"Roland Garros is the one to win this year."
February 07, 2012 | 07:51 PM
Along with RG, he says he would also like to win Wimbledon and the Olympics.
"And why not?" JOKER asks. "I have proven on numerous occasions that I can really be one of the candidates to win every Grand Slam on every surface. I need to keep that up. I've learnt how to handle my schedule, how to handle myself on and off the court and to prepare for the biggest events. This is going to be the case this year. I have to stay optimistic, believe in what I can do, believe in my abilities and believe that I can win on all surfaces."
Except for having to remind himself frequently to believe, JOKER makes a good case for his confidence. And maybe such grand ambitions require constant tending. He also seems to remind himself frequently what he has achieved and where he has come from:
"Now I have this special award [The Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award, which has been won by two other active men's champions in 5 of the past 7 years: Federer won it 4 years in a row starting in 2005, and Nadal won it last year; Serena Williams won the Sportswoman of the Year award twice (in 2003 and 2010, and Jennifer Capriati won it in 2002]. I think everything is possible - Serbia is a small and beautiful country, but also very poor. It has a lot of troubles and wars in the last 20 years. I hope each and everyone in the world could dream."
FEDERER also has dreams this year: A Davis Cup victory and an Olympic gold in singles are on his list.
Does this mean that Federer - Fearless at 30 - is NOT focused on winning a major this year?
No - why should it?
Connors and Agassi won two Majors each after turning 30, and for Fed neither the passion or the work ethic are missing (he's putting in 6 - 8 hour days training in Dubai, 2 - 4 hours on court with coaches Annacone and Luthi, and equal time off court with fitness trainer Pierre Paganini and physiotherapist Stephane Vivier). Annacone, who coached Sampras in the second half of his career, notes that:
"For PETE, there was more wear and tear by this stage. Roger has the enthusiasm of a 20 year old. There is no need to motivate him. He's relentlessly studious about trying to improve."
Like Joker, Fed attributes a real break through in his past to a past Davis Cup success.
In 2001 against - coincidentally - the USA team lead by Todd Martin, Fed won two singles and the doubles to clinch the tie 3-2. Federer said that performance, against a U.S. team led by Todd Martin, "definitely got me in winning ways." Months later at Wimbledon, he beat four-time defending champion Pete Sampras in the fourth round. "It was a start of great things for me and I'm happy playing America again."
Now, 11 years later, The Swiss will host the USA in Fribourg on indoor clay, a surface many feel is an unnecessary advantage against a team whose top player has managed one win over Rog in his career (Mardy Fish) and is without the #1 doubles pair that has carried them to Cup success. Mike Bryan will partner with Fish, the only partner other than Daddy Bob he's had, to try to hold of Federer and Wawrinka, the Olympic Gold medalists. It may be an interesting match-up, but the Swiss are certainly have more than what Roger calls a small advantage. If so, this may help them to the next rounds:
- In the 2nd round, the Swiss would face France or Canada (played in Canada with Raonic, Dancevic and - in doubles - Daniel Nestor, the hosts cannot be considered a ridiculous long shot shot against Tsonga, Monfils, Llodra and Benneteau).
- Spain looms in the Cup semi-final, and with Rafa not now focusing on Davis Cup and the tie to be played in Switzerland, where it could be indoors on fast hard courts in September when Roger has been ready to play his best, Rog's dream could take him to his first Cup final.
- Assume Serbia or Argentina as a finalist from the other half, and again note that the tie would be played in the Alps in November after Barclays, and a Federer lead Cup team looks tough to bet against.
As for RAFA, perhaps he now harbors but one ambition: to hold off the Serb at RG and retain what's left of his reputation for Joker to take: the crown of King of Clay. Anything else would be gravy. The odds of him being Fearless at 30 could seem laughable if he becomes #2 on clay at age 26.
ATP, Davis Cup 2012 (Feb 6)