Roger Federer is set to kick off his grass-court season at the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart this week following a two-month period of rest.
The legendary Swiss, who won the Australian Open in January followed by the prestigious ‘Sunshine Double’ in Indian Wells and Miami, has committed to a full schedule for the rest of the year as he fine tunes his preparations ahead of Wimbledon next month.
Speaking to ATPWorldTour.com before his opening match against the winner of Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert and close friend Tommy Haas, Federer said: “There are no more breaks now. I’ve had enough breaks. I’m a practice world champion now and that’s not who I want to be. I want to be a champ on the match courts. So I’m going to be playing a regular schedule for the second part of the season.”
While his focus is very much on match play on his beloved grass, Federer has reserved special praise for Rafa Nadal after the Spaniard claimed his 10th French Open title in Paris last weekend – leaving him just three slams behind Federer’s record 18 in the all-time standings.
“I think Rafa winning the French Open is less of a surprise because he’d done it nine times before… I was hoping he was going to dominate the clay-court season like the olden days.”
However, the 35-year-old has still been taken back by just how well himself and Nadal have performed this season.
“I was terribly surprised to win the Australian Open and to back it up and win the sunshine double in Indian Wells and Miami was a complete surprise to me,” Federer said.
“It maybe had something to do with Murray having a bit of a letdown after his great finish to last year and Novak not playing his absolute best. We were able to take advantage of the fact that we were in great shape and came refreshed into the season after our injuries at the end of last year.”
With Nadal adding a 15th major title to his CV, Federer feels his great rival is favourite to finish 2017 as year-end World No1.
And while he is in the mix himself to climb to the top of the rankings again, the seven-time Wimbledon champion is also expecting the second-half of the season to be one of the most exciting yet – with many players in the mix to challenge for big titles.
“Obviously Rafa is in great position to finish on top. For him it’s going to be all about staying injury free. For me it’s about getting back to winning ways, where I left off in Miami.
“I’m sure a lot of guys are going to start playing their best in the second half of the season, like Murray, Djokovic, Nishikori, Raonic, Zverev, Kyrgios, Stan. We’ll all be playing our best tennis. It’s going to be an epic finish to the end of the season. Quite exciting actually for the ATP Tour.”