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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Federer focuses on title, not records

Photo Titled Roger Federer
Roger Federer

Five-time champion Roger Federer was relaxed and confident ahead of what could be an historic tournament for him, although any talk of taking Pete Sampras' Grand Slam record was relegated to a mere afterthought – the Swiss 2nd seed wants his Wimbledon title back, with any records that come with it mere icing on the cake.

"The focus is on the first round and the first point," said the genial Swiss, whose match against Yen-Hsun Lu is first on Centre Court on Monday, "but also trying to regain my Wimbledon crown, so that stands over trying to beat Pete's record right now. Once I come down to the semi-finals or finals, hopefully, then that's also going to start creeping into my mind, but right now, just trying to regain my Wimbledon crown would be a dream come true."

Realising this dream is an even more viable prospect with Rafael Nadal, the top seed and defending champion, having withdrawn due to a knee injury. "It didn't come as such a big surprise to me, but it's obviously very disappointing for the tournament, and also for myself. It's a little bit similar to Paris — we played the last four years against each other in Paris, the last three years here at Wimbledon, so we won't see the same finals again.

"It's disappointing for me because I'd love to play him. He's my main rival and we've had some wonderful matches over the years, and especially the one here last year that obviously stands out. It just shows me how lucky I've been that I haven't been injured over all those years."

When pressed later in the interview by the Swiss media, Federer elaborated on this "luck". "I'm a little bit lucky, but getting to all the finals that I have is not normal, not being injured is not normal, and you realise that now. It's luck but it's also planning and preparation," said the 27-year-old in reference both to his training regimen and also his style of play, which is much less intensive than Nadal's, yet no less effective.

Local hero Andy Murray was also high on the agenda throughout the press conference, as can be expected for the Briton's home tournament, but again Federer refused to speculate. "He's a very gifted player. He has wonderful feel, he's a great tactician — I always said that, and he's finally proved it. It took him some time, and that was the disappointing part. I expected him to do better a few years ago, but everything is coming together for him now and he's been rock solid for almost two years now.

"The [British] media seems be making something of our recent matches," Federer ventured to the French-speaking press. "When I lost to him in Shanghai [at the Masters Cup in November 2008], for example, I was ill and suffering with my back, and I still almost beat him, so I'm not about to say that he's the best player in the world all of a sudden."

One person who could claim to be the best player in the world however is Federer himself, particularly having claimed the one Grand Slam crown that had eluded him with victory at the French Open two weeks ago. "It was a great feeling, it really inspired me,” smiled the Swiss. "I was mentally drained because I felt like I had to play four finals at the end of Paris because of the pressure. There was such a relief and happiness once it was all over that for me it was almost impossible to change it all around again and start a tournament from scratch again.
"I spent a week in Switzerland doing nothing except working on fitness a little. I saw my family and friends then I came here on Tuesday. I practised with [Mikhail] Youzhny on Tuesday, Stan [Wawrinka] on Wednesday, [Marat] Safin yesterday [Friday] and [Stefan] Koubek today [Saturday]. I've been practising two or three hours a day and the change from clay to grass has gone really well," said a serene Federer, despite being a mere 15 days away from a potential 15th major.

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