But Federer has maintained his impressive form into this year and retaining his Australian Open crown, which was the 20th grand slam of his career, has set him up now for a run as No 1 going into the summer.
The prospect of returning to world No 1 excites Federer, he's happy about his revival and looks forward to more tennis. "Without that this doesn't matter". Federer and de Bakker know each other very well as the Swiss has four wins and zero losses against De Bakker. I get to meet a lot of people. "I happy I'm here, healthy and eager to play". It was the second longest grand slam final ever, obviously exciting in and of itself, but I think its reputation derives more from what it represented in the context of the Federer-Nadal rivalry. We'll see how it goes, I'm healthy and glad to be playing. You always want to do it the tough way. I want to be ready for this event. Until I was injured.
"But I need to be very careful in my planning, really decide beforehand what are my goals, what are my priorities".
"I don't compare my self with wonderful players like Roger - it's most important for me to do the right thing for my career". Continuing to win grand slam singles titles in your early 30s is rare. It all happened organically. The Czech won the 2014 title, and reached the 2015 final and two semis in 2012 and 2017. Then I also couldn't play.
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"When the time is right, I'll talk about it - and see how I feel in that year". Essentially, he only has so many tournaments left in his legs, and he'd likely prefer to go to the ones he's most likely to win. What I did previous year - and what Rafa [Nadal] is doing also - is maybe a bit of a lighter schedule, and it shows to others by working or practising a bit more - or taking time - you can improve your potential and you become a different or better player. I feel like I'd be a different player six months later but everybody's scared to do it because they're, like, what about my ranking, what about this, what about that? "I always believed I could do it once, [so] it's an incredible journey". I have great history with both events...
A good number of tennis punters are hoping that Roger would repeat his Australian open performance at Wimbledon, and are already planning to make use of various Wimbledon free bets to make the most of this possibility. "Semis seems not too far away, but yet it's still a big step so I'm trying to prepare as well as I can, see what happens and go from there". But what makes Federer's challenge particularly interesting is the scattering of NextGen players among their older colleagues.
The only reason, given he had a 4-0 record over Nadal when the two rivals did meet, was that Federer chose to sit out the entire clay court season. Or not at all.