Exclusive interview: Roger Federer - the legend has that winning feeling back ahead of Australian Open

The Swiss on how coach Stefan Edberg, a new racket and working harder than the rest of the leading players over the winter have lifted his confidence

Of Roger Federer's many qualities, his optimism is one of the greatest. The former world No 1 has suffered many setbacks in recent times – sliding down the world rankings, seeing his run of 36 successive Grand Slam quarter-final appearances come to an end, losing to some of the sport's journeymen – but always bounces back in confident mood. Ask him how long he took to recover from his latest devastating defeat and he will usually tell you that it was only a matter of minutes.

As the 32-year-old Swiss prepares to contest his 57th Grand Slam tournament in a row at the Australian Open here next week – a run which will take him past Wayne Ferreira's Open era record – he is once again thinking only of the positives. Federer looks back on last week's Brisbane International, for example, where he lost to Lleyton Hewitt for just the second time in 18 meetings, as a good start to 2014. He also draws encouragement both from his winter break, which followed his least productive campaign for 12 years, and the fact that he has recovered from the back problems that troubled him in 2013.

"I probably trained harder in the off-season than all the guys ahead of me in the rankings," the world No 6 said here in Melbourne as he looked forward to the new season. "They went off to play exhibitions, like I did last year, so that [counts in my favour]. I did a full-on month [of training], which I haven't done in a long time. My body held up for that and I've just played singles and doubles in Brisbane.

"I really feel like I'm on the way back. Who knows? Maybe I'll play my best in March or April. That's my feeling, but I still feel there's a lot that's possible right now. Maybe that's why I haven't set particular, special goals. I just want to get back to a good level and then, hopefully, I can start winning tournaments again."

He added: "Of course, I need to have goals, but right now I'm coming off a tough season. The important thing for me is that I find my way back into the whole rhythm, which I think I did, because I played a lot of tennis in Basel, Paris and London at the end of last season."

Never one to rest on his laurels, Federer has been ringing the changes in the hope of extending a career which has already brought him 17 Grand Slam singles titles and $79,265,175 (about £48.2m) in prize-money, both records. Having dispensed with Paul Annacone, he has brought Stefan Edberg into his coaching team. After experiments with new rackets, he has also settled on a new tool of his trade.

The choice of Edberg, who will be with Federer for 10 weeks of the year, is intriguing, particularly as the Swede's appointment comes at a time when two other former greats of the game, Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl, are working with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray respectively. You might think that the most accomplished player of all time would not need a coach, but Federer knows that Tony Roche was a major factor in his most successful years, while Annacone helped him to win his seventh Wimbledon crown after more than two and a half years without a Grand Slam title.

"I'm very inspired and motivated right now," Federer said. "Of course, working with Stefan Edberg is a very special situation for me. He was the man who I was watching the most when I was growing up and has influenced me most in terms of inspiring me as a tennis player. So to spend some weeks with him throughout the year is going to be very special for me.

"Trying out the new racket is something I've always wanted to do. That's something that is going really well and that I'm happy about. Then just having my body being back to a good level is also very motivating and keeps you very eager."

Federer experimented with a new Wilson racket last summer after Wimbledon, where he suffered his most devastating loss of the year, to the world No 116 Sergiy Stakhovsky. The change did not go well as the Swiss lost to Federico Delbonis (world No 114) in Hamburg and to Daniel Brands (world No 55) in Gstaad, after which he reverted to his former racket. Nevertheless, Federer still lost in the fourth round of the US Open to Tommy Robredo – a player he had beaten in all 10 of their previous meetings – and ended the season with just one title to his name, which was his worst haul since 2001.

Acting on Federer's feedback, Wilson provided him with more rackets for the US Open and again at the end of the season. He played with his latest choice for two and a half weeks while training in Dubai before coming here. "I feel very comfortable with it, more comfortable than I did with the one after Wimbledon," Federer said. "This one feels more of an extension than I had before, but I guess it's in a more futuristic form."

He added: "I had a much longer time to get ready for this swing than I had last time around after Wimbledon before the American summer. I'm not thinking about it when I'm going out there, which is a great thing. I'm hitting the ball really well."

The continuing pulling power of the seven-times Wimbledon champion was evident here on Wednesday night, when a capacity crowd filled Rod Laver Arena to attend "A Night with Roger Federer and Friends", a gala evening to raise funds for his charitable foundation. There were guest appearances by Laver and Pat Rafter, but the centrepiece was essentially a practice match between Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. It was even broadcast live on television.

Federer, whose foundation supports underprivileged children in Africa, would like to see the sport do more to support good causes. "I see the power that tennis can have," he said. "We don't play that many pro-ams, like golf does. I think we could exploit more times the way we include charities into tournaments. I think the players are very open to these things."

He added: "Exhibitions and matches like that definitely inspire you to keep on playing. That's not my only goal because I actually want to play tennis and be successful and win as well, because the thrill of holding up a trophy, of being on match point, is actually an amazing one. That's probably deep down why I'm still playing, but of course there are so many other things I can do at the same time.

"The enjoyment factor I get out of playing on tour today is totally different. It's a much deeper love of the game that I have today and a much bigger appreciation and respect. I just remember playing out on Court 25 early in my career. Now that I play on Centre Court most of the time it's an absolute privilege."

Ever mindful of the history of the game, Federer can see how appropriate it would be if he were to add to his Grand Slam collection later this month. "Ten years ago I became world No 1 here and 10 years ago I won my first Australian Open," he said. "I think I can play very well here, though I'm not thinking too far ahead."

Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again say analysts

A Brazilian wandering spider

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
Arts and Entertainment
filmsIt's nearly a wrap on Star Wars: Episode 7, producer reveals
Life and Style
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey indulge in some racing at a Point to Point
tvNew pictures promise a day at the races and a loved-up Lady Rose

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past