Roger Federer said Monday he is pinching himself over a resurgent season that has added two more Grand Slams to the Swiss great’s trophy case and put 100 career singles titles within reach.
Following an injury-plagued 2016 in which he failed to lift any hardware, Federer has thrived on a reduced schedule aimed at easing the strain on his 36-year-old bones.
“I couldn’t be happier with this season to be quite honest,” the world number two said as play in the Shanghai Masters got underway.
“I’m just happy being here now and it would be nice to pick up another title and get in training and start again the next year and get more chances then.”
Looming in Shanghai is a potential clash in the final between Federer and Rafael Nadal, whose friendly rivalry has blossomed anew this year as they force the next generation to wait their turn.
Nadal, who in August re-took the world’s top ranking for the first time in more than three years, is also enjoying a stellar campaign.
The Spaniard comes to Shanghai’s hard-court having dispatched dangerous 22-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios in straight sets to win the China Open in Beijing on Sunday.
The veteran Federer, on the other hand, skipped Beijing to arrive early in Shanghai to practice — and pace himself.
“To win tournaments is not an easy thing to do. I came to realise that obviously last year,” he said.
We’re basically the same height pic.twitter.com/OX7XSmv6t8
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) October 9, 2017
“I’m playing only the big tournaments now so you need to really be in tip-top shape and ready to go and it’s just not so simple.”
With many predicting players like Germany’s Alexander Zverev to become the sport’s next dominant players, Federer and Nadal aren’t done yet.
Starting the year ranked a relatively lowly 17th in the world, Federer beat Nadal in the Australian Open final in January and then won a record-breaking eighth Wimbledon in July without dropping a set.
He now has 93 singles titles, just one shy of overtaking Ivan Lendl for second-most in the Open era. Jimmy Connors has 109.
But Federer, who has five singles titles so far this year, is just focused on staying healthy.
“I’m not that far away (from 100 titles) it seems, but there is no point to really to think about it on a daily basis. This is something that is either going to happen or not going to happen,” he said.
“I’m happy I’m here, and I’m happy that I’m healthy.”
Federer has third-seeded Zverev in his half of the draw, while Nadal’s side has tough customers like Marin Cilic, Kyrgios and US open finalist Kevin Anderson.
Federer said he was surprised that Nadal, who won the French and US Opens this year, had even competed in Beijing after a busy recent stretch of tennis.
He also marvelled at the hard-court versatility of the Spaniard, whose 10 French Open wins had already proven his mastery on clay.
“It’s nice to see him keeping going. This (the China Open) is a really big win for him. So for him to go to Beijing and win it right away, I expected him to pull out, to be honest.”
He added: “Why not? There is no reason for him to push it too hard, but that’s Rafa.”
Federer begins his Shanghai campaign the winner of the opening round clash between Australia’s Jordan Thompson and Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman. Nadal will face American NextGen star Jared Donaldson.
Rafael Nadal said he was braced for the “huge” serve of John Isner after Spain’s world number one bulldozed his way into the China Open quarter-finals on Thursday.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion Nadal saw off the young Russian Karen Khachanov 6-3, 6-3 in Beijing to set up a last-eight clash with Isner, who had defeated the Spaniard with some impressive play at the Laver cup two weeks ago.
The in-form American, the sixth seed, is renowned for his booming service game and Nadal expects to come under a barrage on Friday.
Isner was impressive in blasting his way past Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer 6-0, 6-3 and Nadal said: “Tomorrow will be a tough one against Isner, he’s playing unbelievably well.
“I saw him today, he played so aggressive, having a lot of success, hitting a lot of winners, returning very well.
“Everybody knows that he serves huge and it is so difficult to break him.
“But if you add that he is playing very well now from the baseline, he is one of the toughest opponents you can meet.”
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) October 5, 2017
Nadal, 31, the top seed and coming off the back of a third US Open title, saved two match points against Frenchman Lucas Pouille in his opener in Beijing.
But he was always in control against Khachanov, 21, breaking him in the fourth game of the first set on the way to a routine victory.
“Of course I played better today. But is true that Pouille played so well the other day. There is always a reason. But obviously first match after a while is tough. First one against Pouille is a difficult one,” said Nadal, who recorded a tour-leading 31st win on hard court in 2017.
“After that match, be through after all the things that happened the other day, was a positive thing for me of course. And that’s gives me confidence. Today I think I played a good match.”
In the women’s draw, former world number one and fourth seed Karolina Pliskova became the latest high-profile casualty on Beijing’s outdoor hard courts, going out in the third round to unseeded Sorana Cirstea.
Cirstea, ranked 44 in the world, stunned the Czech Pliskova 6-1, 7-5 to reach the last eight.
She will play Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko, the Roland Garros champion, after China’s top player Peng Shuai retired with a knee injury at 3-0 down in the first set.
The 31-year-old Peng said she had been having injections to ease the pain and her right knee was heavily strapped, but she could not play on.
“The doctor suggested I should take a period of rest and get it treated, but I can only rest after the season, that’s the plan,” said Peng, ranked 25 in the world.
World number one Garbine Muguruza and reigning champion Agnieszka Radwanska are both out, leaving world number two Halep as the favourite in the Chinese capital.
Also into the quarters are Caroline Garcia, who defeated French compatriot Alize Cornet 6-2, 6-1, and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic.
Garcia is in red-hot form after winning the Wuhan Open title on Saturday.
— China Open (@ChinaOpen) October 5, 2017
There were countless unforgettable moments from the inaugural Laver Cup that took place in Prague from September 22-24 at the O2 Arena.
The moment Nadal leapt into Federer’s arms to celebrate the Swiss securing Team Europe’s win over Team World has been replayed millions of times around the world. It’s an iconic shot that will forever commemorate the Laver Cup’s first edition. Nick Kyrgios‘ getting emotional and getting consoled by his team-mates also melted our hearts.
One of the most appealing aspects of Laver Cup was the behind-the-scenes footage they provided. Staged or not, this conversation between Nadal, Federer, Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg and vice-captain Thomas Enqvist was gold!
Alexander Zverev was given the tough task of introducing Federer to the stage during the Laver Cup gala. He came up with the perfect anecdote of meeting the Swiss legend when he was just five years old. Federer’s introduction to Nadal was not too shabby either. Must-watch!
The Team World bench were having the time of their life during the competition, adopting celebrations from US college basketball as they supported their team-mates during matches. There was a significantly different vibe on the sidelines for both teams and we must say we thoroughly enjoyed Team World’s shenanigans. The Tennis Channel put this perfect video together to showcase just how wild things got.
This coaching moment between Federer and Zverev gave us a sneak peek of what Coach Roger Federer might actually look like. Suddenly we are all fans of on-court coaching. Kudos to the WTA for introducing it to their tour.