Roger Federer insists he is feeling no extra pressure to perform at tournaments despite playing a relatively curtailed schedule for the past couple of seasons.
The Swiss world No. 3, who fell to Kei Nishikori in his ATP Finals opener on Sunday in London, has contested 13 tournaments in 2018, and 12 in 2017, compared to 17 events in each of the seasons from 2012 to 2015.
At 37, Federer has become more and more meticulous with his scheduling, and has opted out of playing the clay season altogether in 2017 and 2018. He hasn’t competed at the French Open since 2015.
A winner of a men’s record 20 Grand Slam titles, Federer started this season with a stunning 17-0 win-loss record — a stretch that saw him return to the world No. 1 spot in February, becoming the oldest to occupy that position in the 45-year history of the ATP rankings. He is 21-6 since the start of Wimbledon though, falling in the quarter-finals at the All England Club to Kevin Anderson, and losing to John Millman in the fourth round of the US Open.
While his season remains a highly successful one, Federer acknowledges that it was never going to be like his impressive 2017, that saw him pick up seven titles, including two Slams, and lose just five matches all year.
Asked if he felt a different kind of pressure nowadays at tournaments compared to when he was playing a fuller schedule, Federer said: “I used to play exactly this schedule for about 15 years, this last second part of the season. It’s just that the clay has been less. Other than that, I don’t see a major difference.
“I want to do well at every tournament. I think fans know that. Tournament directors know that. I know it. My team knows it.
“I don’t think, per se, I’m playing worse because of it. I think I’ve had that pressure not going out early most of my career. Once I became world No. 1 anyways. Once you’ve been a former world No. 1, you always have that for the rest of your career, for every guy.
“Yeah, I mean, that my season was never going to be exactly like last year. I knew that going into the season. If you thought I was going to have, I think you are dreaming a little bit, I think. I’m happy how I played this season. I didn’t feel like playing less was a problem, if that’s what it was. I didn’t feel I played less, per se.”
Federer is targeting the 100th title of his career this week at the ATP Finals at the O2 Arena in London, and next takes on Dominic Thiem in a crucial round-robin clash on Tuesday.
“We haven’t played in a while, I don’t remember when that was the last time [I played Thiem]. I mean, okay, whatever. I haven’t thought about the match, to be honest. I haven’t had enough time. I wasn’t even thinking who I’m going to play next. I just know I need to do better than today. That’s pretty much it,” Federer said after his loss to Nishikori on Sunday.
Thiem is one of just three active players to have a positive head-to-head record against Federer (the Austrian is 2-1 against him), but they haven’t played in over two years and the Swiss won their sole previous meeting on hard courts.
Thiem is making his third consecutive appearance at the ATP Finals, and lost his opening match against Kevin Anderson in straight sets on Sunday.
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