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February 24, 2019
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Does 100 titles ever cross your mind? Or are you: When it happens it happens?
ROGER FEDERER: I think that's got to be the mindset, that you try your best every match, every week anyway. Things fall into place or they don't. It's not because of lack of effort.
We've been talking about 99 titles ever since Basel, every tournament I've played. There's nothing new. Of course, coming to Dubai where I've enjoyed a lot of success sort of makes you believe maybe it could happen here. Then again, draw is tough. Haven't played in a few weeks so you reset everything, get ready for your first round, hope everything is going to click again here in Dubai.
It's going to be tough. Look, I hope we can have this conversation in a few days' time and see what happens.
Q. After the Australian Open, how long did it take you to get over the match against Stefanos? What were the biggest takeaways for you once you had time to think about it?
ROGER FEDERER: I don't know. Took me maybe half a day. I got back -- it was anyway super late. I don't know. I still felt like I played okay. It wasn't like a horrible tournament for me. Played great at the Hopman Cup. I played good actually all matches. I just messed up on some big, big points. I'm not going to change my game because I missed out on some opportunities.
So it's actually been a nice break away from it all. I went on vacation after the Australian Open with the family. You know me, I love that. After that, I went to practice. Important was not to get hurt because I was training in Switzerland. It was cold. We had snow and everything. I'm happy I got through that one well.
Actually I'm feeling good now. Fitness has been going well, tennis has been going well. I've been here a few days. I feel really well prepared. I'm excited that the ATP Tour is moving on and I'm here. I'm happy to be back.
Q. You've had so much success here, unprecedented success. How does that frame your approach coming in this week?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, look, it gives me confidence that I know I can play well here in Dubai on this court in these conditions, even though I must say the conditions play much, much slower than the previous years here. This is a big shift, I believe, in the tournament. If they're going to keep this surface this slow, or the balls that slow...
In the past, Dubai always used to be a tournament where you played, you got out of it at the end, you're like, I'm not sure I'm playing actually that good because things are fast, points get decided on one, two shots here, there. It's reaction.
I think you can really grind a player down now. It's been actually quite a big change. I'm excited to be here. I do believe this surface also lends itself very well for me to play well here. Hope I can show it tomorrow.
It's interesting. I just practiced with Kohlschreiber a couple days ago. We played two sets basically. We really both know what we're getting into. He looks good, so it's going to be tough.
Q. You opted into the clay court season. Is that a sign you're generally going to play more this year or are you have to cut back further down the line?
ROGER FEDERER: No, I think the decision was based purely on I would like to play the clay again. What does the team think? We're happy if you want to play tennis in general. If it's the clay, that's great.
I think after not playing for two years, also missing the French three years ago because of injury, I think the team understood that I was in the mood to do it again. I did grow up on clay, after all. I felt like my body is strong enough now again to do the surface changes from hard to clay to grass to hard again. In the past I felt different. I felt like it would be nice to go from hard to grass to hard, stay on faster surfaces.
Quite honestly, I was also happy to take two, three months away from the game, enjoy family, enjoy being away with my friends and everything, but training really hard that when I did come back, making Wimbledon sort of my top priority. It paid off the year before. Not the last time now.
That's not the reason why I'm putting the clay back on. It was purely based on I would just like to play. We can always readjust the schedule accordingly depending how I play the clay. The calendar is always flexible.
From that standpoint, I think I probably am going to play the same amount, maybe a little bit more, who knows. Really depends how much success I'm going to enjoy.
Q. What do you think of Djokovic's run since Wimbledon?
ROGER FEDERER: Great.
Q. Did you expect it?
ROGER FEDERER: Don't expect three in a row, but you expect greatness from somebody like Novak if he's feeling 100% again. Obviously this time last year he wasn't 100%. You could see that at the Australian Open. Then he had surgery this time around. It was not the same Novak we know at Indian Wells and Miami.
I think it was only a matter of time till he could find his best form again. Then the question is, Is it good enough to win big tournaments? Apparently it was. I think Wimbledon was a big win, especially that semis against Rafa really gave him the belief again he's back. He hasn't looked back since. He's been supreme really at the Grand Slam level.
Q. Novak might be able to win four in a row again. He's done it once before. That feat of four in a row, where do you think it runs in terms of achievements in this sport?
ROGER FEDERER: Super impressive. It ranks all the way up there, in my opinion. There is also no secret that nowadays it's easier to do maybe than before. This is not taking away from him. It's also helping myself, Rafa, anybody who is close.
It's just that the surfaces play more even today, more equal. Back in the day you had really fast grass courts to extremely slow clay courts. The difference was just so extreme that it was hard to do what Borg did: winning back-to-back French Open-Wimbledon.
The game was so different. You really had to serve and volley on grass. Today you cannot serve and volley once on grass and win Wimbledon. That's what I'm saying.
It could happen more frequently. That's what we're seeing. I won three, made the finals of one. Rafa, I think he was I'm sure close many times. Novak has been extremely close, has done it once, now maybe going for another one.
It shows it is more possible today. But the feat, regardless of the conditions being easier, is still and would be an unbelievable one. Yeah, credit to him.
Q. Do you think your record of 20, numbers of weeks at the top, are threatened by Djokovic or Nadal?
ROGER FEDERER: Since a long time, yes. This is not new. Maybe there's more talk about it now. I think, like before, as the surfaces get more equal, everybody can pile up more Grand Slam wins, like I did. It was the reason for me probably to pass Sampras by having the surfaces be more equal.
That nobody can take away from me. My records will be broken anyway. You guys and other people will remind the players to try to go shatter every record anyway. Back in the '70s, I don't think players were playing for records. Maybe now players are playing for records. Naturally it's going to depend also on how much they care about that record. If they care about it, they'll play for longer, other than just retiring. You don't want to beat up your body too much.
No, I mean, they've been doing amazing things for many years now. That's why they're in the position that they are. I wish them the best to achieve all they want to do. I'm still playing, so I hope I still also have something left in the tank.
Q. Do you think it was a surprising result in the final, such a one-sided final with Djokovic and Nadal?
ROGER FEDERER: I can't answer that question because -- no. I don't want to answer it because I will say something bad. Something wrong, not bad.
Q. People would like to see you also in an exhibition match. It's very interesting for everyone to see it.
ROGER FEDERER: What kind of a match?
Q. Exhibition match.
ROGER FEDERER: Okay.
Q. What do you think of this idea first? Will you accept it if there is in Dubai this idea coming? Which opponent would you prefer?
ROGER FEDERER: Nowadays I play a lot of charity matches if I play exhibition matches. Back in the day, I used to go after the Shanghai World Tour Finals, I used to tour Asia a little bit, then I used to tour South America for a little bit for exhibition matches. I wanted to go to places I've never been to before.
Nowadays my life is so busy, I try to focus, when I do play exhibitions, on my foundation, play those charity matches, the ones with Bill Gates. I'm always open for charity matches.
I don't really have that much time. I have to make it a priority to do that. I have no plans for the time being. I haven't had time to play a match for Africa this year yet, or one like I have at Dubai before Indian Wells like I have the last couple of years.
Time will tell. I'll definitely play some exhibition matches down the road. For the moment, I have a lot going on, so...
Q. When you come into a tournament after a gap of not playing for a few weeks, do you feel nerves now?
ROGER FEDERER: I don't know. I think I can answer the question after the first round. I might feel nervous walking out, then super calm during the game. I might be super calm walking out, but then getting nervous at the 15-All point all of a sudden for no reason. Or I get nervous for breakpoints. It could be really anything. It's really hard to explain.
That's the beauty of it. You don't know what you're getting into. As long as I do get nervous, I see it as a good thing. I don't see it as negative. Nervous means I care. Nervous means I want to do my best. Nervous means I want to show what I can do to the people.
In a practice, I don't get nervous because who cares, there's only a fence watching you practice. Here, playing in front of a full stadium, is something that gets you going. I love it. That's why I'm very excited to get those nerves.
Probably one day when I retire, I'll be happy I don't have these nerves any more. For the time being, I enjoy it a lot.
Q. You just explained your motivation behind playing on the clay. I don't know if you've seen reaction online. Oh, my God, fans think you're planning the farewell tour.
ROGER FEDERER: I didn't see that, no.
Q. Is that any part of it at all in your decision?
ROGER FEDERER: No, it's not. I thought of, in isolation, do I want to play the clay or not. The answer was yes. This doesn't mean this is my last clay court season, whatever, or I had to play one more time before I retired. That was not the thinking.
All I knew is after missing it for two to three years basically, my body was ready, I was ready, my schedule with the family, my schedule with the team was ready to do it again. This is when I opted to say, It will be nice. Instead of taking a big chunk off, I'd rather stay in the rhythm and actually enjoy myself on the clay.
It's going to be challenging, no doubt about it. I have to take baby steps in the beginning to some extent, but that's okay.
Q. The relationship between the ITF and ATP is not at an all-time high. Do you think opportunities were missed to make this relationship better? How do you look at it with hindsight the great success that Laver Cup is enjoying as a new format?
ROGER FEDERER: How much time do we have?
I think it's always a tricky situation when you have sort of two federations, if you like. ITF is here to promote the game of tennis at the grassroots level as well. They're involved at some level at the Grand Slams and at the Olympics and the Davis Cup. Whilst the ATP organizes the professional tennis tour really for us.
It's two separate items, but they have to intertwine on some occasions, sometimes a lot. Sometimes they work together, and sometimes they don't. It's understandable that they both have to look for their own interests. At the end of the day the players are caught in between in a good way.
I think communication, dialogue is always really important, but not everybody has to go on vacation together is also I think understood.
I like good relations. I don't know how bad they really are, to be quite honest. You maybe make it sound worse than it is. I don't feel like it's at an all-time low, to be quite honest. I feel like we've had tougher times in the past, as well.
Let's see what happens in the future now. But important is to have an open dialogue, always think what's best for the game, and that the players can also say what they think is best for the game. At some stage, somebody has to take a decision. It's not always a popularity contest. Not everybody can agree. You know how it is.
I think the game is in good hands. We have good players, good stars, good tournaments, more fans. It's a more professionally run tour. I don't know. I see a lot of positives. Maybe I'm being biased. I'm not sure.
Q. You said you played a couple sets with Kohlschreiber. Can you tell us how the sets went?
ROGER FEDERER: I'm trying to think. 7-6 the first. I think it was for me. I wonder if he was a break up in the second, something like that. It was close. I remember it was very close.
Q. It's a tough opener. There are a few tough openers in the draw. Do you feel the gap in men's tennis, between the top players, it's almost like an even field now, open draws?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I think the depth in the men's game is really, really big. I think I have to respect basically first round opponents forever. Just because you're ranked world No. 1 does not give you a free pass into the second round. Maybe it was like this back in the '50s, I have no idea. Nowadays it's definitely not like that.
Everybody can play tennis. We can feel in practice every single day the moment you're not 100% on, margins are so slim, you could easily lose. I think that's why it always keeps us very humble and on the ground. That's why this first round is a true test. I think when you come through it, it also fuels you with a lot of confidence. Yeah, I'm looking forward to it.
Q. Are there any plans or motivation for you to bring Laver Cup to Africa, North Africa, South Africa?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, all I can do is give advice, just give my opinion. It gets put into the bag and they have to take a decision then. It's not me taking the decision.
I mean, I think the idea initially was to move it around obviously. It will always move around between Europe and the rest of the world. 'Rest of the world' means everywhere.
So I don't know what the plans are, to be quite honest, after Geneva. I'm really happy tickets sold out as quickly as they did. It's going to be another unbelievable weekend for tennis. Yeah, clearly the dream has to be that one day it's going to go to Africa, no doubt about it.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports