March 16, 2004
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA
THE MODERATOR: Roger improves to an ATP best 19-1 on the season with his first Indian Wells quarterfinal. He's 2-0 lifetime against Chela. Questions for Roger.
Q. Kind of a slow start?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I think for both. I don't know, there was no rhythm. I couldn't get the returns in. You know, on the occasion when he was serving bad, I couldn't get them in, when he was serving good it was an ace. I thought from 4-3 on, you know, we started to play better, hang in there in that one game, which was in the end very important.
Q. Tell us about that game when you won the first set. Did you think that was ever going to end? Was it frustrating? How did you keep your focus?
ROGER FEDERER: For me it's not frustrating because he's under pressure. You know, I was happy that, you know, finally I had a real chance to break him. I just thought the longer the game, the better for me, because if you have to save more and more breakpoints, at one point you start doubting also if that first serve will always go in. That's exactly what happened. In the end, you know, I thought overall I was a better player. That's what counts.
Q. How much was the heat a factor out there today?
ROGER FEDERER: Like I said last time, I don't feel the heat very much here. I have no problems with it.
Q. You kind of joked on TV about your popularity status here in the States, about Saturday Night Live and stuff. Does that really matter to you at all? Is that something you'd like to be better known around the world?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, that's the people say who is well-known, who is not. I don't know. What is my goal in my life? It's not to be walking down New York City and everybody starts screaming. It's not my goal in life. What I'm doing is enjoying tennis. And if, you know, people enjoy watching me, you know, that is for me more important than anything else. I have very many people coming up to me, you know, where I'm staying around this week, which come to me and say, "I love your game. My son admires you. Your his favorite player." These are the things I enjoy hearing. What it takes to be a superstar in the States, I don't know what it takes because I'm not from here. Only different people could help me to do that. So that's the situation.
Q. What is the goal?
ROGER FEDERER: To win this tournament.
Q. The big-picture goal?
ROGER FEDERER: In my career?
Q. To win as many titles as you can possibly?
ROGER FEDERER: I want to enjoy this moment while I'm No. 1 as much as I can, you know, meet a lot of people, you know, experience, take it with me for also after tennis. I think I'm living a very exciting life right now. This is for me really what I've been working for hard. And obviously now that I've, you know, won Slams and become No. 1 in the world, it's trying to stay where I am and obviously reach the same emotions like I did in Wimbledon.
Q. Is No. 1 all it's cracked up to be?
ROGER FEDERER: I don't understand.
Q. Is it as good?
ROGER FEDERER: As I thought it would be?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I love it (smiling). It's really nice. I'm surprised how big the difference is from being No. 2, 3 or 4 in the world and being No. 1 in the world. It just feels much better.
Q. How in particular has it manifested itself? How has it come home to you in that way?
ROGER FEDERER: What could I say? You know, for me all December long I was No. 2 in the world. People thought, "What a great season you had. What a pity you didn't become No. 1." I said, "I thought I played a great season. Andy was better than me. I thought he totally deserved it." Just because I won the last tournament year, doesn't mean I'm the best. I thought Andy totally deserved that. When I started the year, I really tried just to become No. 1 for once in my life, actually this year. I knew I had a chance, but I also don't want to put too much pressure on myself. Now that I became it, it's like, I can really just enjoy it. That's really nice.
Q. Can you assess Mardy's game, maybe talk about the part of Mardy's game that you admire?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I think he's got an unbelievable serve, especially his first serve. It's very tough to read. He hits a lot of aces. He's got great speed on that, too. I think he's got a very all-around game, all-surface game, as well. You know, I just think he needs a little bit more time. Because he's got a big game, he needs to know what he has to do. He's got a coach, and he will teach him what to do.
Q. Apart obviously from the difference on the backhand, is he in some ways like you, a smooth player, moves somewhat like you, or would you say no?
ROGER FEDERER: I think just because I play one-handed backhand already changes a lot in the movements. I think this is maybe where he has improved the most, maybe on his fitness and his all-court movement. Here you can really make the points, make them go quick. I'm wondering how he does on clay, against guys who make him run a lot. Because I think there is vulnerable a little bit.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Andy. Not to discount Juan Carlos, most people see the men's tour as something like a rivalry starting between Roger and Andy. Can you talk about that?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I feel a little bit the same, without forgetting anybody, because there's many, many guys around which have the chance to be where I am right now. With Andy, we've always had good matches against each other. I've beat him more than he beat me, which is nice to know just next time I play him. But I think it is good for tennis in general because everybody here, especially in America, was waiting for the next, you know, superstar from America. Because you had so many great players, that put a lot of pressure on him. I'm actually happy to see what he has achieved in tennis. And that is great for us. Hopefully I can build up a good match-up with him in the future.
Q. Let me compare you to somebody else. You played five sets against Marat Safin. There's some sense that the two of you are very similar, you have the most natural ability, all-around games, you've been able to harness that in a way that lately he hasn't. Any sense of why? Your two matches against him this year give you a reading of where he is?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I think, you know, I've been playing all year long, I've been playing great, I didn't have any dips, you know, of playing bad. Maybe the only one I remember was the French Open. He hasn't been playing at all last year almost. He just started. You know, you've got to give him at least a few months. I think maybe that's what people don't give him, because he's been also speaking himself about being No. 1 in the world at the end of the year. So he's putting pressure on himself. I think he's got a chance. You know, I just think he needs a little bit more time.
Q. Do you think maybe going so far in Australia his first time out in a way is a bit of a negative because it made him think he's further along than he should be?
ROGER FEDERER: No, I think it's better. It's better for him. Because his ranking is coming where it should be, because otherwise he's always ranked around somewhere where he doesn't belong to. Like this, it's already a little better. But he needs more results, obviously. In the race, he's fine, but in the ESP, I think he can still improve. I'm really happy. Like Andy... You know, it's very nice to see Hewitt and Marat back, because these are guys we need for the tour.
Q. At his best, is he up there with you?
ROGER FEDERER: I don't see best players just on one-match performance. For me, it's something all the year long. Consistency also is as important as just, you know, the day performance. So on a day, yeah, he can kill everybody. He doesn't even beat them, he can kill them. So I think that's what makes him so dangerous.
Q. But all year long he hasn't?
ROGER FEDERER: He has to prove this year.
Q. Mentioning Roddick, Ferrero. Who do you like to play against, bringing Lleyton into the mix, as well? You look at these guys. Who do you enjoy playing the most?
ROGER FEDERER: I like to play Andy because we've got, let's say, similar styles. We play aggressive from the baseline. I like to play Marat, because he's similar there again. And, you know, the battles I have with Agassi and Hewitt, it's just, you know -- it's just a fight from beginning to start. The rallies are long. You know what you're up to when you go on the court against them. So for me those are the guys I enjoy playing most.
Q. Getting back to the No. 1 aspect, you say you're enjoying it. What difference have you noticed, talking about yourself, have you noticed from the outside? Do restaurant doors open to you more? Do players see you in a different way? Can you pinpoint any of those differences compared to when you were 2 or 3?
ROGER FEDERER: Let's say -- no, like with restaurants, I don't feel any difference. It's just maybe in the locker room, more players speak to me now. You know, I get along well with a lot of players. It's not guys who I didn't talk to before come up to me now and speak to me. It's just there's something to talk about because I think for every player it's a dream to become No. 1 in the world, then maybe just to be able to speak to me, and I can tell them, you know, what I feel a little bit. I give them something they don't know. I think it's interesting for the players, for some of them. Other ones couldn't care less, which I can totally understand, too. Otherwise, the media side, before I thought I was already doing a lot, but that was mostly in Switzerland. Now the whole international press is also chasing me. That's just things you're not used to before. Maybe not speaking in the interviews in your proper language also maybe makes it a little bit difficult for me sometimes. Everywhere I go, people recognize me more often now. That sometimes is tough.
Q. You mentioned how at the hotel people come up to you and say hello. That's understandable in a tennis setting. Can you think of the most unusual situation and most obscure place out of nowhere where someone has come up to you and recognized you when you were on holiday or hiking?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I remember this one time when I went on a vacation on the Maldives. That was in the year 2001, I think. I went to this spa. I went to walk around with my girlfriend. I walk in, and we want to book a spa. This guy goes, "AHH, I remember you. You beat Sampras. I saw you on TV." That was like, really, how can you remember me? This guy has probably never been off his island and still knows me. I was a little bit shocked. Then I went to play tennis with him because he was actually the tennis teacher. It was nice.
Q. Were you naked at the time in the spa?
ROGER FEDERER: No. It was at the front desk. I didn't walk in naked.
Q. What is the status of your military service now? Are you going to maybe have to leave the tour to fulfill your national obligation?
ROGER FEDERER: No, that's not going to happen. I think that's also not in the interest of the Swiss military. But like it said in the papers today, it's something we're trying to find a solution. As far as I know, my parents and the military, they have found an agreement that is a few days, I don't know if it's per year or in the next couple of years, but I got to do a few days. And I think then everybody is happy.
Q. You do a few days of service then?
ROGER FEDERER: Yes. When it fits my schedule. They totally understand that.
Q. What do they call that?
ROGER FEDERER: I have no idea. I cannot give you enough information to be able actually to speak about it. You know, my parents maybe know better. You should call them, but I can't tell you.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Andre, what you admire the most about him? Obviously, you're a young guy, he's about to be 34 and still playing at the top of the game.
ROGER FEDERER: I looked at him differently when I came on tour, I wouldn't say. I have a lot of respect for him now. Before when I came on tour, you know, I didn't care who was who. For me, it was Pete Sampras, maybe Becker was still around, and the rest I didn't really care about. But now that I see what he has done over the last few years for tennis, the way he's still hanging in there, it's nice to see. It's incredible for tennis. So that's really what I admire.
Q. Can you envision yourself wanting to still be playing at 34?
ROGER FEDERER: It's always possible. If you're maybe injured for a year or two, you know, you got that energy left for later on. That's also why I think Agassi is still playing at 34, because he had, you know, moments in his career when he dropped his ranking or where he maybe was not as dedicated. So, you never know. 34 for me is still a chance.
Q. Did you grow up always speaking English in the house?
ROGER FEDERER: My first words were English, and then switch. I almost forgot the English. But now I'm speaking 50/50 with my mom. My dad speaks German mostly.
Q. You indicated you're still young and there are things to learn. You also indicated that you wouldn't be without a coach for whatever. I'm wondering what progress you've made on that front?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, concerning the coach, have I found somebody?
ROGER FEDERER: No.
Q. Are you talking to people?
ROGER FEDERER: No, not even that. I'm just actually taking it easy a little bit. I'm actually quite happy with the situation I'm in right now. I think that's why I'm not calling everybody, you know, who offered to be a coach. But, I don't know, in the middle of the season, there might be a chance. I have no idea. But right now, I will not travel with a coach.
Q. Are the offers still coming in?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, it stopped now.
Q. How many offers did you get?
ROGER FEDERER: Maybe 20, I don't know.
Q. What are the pluses of not having a coach?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, there's always positive and negative sides, having one or not having one. That's what I say, you know, just because I don't have a coach doesn't mean the other guys don't have to have a coach. Every player is totally different, has different needs. For me, that fits -- in the situation right now, to not have a coach fits my plan. So that's why I'm also not in a hurry. Also because the year started well with the Australian Open, and I know I can win titles by not having a coach. That's also why I'm not hurrying up like I maybe would have if I would have lost first round.
Q. When you hit that backhand pass around the net post, does it make you laugh? How does it make you feel at that moment?
ROGER FEDERER: That's just shots you only do in practice, you know. It's a low-percentage shot. On the practice courts, nets are further out, so you rarely get a chance. But you play with much more variety. When it happens in a match, you're like, "Oh, geeze, this is on TV, in front of all the spectators. This is great." I would really like to see that one again on replay.
Q. What can we expect against Chela?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I think I'm definitely a big favorite going into that match. I beat him in Sydney in straight sets, and last year in Miami in an easier three-setter. But I think, you know, he beat some really good players this week. Definitely got to watch out on the court. He makes the court slower than it actually is because he plays far back from the baseline, then suddenly he comes with his forehand. He's got a great backhand, I think. I just got to be aggressive against him and keep coming.
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