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November 14, 2017

Roger Federer

London, England, United Kingdom

R. FEDERER/A. Zverev

7-6, 5-7, 6-1

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You said on court you were playing freely. How important is that for your chances this year?
ROGER FEDERER: Did I say I'm playing freely (smiling)? Okay, maybe I said that.

Well, in some ways I feel like it's been a season where playing freely has served me well. In the bigger moments, I try to smile on the inside and think, you know, like it's all good. I was getting a bit frustrated with some of the shot selections at 5-1 in the third. I'm talking to myself, saying, What am I even getting upset about? I'm leading 5-1 in the third. I'm one game away from qualifying in the semis. You want to get upset? There's zero reason for that.

I think it's important sometimes to remind myself that it's all good, you know. Today I wish I could have played a bit more freely. Maybe that's what I meant on the court. I was playing a lot of defense, trying to keep the ball in play. It made me work really hard in defense. That's something I haven't done so much this season because I've always, you know, been on the accelerator, trying to install my pressure plays, trying to take charge.

But today was difficult. Still early days in the tournament. It was nice to be able to show maybe that quality of mine, that I can dig out these matches, these points time and time again, stay mentally tough. In the third I started to play better. It was a tough match from the beginning till the end.

Q. Obviously the guy has a huge talent. But those Swiss knife short, slow slices, which is the obvious tactic against someone so tall, you seemed to dismantle his forehand. What were your tactics going in?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, you're never quite sure. I think I was able to read his forehand this time better than Montreal, where he had a lot of winners forehand and backhand. It was also different types of conditions. It was outdoors. It was warm. Day session. Harder to see the ball, to be honest. So I just think I wasn't quite reading his plays very well in Montreal, anyway, for a set and a little bit until I hurt my back.

But today I think I was able to stay the course and, you know, use my slice quite effectively, then try with variation to go into his forehand.

But, you know, you can't always do it because the plays don't always allow you to do it. I wasn't doing a good enough job, to be quite honest, into his backhand with my backhand. I was always checking out of the backhand-to-backhand battles, switching it up to the forehand. I would like to stay more with him backhand to backhand.

Like I said, you know, there was a lot of chipping going on on the return. I would have liked to stay more aggressive on my return, at least, and something could have happened.

But I felt like, especially in the first set, I was going through phases where I was hardly making any returns. That's something I was not going to accept. I was going to rather lose by making a lot of balls and maybe give him a chance at least to miss rather than just giving him empty free games time and time again.

So I think it was a tough match, you know, I think for both of us. We had some good moments, some tougher moments. I mean, he blew the first set tiebreak. Got lucky to get into it maybe. I was up a set and a break. So I was frustrated that I didn't win the second set.

At the end probably being in the third set for both of us was maybe a fair result, I'm not sure.

Q. I think in the second set you were muttering to yourself more and more.
ROGER FEDERER: What was I doing?

Q. Talking to yourself angrily more and more. We've forgotten this side of you because you keep it under control. Was there any reason you felt like you needed to talk to yourself more than you usually do?
ROGER FEDERER: I felt like I lost my ways a little bit in the second set, especially being up a set and a break. But because I did so much work in defense, I forgot how to play normal offense. Like I said, it was still early days in the tournament.

I just think it's hard for anybody right now to hit winners off the ground. We see it. It's tough. With Thiem, Dimitrov, they struggled. Rafa and David. It's not so simple just to stretch the lead all the time.

I think the court, because it's a bit faster, it just keeps guys closer to one another. You have to be extremely careful on your service games. You could be up 30-Love, you lose, I don't know, a relaxed point to where you think, Let me quickly sneak in a quick point to go 40-Love. You lose that point, double-fault, 30-All. All of a sudden you're in trouble. All he needs is one good return and things are terrible.

I think that was bothering me that I wasn't able to play better, but at the same time I was happy I was in the lead in some ways. So I just think still fighting those early stages of rhythm problems I'm feeling from the baseline. But, look, I'm really hoping and believe I'm going to play better in my third match.

Q. The year-end rankings are probably going to suggest that Zverev is the best of the young players. Do you think he's also the best in terms of potential upside?
ROGER FEDERER: From the guys who are here?

Q. Plus others perhaps. Kyrgios maybe. Potential upside?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, look, I like what I'm seeing with Sascha. I see somebody who is working towards the future. I think, yes, of course it's really important right now to have success. He had that with two massive wins in Rome and Montreal. I mean, that's going to protect his season anyways. The rest sort of is all a bonus.

What I like to see is I feel like they're working towards how he could be playing when he's 23, 24 years old in terms of fitness, planning, organization, all these things. I think that's nice to see.

Now, the future? The thing is it seems like they need a bit more time, the young guys in general, to break through these days. Even though I'm really happy to see that there is the likes of Shapovalov or Nick, now also Zverev, making the move early, like what Rafa and Andy did, Novak, Lleyton, all these guys. They were such great teenagers.

I do see a great upside from all these three guys. What I like about Zverev is he's got the full package. He's already 3 in the world. I think he's going to leave the World Tour Finals, regardless if he qualifies for the semis or not, with a lot of information.

I think the last six months of the season gave him everything he needs to work forward to. Then, of course, he's only going to get stronger from here. That should be very encouraging for him and his team.

Q. A comment on Rafael Nadal's retirement. Also, 12 of the top 20 players this year had long and serious injuries. Do you think it's a pure coincidence, length of the season, too many slow cement courts, heavy balls? What would you suggest to change the trend, if you think it should?
ROGER FEDERER: Shave 10 years of our age, and we probably will do better (smiling).

A lot of the guys are just touching 30 plus, you know. Back in the day, at 30, a lot of guys were retiring. Edberg, Sampras, it was like normal at 29, 32, to start looking towards the end of your career. Now you guys expect everybody to play till 36. When somebody is injured at 31, it's like, Oh, my God, how is this possible?

Actually, it's a normal thing. If either you retire or you take a sufficient break so when you do come back you maybe have another few years left again because you really made sure your rehab is good.

So I think for the most part it's age, coincidence. In the other guys, let's say Nishikori, Raonic, wrist, I don't know what they have. Wrist to me is not something that comes from overplaying, especially if it's your left hand. That's just a move I can't relate to because I don't play double-handed. From what I've been told, the wrist is always in a troubled position with that flicking that's going on more and more these days.

I think Andy even broke his wrist. Maybe that was something else, I'm not sure. Del Potro has had three of them. I think these things tend to happen.

The season has been the same for many, many years, as we know. I think just when you get older, you maybe have to manage your schedule maybe a little bit differently. But some guys, they just go maybe all out for 15 years, and they do it until you sort of break down, then you just reset.

I think you can't put them all together. But for the most part I think most guys are touching 30, so that has a big role to play.

Q. When you're talking of age, looking at recovery, this week you have a day off between matches, but as you move into your 30s, are you more aware of the things you do on your off days? Are you aware of taking time off your feet? Does that differ from when you were younger?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I'll take a day off tomorrow. I probably didn't do that back in 2005 in Shanghai during the World Tour Finals. I would probably go practice somewhere, somehow, just because you're supposed to be hitting.

But I know my game's not going to disappear if I take a day off. Actually, it's quite nice to be able to do that, and having the confidence in your level of play that you can actually keep that up.

So I think I actually have to work less today than I used to. When I do, naturally I do it with quality because I know every practice counts, every fitness counts, every session matters.

So I definitely see things a bit different. But I wasn't even thinking about taking a day off tomorrow, but Severin and Ivan told me, You should take a day off.

Q. I also meant time off your feet, that kind of thing.
ROGER FEDERER: Well, it's definitely different to 15 years ago. I would go play squash sometimes on my off days. Then you're like, Hmm? Wonder why you're so tired in the semis (smiling). How come you have a groin problem all of a sudden? Playing too much soccer maybe on the grass.

These things don't happen any more. I'm not skiing any more like I used to until 2008. So, yes, especially with sports, honestly, I've cut back completely since 2008, since I had the mono. But then the kids keep me busy. I don't have one, I don't have two, I have four. I don't want to be just lying on my couch, as well. But they also have to be a little bit careful that sometimes I don't overdo it.

I like my time with my kids, and I can't control myself other than just to play with them, as well, and go outside.

Q. You know Grigor Dimitrov off the court quite a bit. He says he feels completely different now in his place in the top 10 compared to when he did it the first time. From you knowing him, have you noticed anything different on and off the court now that's making him perhaps more solid?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I would think he's just more comfortable this time around. He feels probably he belongs there, he deserves his place there. It's like when you get older, you feel like you've had to work for it. The first time around, it's like, it just happened. Oh, wow, cool. I know I worked hard, but probably others have worked harder than me.

I don't want to say you don't feel you deserve to be there sometimes, unless you're 3 in the world, you go deep into the top 10. If you just touch it at No. 8, No. 9, you feel like everybody looks at you, depending on your ranking, that week. The next week, if you're 11, you think the other guys look at you differently, even though it doesn't matter at all.

We are very much ranking conscious early on in our life. Maybe this time he's like, Okay, I'm 6, 7, whatever he is now, and he feels, Well, I'm in there for a while, I will be for a while, so maybe I can relax more.

He's always had fun on and off the court. So I think he just feels probably more confident in this whole thing. I went through the same situation, to be quite honest. Through success, I calmed down a little bit and felt like I knew myself and knew my place better.

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