal in four sets after the Spaniard stopped him in the semi-finals in 2005.
Federer has lost in the first round three times, the most recent in 2003.
Roche said at the start of 2006 Federer knew he had to win the French to be classed as "a great" like Laver. "Obviously the French is a very important tournament for him for a number of reasons," Roche said last week. "He'll do as good a preparation as he possibly can. We'll keep pretty much the same schedule leading up to it, but I may go over a little earlier than what I normally do for the clay-court season.
"I think he feels he's getting closer and, if he plays at his best, he has a good shot at it this year."
Federer won 12 of the 17 tournaments he contested in 2006 for a 90-5 win-loss record. He is the first player in the Open era (since 196 to win at least 10 titles for three consecutive years.
Despite all that, he can still produce tennis that Roche concedes takes his breath away.
"I thought at the Masters Cup (Shanghai in November), the tennis he played in the semis (beating Nadal) and final, I'd never seen tennis like that before," Roche said.
"The final with (James) Blake especially ... some of the shots ... I just sat there saying to myself, 'well, that's not possible'.
"But with Roger he just seems to be able to pull out the big shots on big points. That's why Roger has achieved so much and will continue to achieve."
Federer has already made a small adjustment to his 2007 schedule. He is not playing this week in Doha, the tournament he has won for the past two years.
Roche said if Federer missed Doha, he would come to Australia earlier than usual to prepare for the Australian Open, which starts a fortnight today.
Fed Express ready to fire
January 01, 2007
ROGER Federer is expected to arrive in Sydney this week to complete Australian Open preparations with master coach Tony Roche.
The two have already shared a private 10-day training camp in Dubai as the Swiss genius homes in on a 10th grand slam title.
The winner of 92 of 97 matches last season, with 12 titles, Federer is bypassing the rich Doha event he has won for the past two years to be at his peak for Melbourne Park from January 15-28.
The Swiss superstar's heavy 2006 workload convinced Federer to cut Doha from his schedule as he chases two of the most elusive targets in the game - a maiden French Open title and Pete Sampras' grand slam record of 14 singles trophies.
And while a Roland Garros triumph remains the only conspicuous absence from Federer's record, Roche believes his charge is well primed to land a third Australian Open, with the AAMI Classic at Kooyong next week serving as his final lead-up.
"He was hitting the ball really well in Dubai and he did a lot of physical training with his trainer," Roche said.
"Normally he's got Doha under his belt, but I'm not too concerned about that because he had a long year last year.
"It will be mostly fine-tuning now and seeing how he's hitting the ball.
"The year before he was a little bit underdone in terms of he didn't play Madrid and Paris and he had an ankle problem at the Masters.
"This year, I'm not concerned about him not playing Doha. He had a lot of tennis and needs to freshen up."
Roche visited Dubai twice last year to put Federer through his gruelling practice regimen.
Historically, Federer has thrived immediately after collaborating with Roche, whose methods have been acclaimed by two other men who reached No.1 - Ivan Lendl and Pat Rafter.
"It was not as brutal because the weather was different," Roche said.
"Normally when we train there (Dubai) for the US Open, it's 46C and 98 per cent humidity. This time it was quite pleasant, about 22C, 23C, but it was still hard.
"Roger was hitting the ball well and he's looking forward to coming out to Australia again. I'm not sure when exactly, but he'll let me know."
Roche regards Federer as the best player he has seen, surpassing even Lew Hoad and Rod Laver, but there is a caveat on the world champion's overall rating.
"He can only get better if he wins the French and wins the grand slam," Roche said.
"It's going to be hard to back it (2006) up, but he's capable of doing it.
"He's not that far away from it, winning at the French. He's improving each year with his claycourt tennis so if he can continue to improve, he's got a chance.
"It's hard to see Rafael Nadal getting any better on clay - he's improving on other surfaces - but Roger's certainly bridging the gap on clay and if he continues to improve then he's obviously got a great shot at it."