Federer: 'Maybe I can relax a bit now, enjoy the game'
What does a newly crowned 'greatest ever player' do after an historic victory? Roger Federer tells Paul Newman about staying up until 7am – and where he can possibly go from here
Tuesday 07 July 2009
It would have been interesting to hear the conversation as Roger Federer went through customs on his way home to Switzerland last night.
"Anything you're taking out of the country, sir?"
"Not much. Just a few clothes we bought for the baby and a little trophy I won over the weekend. Oh yes, there's also that big bag over there. It's got a tennis net in it."
The net, taken down from Centre Court after Federer's historic triumph at Wimbledon on Sunday, was a parting gift from the All England Club. "This guy came up to me and said: 'By the way, we just want to give you the net'," Federer said yesterday on a brief return to Wimbledon. "I was like: 'Anything else? Umpire's chair, maybe? Royal Box seats?'
"Maybe I'll stretch the net across a room in my house. Every time I go in there I'll have to run to the net - or maybe I'll jump over it. To be honest I don't know what I'll do with it. I'll probably hang it against the wall at my chalet in Switzerland."
Despite having had only two hours' sleep, Federer was in a buoyant and relaxed mood as he reflected on his achievement in beating Andy Roddick in a marathon final to win a sixth Wimbledon crown and move past Pete Sampras's all-time record of 14 Grand Slam titles.
After a round of media interviews on Sunday, Federer did not arrive at the champions' dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel in Park Lane until midnight. He did not stay long, but after returning to his accommodation the recrowned world No 1 – who reclaimed his place at the top of the rankings from Rafael Nadal yesterday – did not go to bed until 7am.
"I took my time going to bed," Federer said. "[On these occasions] I only go to bed when I'm so tired that I can't stay awake any more. But I still got in two hours at least and I'm feeling fine. I slept from seven till nine. It was bright outside. It was strange. I don't remember sunrise. The last time I saw sunrise was in Beijing at the Olympics after the party when I won the doubles.
"I was reading some stuff from the fans, seeing how they lived through it, seeing what the media wrote, watching some video of the most important points. It's a process for me. I'm so tired, but when I close my eyes I have all these pictures and I can't fall asleep. So I'd rather just put them in front of me, so I don't have to think. Eventually I get so tired I go to bed."
How did it feel to see again the moment of victory, when he let out a roar and leapt high into the air? "It looked to me like I was thinking: 'Oh my God it's over. What am I going to do? I can't believe he's missed the shot and I was able to break him.'
"I was just so happy to have come through. I was almost running towards the net, shaking hands as if to make sure that it really was over, because for a while it had looked like it was never going to end. It was an amazing moment, but I know the pain that Andy must have gone through. That's one of the reasons I didn't go too crazy about the victory."
While he ponders what to do with the net, Federer's sixth replica Wimbledon trophy will go into an increasingly crowded room at his Basel home. "I do have a trophy cabinet," he said. "It's like an office – though that sounds so serious. It's a wonderful room. I said I would sacrifice one room just for tennis and the rest of the house shouldn't remind me of tennis. I just wanted to be able to shut the doors and say: 'Tennis is in there, my life is over here'. It's a very special room. Sometimes I just go and sit in there and just look around. It's quite something. It's fantastic."
The trophy room could get much fuller yet. Although Federer said he would probably play in a more relaxed frame of mind in the future after completing his set of Grand Slam trophies at the French Open and beating Sampras's record, he said his motivation would remain.
"I want to enjoy the game," he said. "I don't want to feel the burden of living up to expectations just because the media are crazy about records. I love them, too, but I don't look at a record and say: 'I want to beat this guy to be better'. That's not the point. For me this will calm things down, and maybe I can relax a bit more."
Federer said he did not have a target number of Grand Slam titles to aim at but expected he would "definitely win a few more" given his extraordinary record of consistency. "Pete [Sampras] always said that any year you win a Grand Slam is a good year and that's what I'm aiming for in the next few. I have a good opportunity in all four majors because I've won them all in the past."
He was asked what had been the crucial moments over the last six weeks. "I guess three matches at the French – against Acasuso, Haas and Del Potro – and here the final. The wait, the pressure, the expectations for myself, the opportunity after Nadal lost at the French. Those were big moments of the last 45 days. Many things have happened. That's why I'm exhausted right now. I'm done. I'm going to take it a little bit easy."
The Swiss said his priority in the coming weeks would be to support his wife, Mirka, who will soon give birth to their first child. He agreed that becoming a father would bring major changes to his lifestyle. "I'm ready for some changes because I've always stuck to the same routine in the past. Maybe I'll get up earlier for practice, do things a bit differently, see things more last moment and not be so crazy as a professional. As a junior I tried to find a way to win and I've stuck with that routine because it's been successful. I've been doing it for so long that it will actually be nice not to know what's happening next.
"I definitely have to regroup after this victory and get in the right frame of mind for the rest of the season. I want to finish the season as No 1. I can't just be at home for the next six months. I want to travel. Mirka has said she has no problem travelling with me, so we'll see how possible that will all be. I'm not worried that I'll be thinking: 'Now I've achieved everything, there is no more point in playing, it's better just to retire.' I'm too young, too eager to do well.
"Besides, Mirka wouldn't let me. She wants to see me play and I want to be with her on tour instead of sitting at home. That's not life for me."
In winning his 15th Grand Slam title Federer moved one ahead of his friend, Tiger Woods, who was won 14 majors in golf. Woods was one of the first to congratulate Federer, sending him a text from the practice range before going out to win the AT&T National at Bethesda, Maryland.
Had Federer asked Woods for any tips about fatherhood? "We spoke a bit. He said it would be fine, exciting, different." Most importantly, has Federer ever changed a nappy? "Not yet. I've been saving myself. I've got to practice and ask for some advice."
Is he the greatest? Views from around the world
"Roger is the greatest player I have ever seen." ......... John McEnroe
"The critics say [Rod] Laver, and [Rafael] Nadal's beaten him a few times in majors. But he has won all the majors. He has won 15 now, and he is going to win a few more. In my book he is [the greatest]." Pete Sampras
"Roger Federer deserves his rating as the greatest player to have picked up a racket." Ashley cooper, former world No 1
" Like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt, carved into the granite of a symbolic national structure, there were Laver, Borg, Sampras and Federer, the Mt Rushmore of tennis. And now Federer, that impeccably elegant, perfect Swiss timepiece, is the grandest champion of all, the first face on the mountain all eyes will be drawn to." Ted Green, LA Times
"History continues to be written, in a record book that will soon run out of pages. There are no words left to describe Roger Federer." Swiss newspaper, Le Temps
"Roger Federer has achieved more in tennis than any player before him. He is the best in a sport that is played and followed around the world." Basler Zeitung, newspaper in Roger's hometown of Basel
"[To be the best of your era] That is a pretty good compliment. It's hard to say who's the best ever." Rod Laver
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