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March 17, 2018

Roger Federer

Indian Wells, California


5-7, 6-4, 6-4

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You're now off to the best start of your career after 20 years and doing it in dramatic fashion. Wonder if you could just reflect on what that means at 36 at this point in your career?
ROGER FEDERER: Took a while (smiling). Took a while to get the record.

But, no, I'm happy. Look, especially also with the match, you know, it was just a fighting match rather than, like -- it didn't come easy, so I had to go get it. Also got a little bit lucky, of course, throughout the match.

I hung tough and put a lot of effort into it to get the record, if you like. I mean, you go from one to the next. Clearly, the focus has to be the finals right now and not enjoying the record.

But it's nice to get off to a good start this year, and I hope I can play well again tomorrow.

Q. How on earth do you get out of these sort of matches? I mean, what is it that clicks for you in a match that can turn it around? You're in almost a desperate situation and yet you can seem to flick a switch and turn things.
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, I think when you are confident and maybe also experienced and you have that combination, there's no real need to panic, you know, because you can assess the situation quite easily. You're understanding that the opponent is playing better. It's breezy. It's hard to play offense. And when I was playing offense he was defending well. In the neutral alley balls, maybe I was missing a bit too many times.

And it was a close match even in the second set, you know, if you look back at how many close calls we had in the important moments. Things could have shifted either way for both of us a little bit more, you know.

I mean, but margins are slim, you know, at the top of the game. And I have been there so many times that you just hope to take the right decisions along the way, and then that -- it ends up falling your way. But for that you need to have a very positive mindset. You need to be match-tough, you need to be confident, have experience, and I think I have a bit of all of that right now, and I think that's the reason I won again today. But it didn't come easy.

I think Borna played a great match. He was very steady. I can see why he caused a lot of problems to a lot of players, and he's only going to improve from here.

So it was a good match. I enjoyed it.

Q. I'm mindful the Australian Open final was five sets, but was that perhaps the hardest anybody has pushed you so far this season?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, probably. I mean, look, I should have lost a match. I was down twice a break in the third, I was down a break in the second.

So, yeah, no doubt about it, this was definitely the toughest match, maybe the toughest match. You know, because against Marin I was also up most of the match, and the only moment I was in a very difficult moment, I think I was down breakpoints at the beginning of the fifth, but then I was able to cruise away.

Today wasn't anything like it. I always felt likes I was down in the score, and so to come back this way was a good one.

Q. From outside it looked like maybe you were a bit slower today than usual. Wondering if there was something wrong for a set and a half or...
ROGER FEDERER: No, no. Maybe early morning. Who knows? I mean, honestly could have been that a little bit.

I think trying to understand Borna's play, because he absorbs a lot of power very easily. He's a great retriever. It became a bit of a cat-and-mouse game. And when you're thinking you can play offense all the time and then he catches you offguard and you have to go back into defense, I felt like maybe in the beginning it wasn't happening naturally, but I thought he was protecting his serve very well.

I was just hoping that through tougher rallies and staying in the match for longer, you know, I would start to feel better in defense, particularly because in the beginning it wasn't quite there. But I think it had something to do with him rather than me. I'm physically totally fine. So, yeah, I'm happy I'm feeling this way, actually.

Q. Juan Martin is up a set and a break. Assuming he does make it through, he told us how much he likes playing you and that for him he would pick you to play in any final.
ROGER FEDERER: Is that a good thing?

Q. He was saying it in a good way.
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I don't know. That's a bad thing for me, then.

Q. Can you reflect on the kind of rivalry you have with him?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, we have had a lot of close matches. Big matches, close matches. Jeez, I just tried to think back at the French Open semis, US Open finals, Olympic semis, Basel finals, a bunch of those guys, and few World Tour Finals matches, Shanghai. Just three-setters, five-setters the whole way. It's been good, you know.

I think we have an interesting matchup, you know. We both know what the other is trying to do, and we try to stop the other person from doing it. But it's hard when me or him is in full flight. It's basically an arm wrestle the whole time, and I think we enjoy that.

We know each other well. I think we respect each other in a big way. We're both happy for one another, I think, when we do well, generally happy.

So it's nice to see him back in the top 10 and making big strides now, and I think he's going to have a great season. I'm very happy for him.

Q. Speaking of chance, how did you feel about Sugar Ray Leonard watching your match?
ROGER FEDERER: Was he there? Didn't know. Well, I'm happy that he was there. I hope he comes back again, and hopefully somebody will let me know beforehand (smiling).

Because I saw Sampras and Laver there. So many times during the game you think to yourself, What are they thinking, you know?

So it's interesting when you have fellow athletes watching you play. It's maybe the biggest inspiration out there for a player.

Q. Can you talk about that 9:15 pasta? I heard you on the court. Pretty different from your normal morning routines.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, but it's okay. You know, I don't mind it. In the juniors we had that all the time. We play three matches a day. It was normal that you would eat and go out and play. You couldn't digest the food sometimes. Things change. That's who we are, the tennis players.

But it was definitely a change of the rhythm. It's been a long time since I played this early, so I really -- you have to force yourself to go to bed late last night, because you know you're trying everything just to be really ready for an 11:00 start.

I woke up early this morning, got out, practiced, and tried to get a sweat going, and, you know, it's just different. So different is good sometimes. But, yeah, sure, it was a slightly different schedule today than the other days, for sure.

Q. With respect to your enjoyment of the game, how important are these close matches where you really have to fight?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, very important. I mean, even if you lose those, still, the fighting matches are the ones that can bring you -- sometimes you turn a victory or at least give you a shot like today. Okay, it's the semis, but sometimes it happens earlier in the tournament, you know.

It's not supposed to be all easy where you win in straight, you win again in straight, and again and again, like at Wimbledon last there. Even there, I saved set points. I had to hit a lot of good shots in very important moments to, you know, not make it go four sets or, you know, who knows what happens then if you dropped a set.

I enjoy these fighting matches, because very often I can't talk enough about my quality of my grit and my fighting spirit. But when it happens, I actually enjoy the battle, because it's what it's supposed to be, to be quite honest.

Q. Can you just talk about Borna's poise and maturity out there? Just seemed like he was forcing you to hit winners.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, absolutely. I think he's always going to ask the questions, you know. If you play poorly, you'll probably lose against him. If you play good, things look good for you. And even then, he's going to check you, because he's a good retriever.

I think for him it's just going to be very important to be very strong mentally, because he's going to go through phases where it's maybe going to be raining winners on him because he gives you a chance to hit it, and then he's just got to stay the course and work extremely hard.

I have practiced with him in Dubai also once, twice before, and, you know, I think he works very hard. But I think last couple of years he's been trying to recalibrate his game a little bit. He wanted to play a bit more up in the court and start playing more aggressive, but then the problem is what is aggressive enough? You don't want to give too many balls away. You don't want to just hand over too many games just by missing shots. I think that's going to be the key for him moving forward.

But look, I mean, I think he played a great tournament, beat some great players early in the tournament easily, and that's going to give him a world of confidence. Then he won the close ones except this one today. But okay. That's okay. I think he can take a lot out of this match and also the whole week and move forward from here.

I think he's good on clay, good on hard courts, so I think he's got hopefully a very good year ahead of himself.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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