BASEL // Roger Federer will cut exhibition matches from his 2009 schedule as he pursues Pete Sampras's record of 14 grand slam singles titles. Federer faced Sampras in a three-match series across Asia a year ago and again in New York City last March. Federer's agent, Tony Godsick, said such commitments won't be repeated next year. "Roger will only play a schedule that works for him physically," Godsick said after Federer won his hometown Swiss Indoors tournament. "During the next couple of years you will see him put his seat belt on and focus for the big ones, the grand slams and big tournaments."
Federer is within sight of history with 13 slams after a fifth consecutive US Open victory last month. That Flushing Meadows win was defined as a defiant comeback in a year when Federer fell sick with mononucleosis, was beaten by players outside the top 10 and lost his No 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal after a record reign of 237 weeks. "It was tough for him when people were writing him off," said Godsick.
Godsick dismissed the idea that the 27-year-old Swiss is old in tennis terms, but says Federer is entering a new phase after his rise to the top and multiple seasons of domination. "I think it is the third stage of his career, but it is just the beginning of the third stage," Godsick said. Federer is already nursing his body after his usual training calendar was wrecked this season by illness and the timing of the Beijing Olympics in August.
He skipped a tournament in Stockholm, Sweden, earlier this month and has yet to commit to the Paris Masters beginning Monday. His agent believes Federer must have time to build up to the Slams in '09. "He is not going to overplay next year," Godsick said. "He is just going to try to make sure he peaks for the tournaments that mean the most to him." The exhibition tour visited Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and Macau inside five days, then drew a sold-out audience of 19,690 to Madison Square Garden, "The Sampras thing was fun," Godsick said.