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March 14, 2008

Roger Federer


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. So how did you enjoy the garden?
ROGER FEDERER: Hey, Murphy. Yeah, it was great. You were there, right?

Q. Yeah.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, it was better than I expected, honestly. I thought crowds really got into it. Pete played great. I think the level was really good, and in the end the match turned to be his.
Really, everything went perfectly fine, and, yeah, we'll do it again, of course.

Q. Roger, there was implication that one of the so-called bloggers that basically you sort of eased off to get it into a third set, and that Sampras really cannot compete with you anymore. Is there anything to that, or is that guy just making up stuff?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, it's such a quick surface, you know. We don't usually play on this kind of quick surfaces, so for me to break Pete -- he's not going to serve many double faults -- so I have to come up with a good passing shot or a good return.
It's hard to keep that up on a regular basis. His second serve is so good, as well. I really thought I had a chance towards the end of the second set and sort of missed it, and maybe could have hit one passing shot instead of chipping it. That was it.
And then in the tiebreaker he served out of his mind. I thought I was in the control in the beginning of the third, and all of a sudden he was up with a break. It was goes very quick against him, and could tell why he was such a phenomenal player, because he could take everything away from you.

Q. How much of a relief was it to actually find out what was going on healthwise?
ROGER FEDERER: I don't know. It wasn't a shock at first, when I found out what it was. It was, okay, fine. Let's find out what that exactly means, you know. Because the news I got first was I had mono. I go, Okay, what does that mean? It's going to take two more days or two more months, you know, I don't know.
They did more tests and they said actually I went through a very strong mono. Only later did they tell me I had it all over and fixed. This was when I was quite relieved. It was just good to know it was something other than food poisoning. I was always joking around in Australia saying I never ate chicken and at the said it came from chicken.
I think I had food poisoning and mono at the Australian Open. I was sick prior to that before Christmas, and it wasn't normal. I got sick three times in such a short period of time after not having been sick for like eight years.

Q. I know sometimes you've had some health problems in the desert. How do you feel this upcoming tournament?
ROGER FEDERER: I feel good, you know, to be honest. This tournament has worked out well for me over the last few years, winning here three titles a row and playing some of my best tennis here really. Had some great finals here, big matches, and I always enjoy playing here. Surface really suits my game. Slice stays low, the kick goes up, the ball travels quickly through the air.
I can really move well on this surface, so it's a bit of a surprise obviously last year that I lost in the first round. Canas played a good match, and hopefully I can bounce back this year, especially after I've been through the last few weeks and months. It just would be nice to be back on the winning road.

Q. I know you had heat stroke a couple years ago after this tournament.
ROGER FEDERER: That was the last time I was sick. I recovered in time for Miami.

Q. Do you feel 100 percent now?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, as well as I can feel, yes. What is 100 percent? I don't know. I think to feel 100 I need to have more matches under my belt, so I will only be able to answer that, really, hopefully in a few days' time when I played a couple of matches.
But at the moment, practice, everything's perfect and feeling fine after, you know, long trip from Dubai, New York.
And I'm really hitting the ball well, so I'm very happy with the level of play at the moment.

Q. So many years ago Pete Sampras sat in the same chair and he told us he feels that he has one more Grand Slam in him, and that's when he afterwards broke the record. What do you feel? How many Grand Slams do you have now?
ROGER FEDERER: Left in me?

Q. Yes.
ROGER FEDERER: A lot. (Laughter.) That's how I feel, anyway. I mean, I've got plenty of years left and a lot of motivation and energy. Trying to you know, bounce back from the Australian Open, as well. It's a big thing for me.
It's exciting with the new players coming up. They've been announced a long time ago, and finally they're making their move. It's an interesting time. With Rafa still there, you know, he's an unbelievable player. It's good times in tennis right now, I think.

Q. What do you do for fun here in the desert? And what do you think about Gavin Rossdale's new record?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I've only just arrived. Have to be a little bit professional and actually spend some time on the practice courts and getting myself back in shape. Slept a lot. But my parents are here. Spend maybe some time with them. Maybe play golf if I get a chance.
Looks like pretty much down to business for me this week, because I really want to get back on the winning road.
Yeah, love Gavin's record. You heard it. It's very nice. I think he did a good job.

Q. For a kids' publication, what would you tell young fans is your favorite part of being a professional in your career? What do you enjoy the most?
ROGER FEDERER: Maybe being a role model, being admired by little kids, people trying to imitate you, people coming up to you telling you how great you are. It's a nice feeling to have, and I try to fill that role as good as I can.
The traveling can be tough sometimes, but it's something that's very rewarding, because meeting so many different people, cultures, languages. It's very interesting to travel at such a young age. I think it's really the nice part about being a tennis player.

Q. Andy Roddick has announced he's decided not to play in the Olympics. Different players have got different responses to that question as to where it lies in their list of priorities. Where does it lie in your list?
ROGER FEDERER: For me, it's a big priority of the year. I've based -- the tour actually bases its entire schedule around the Olympics Games, as you know. I follow that scheme, and actually have -- want to play in the Olympics, obviously, and I'm going to be there.
I had two great experiences, but I completely understand Andy's choice, I think, and everybody should. He's already played it once. I'm a bit surprised, in the way. I still think he would have a great chance to still get a medal or win even the Olympic Games, that he would not play for that reason. But it's his choice. The US Open, for him, seems to be the biggest thing for him to focus on, so I completely understand his choice.

Q. That was essentially my question. I'm just curious, how do you think the rest or most pros on tour in terms of prestige feel about the Olympics compared to...
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I think really every tournament at the highest level is becoming more and more important to the players, because they realize that you're going to be judged on the Grand Slams you win and No. 1s and all those tournaments.
The Australian Open, everybody goes there now; whereas maybe in the '80s maybe some players didn't go. The Olympics is a new thing, you know, to tennis. That's one of the reasons I understand decisions like Andy's. I think if he would be part of the Olympic Games every hundred years I think everybody would go today, but because actually it's normally amateurs who go and we're professionals, for some it's just not the thing to do. And maybe they feel you have once had the experience you don't want to go back.
But maybe in 50 years' time, top guys playing there, it's also become one of the big tournaments to win. For me it is already, but maybe some players and some fans need more convincing that the Olympics it big for tennis.

Q. Djokovic says the pressure is always on you because you're No. 1. Here and in Miami, it's Rafa and Djokovic defending titles. Do you think it's a little flipped around?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I would guess so, but I don't know if you concentrate too much on what you're going to defend from last year. You come in and try your best, and everybody's coming here trying to win the title. I'm no different, so for this reason, I don't know, the pressure is on and off.
I have my own issues coming from sickness, and I'm just trying to sort of play well again. For them it's different, because they have maybe their own tough draw and maybe they're together in one section. I don't know. But I don't think it's a particular pressure because I lost early last year and they won. I don't see it this way, really.

Q. On a scale of 1 to 10, most pressure, where do you feel that you're at at this point in this tournament, 1 to 10?
ROGER FEDERER: I don't feel much pressure, like I can't walk anymore, you know (Laughter.) I mean, I'm always very relaxed. It doesn't matter if it's before finals or before a first round, every match is difficult. I feel more at ease maybe in second, third or in the quarters just because I know now the circumstances, the courts. So the danger is always there before first-round match, and you just want to get through that point.
But, no, the pressure you only feel on break points, you know, when you're down and you're trying to come back. This is when you feel it. Otherwise, you know, on a regular basis it's not there.

Q. Rafa has closed the gap on you in the rankings. Can you talk about the race for No. 1? Seems to be more exciting than the last few years, it appears.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, there's obviously somebody who's going to have a chance. Obviously my lead is not as big as it used to be like a few years ago when it was, I don't know, four Grand Slams apart.
So this time around it's closer, you know, but he's got many, many points coming up to defend, so he's definitely got, you know, sort of a tougher schedule ahead of himself, you know; whereas I always think, especially now in these two tournaments, I have a lot to gain.
Djokovic is, I think it looks like at the moment, he's going to get his chance at the No. 1 position at one stage if he keeps it up. And then again, he's also got semifinals of Grand Slams coming his way.
So to become No. 1 in the world you need to win the big ones, and you can't just hope for a guy to win or lose. He's played very consistently well, and I always said, If one guy deserves it, it's Nadal after me, because he's been so, so consistent at No. 2 for so long.

Q. You come into this with a rare losing streak on the tour, yet you have a lot to gain from the next two weeks.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, the focus is really trying to start playing some matches again. I mean, on purpose I did not play much, because I know the schedule. The really important one is coming up for me. Indian Wells until the US Open, I'm going to be playing every second week at least, if not back to back, and this is really where my focus is at the moment. Trying to stay healthy, come back on tour and win matches again, and then everything will happen by itself again.
So far I've been trying to get healthy, trying to practice hard so I'm in shape. Only thing missing is matches. I'm not focusing on the No. 1 position or whatever. I just want to win matches again.

Q. You've done well in the past with the heat here. Are you ready for this real windy times if the heat doesn't pick up?
ROGER FEDERER: Heat is no problem for me. I mean, it's dry. I never had a problem with dry heat, anyway. Humidity, I worked hard on that by practicing at 115 degrees back in Dubai, so that shouldn't be a problem either.
The wind obviously is always a tough thing to deal with. I just practiced before in the wind, and the problem is more like the sand in your eyes than the wind itself. But I love playing in the wind, because I used to hate it. Winning in the wind and, you know, unnerving an opponent is one of those beautiful things in tennis, I think.
So I don't mind if the wind is there, but we'll see what happens the next few days.

Q. Your good friend Tiger Woods has 30 major titles to your 12 Grand Slams. Wondering if he's given you a friendly reminder that he's got four chances this year to your three to add to that?
ROGER FEDERER: We didn't have that much time at The Garden. It was nice that he came. I should mention in the press that he's still got the chance to go for the Grand Slam this year, and that's a fantastic thing. I think he's playing as good as he's ever maybe played. I wish him all the best. I wish he pulls away, you know. That's how much I like him.

Q. You were saying it's a good time for tennis right now, and with the Showdown sold out for the match at Madison Square Garden, do you think tennis is experiencing a rebirth of sorts in terms of popularity?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I think it's announced itself already a few years back maybe when people were struggling to see maybe who was the No. 1 in the world. We had many different Grand Slam champions. It was maybe confusing for some. In Europe we had a problem with tennis not being enough on TV, and then we had Andy and James coming up who were playing very well. Now they won Davis Cup for America, so that's always important, I think.
Now to have exhibitions selling out at Madison Square Garden is something quite unique. We haven't had maybe an exhibition that big since the Billie Jean King exhibition. It's a huge moment, I think, and I hope we can carry the momentum over. We have good characters in the game at the moment. There's a lot of potential.
I'm still at the top, and so everybody is challenging. Nadal has put his foot forward saying I'm ready to be the next guy, as well. He's great for the game, so good times, yeah, all over.

Q. Can you give us your reaction to hitting with the writing on the net yesterday?
ROGER FEDERER: In practice, yeah, look, I'm no fan of such exercises, you know. I think it plays with the visual, you know, aspect of our game. The only way I would see this working is if they put it through the TV, sort of players don't see it, only the fans at home.
I just don't think it's good to play with the integrity of the game. It's like same as one of those ideas was the Round Robin. I think that was bad, as well. Hawk-Eye, I mean, was it necessary? Probably not, but it's a thing you can live with. Doesn't play too much with it. I just don't think it's necessary to play -- try out so many different, new things. I don't think tennis is that boring or that bad to have to put banners and stuff all over the court.

Q. I just wondered, what's your golf like?
ROGER FEDERER: My golf? Could be good. I don't care that it's bad.

Q. Are you good off the tee, good on the greens?
ROGER FEDERER: I'm good with the irons. But, yeah, look, I don't care if I hit in the rough. I really don't. I like the challenge to be in the rough, you know. (Laughter.)
But I need some advice, you know. I definitely would need some. Maybe not at the moment. I'll wait and watch some more at the moment.

Q. What do you shoot? You have a handicap at all?
ROGER FEDERER: No handicap. I don't care about my handicap. As long as I get through the 18 holes I'm happy, and still have enough balls in the bag, you know. (Laughter.)

Q. Are there measurable things you can improve in your tennis, or is it just a matter of tinkering with tiny little things in your game, or do you go on to the practice court and say, This stroke or this shot, I really need this now?
ROGER FEDERER: No, I think Rafa definitely made me improve my game, no doubt. I didn't like to accept it in the very beginning when I started playing him, but he had such a different style of play and unique way to play me that I had to adjust some things in my game that worked against him, for instance.
But I definitely think it's just about tweaking some things here and there, choosing the right tactics against certain players. I have the choice to play very all around, that's a great thing. But that also includes a lot of work on all different areas of my game. It's not just enough to hit backhand crosscourt for four hours. I also need to play my forehand and at the net and at the serve, and I really like to come into net more, play offensive, because I think that's something where I have the biggest potential left in my game.

Q. You have had obviously over the years quite a run with Hewitt, and things are not looking the best for him at the moment as far as rankings are concerned. Do you think he should be concerned with where his ranking is right now?
ROGER FEDERER: Where is it?

Q. 24. He says he still has it in him to match it with everybody else, and I'm sure players would agree with that.

Q. Should he be concerned with where his ranking is? It hasn't really turned around.
ROGER FEDERER: No, I don't think he should be concerned, because he's been No. 1 in the world. I think once you were there you care about winning titles and being the best.
I think he would then adjust his schedule accordingly to becoming No. 1 in the world, but that's not his focus anymore. This is why the rankings are not a priority for him. It's important for him to be seeded and getting into tournaments. That's no question. I think he'd go out No. 5 or 10 or 1 in the world than 24.
But I think he's a great player. I've had the best battles with him, and I still think he's got the game to do very, very well. So, no, he shouldn't be concerned at all. We should be concerned that he's still there. (Laughter.)

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