Roger Federer’s resurgence has already out-stripped his expectations, but the Swiss great says relishing the game is more important now than chasing a ranking.
Sidelined some six months after knee surgery last year, Federer came back to win his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January.
After a hiccup in Dubai, where he was stunned by world number 116 Evgeny Donskoy, Federer has emerged from one of the toughest draws in ATP history to reach the final of the Indian Wells Masters.
“I forgot how tough the draw actually was,” Federer said of the quarter that included him along with world number two Novak Djokovic and number six Rafael Nadal, along with former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, dangerous young Australian Nick Kyrgios and talented German Alexander Zverev.
And why not, since Federer has booked a title showdown with fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka without once dropping serve as world number one Andy Murray, Djokovic and the rest fell by the wayside.
But Federer, currently ranked 10th in the world, said he isn’t tempted to start dreaming of a return to number one just yet, even with Murray pulling out of next week’s Miami Masters with an elbow injury and Djokovic reported to be bothered by elbow trouble as well.
“Because I’m not going to be playing so much you would think I would need to win probably another Grand Slam for that to happen,” he said.
“And maybe one is not enough, because they will pick up their level of play and they’re going to win tournaments again.
“Sure I’d love to be number one again. But anything else other than world number one for me is not interesting. So that’s why the rankings is not a priority right now.”
The priority is having fun and playing well. That’s also why the 35-year-old said he won’t set his clay court schedule until after the Miami Masters, when he can assess his energy level after two tough hard court events.
“What I don’t want to do is overplay and just get tired of traveling and tired of just playing tournaments and just entering and doing people a favor just to be there with no aspirations.
“That’s a promise I made to myself that if I play tournaments that’s how my mindset has to be and will be,” he said.
Defense to offense
Federer has certainly looked energized in Indian Wells, where he can join Djokovic as the only five-time winners.
Although he owns a commanding 19-3 record against Wawrinka, Federer said it wouldn’t necessarily be an easy match up against a player who has claimed three Grand Slam titles in the past three years.
“A lot of those matches came early when I was the overwhelming favorite when I was maybe still world number one and he was 30 in the world and his game was based heavily on the clay courts,” Federer said.
Now, he added, world number three Wawrinka has developed his hard court game, enough so that he lifted the US Open trophy last year.
“I think he does a really nice job of defending and then creating — going from defense to offense,” Federer said. “He has improved his serve. Especially as he goes deeper in the tournament his confidence builds. That’s when he’s harder to stop.”