Shanghai: Swiss tennis superstar Roger Federer returned to the Shanghai Rolex Masters after two years and concluded the season's penultimate ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament with his 94th career crown after a fifth consecutive victory over old foe Rafael Nadal in the final.
The 19-time Grand Slam champion made it clear in an exclusive interview to Xinhua that though he has no plans to retire in the near future, his family is the priority for him at the moment.
"I know it (retirement) is sooner or later. I know I'm not 22 anymore, but I don't have a date," Federer said. "If the body allows me to play, my family allows me to play, if the success is still there, if I'm happy to travel, I will continue. But the four things have to work, if one of the four doesn't work, it maybe the time to stop. But for now, it's ok."
At the age of 36, the Swiss has already won a Tour-best six titles this season, including the successes in the Australian Open where he overcame Nadal in a tough five-setter in the final and the Wimbledon where he defeated Marin Cilic in straight sets in the summit clash.
Playing it smart
Many people are wondering how could a player make such accomplishments at such an age. One of the reasons is that the veteran has learned to be more flexible and made a smart schedule during the season.
"For me, I have come to realize that sometimes less is more. Today I think when I take enough rest, feel hungry and have the fire, then it's the one I can play my best. I want to make sure I'm happy to be on the court and happy to do press. It's like if I do too much, the fire is like Juuuu... it goes away. So for me, the family is my priority and then the rest," Federer explained.
With a record 19 Grand Slam titles, the Basel-born legend is considered to be the best ever player of the sport. But Federer himself feels reluctant to accept it. In his opinion, being the ever best is not only about Grand Slams. "Like Bjorn Borg, he only went to Australia once or twice because it was during the Christmas, and he was happy at home instead of traveling."
"I worked extremely hard to have a great career, and sometimes have chased records. But you know, it's hard to judge who is the best of all time, you see Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Rod Laver, Rafael Nadal, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras. There are so many players who did fabulous things, so I tried my best with my career. I didn't expect myself playing maybe this well at this age. I'm happy with what I achieved, and hope I can keep going," Federer said.
Although trailing 14-23 in his meets against the current world No.1 Nadal, Federer is sparing no efforts to narrow the margin as he has defeated the Spaniard five times in a row, of which four came in this season. It seems that the eight-time Wimbledon champion has found ways to beat the 10-time French Open winner.
"I think I'm serving consistently better. I get power easily ever since I switched to the bigger racket. I feel I'm connecting better on the backhand and I'm serving good," Federer said of the change of game style which proved to be helpful for him, "I think it was hard for me to consistently just keep on attacking with the backhand, but now it seems almost not a problem."
"But that's no guarantee, he is gonna keep working. Rafael is a great player and extremely difficult to play against, because he can use his left hand do everything. But what I see is to win the title, not so much beating Rafael, but of course beating him is more special," he said.
Prior to the tournament, Federer got a chance to take the subway in Shanghai which left him deep impression. He said he was very used to the public transportation when he was at young age in his home country Switzerland.
"Shanghai is a great tournament, I hope I can come to play every year if my body allows. And I'd like to bring my family to, not just Shanghai, China in general. It's such a diverse, interesting country with so much rich history that I'd like to visit more," Federer said.
Looking to the future of the Tour, Federer also talked about some young players whom in his opinion have the potential to be the next legends, such as Denis Shapovalov, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Nick Kyrgios.
"(To be the legends), you need hard work, passion, and a good team, good training facilities, and being able to withstand pressure, and understanding the Tour, making it like the second home. It takes a little bit more time, but they are doing great. It's nice to see these young talents in the Tour, and they make tennis a better place and exciting for fans," Federer added.