x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Roger Federer ready for next set

The former No 1 turned 30 yesterday, but he is still hungry to achieve more success.

Roger Federer is not looking at what is behind him and is instead focusing on what lies ahead.
Roger Federer is not looking at what is behind him and is instead focusing on what lies ahead.

The questions started coming for Roger Federer before the birthday wishes. The 16-time grand slam champion turned 30 on Monday, and in the week leading up to the celebrations, he faced the usual questions about his future.

"My plans are always probably a bit over a year ahead of the time," Federer said. "I'm already way past this point. I'm already thinking beyond the Olympics next year.

"Birthdays, they happen. They are a part of life. I'm happy I'm getting older. I'd rather be 30 than 20 to be quite honest. This is, to me, a nice time."

The fact that Federer still enjoys the game can only be good for tennis. He came on the scene when tennis was struggling to plug the hole left by the decline of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.

From November 20, 2000, when Sampras last held the world No 1 ranking, to February 2, 2004, when the Swiss ace scaled that peak, men's tennis had seen the top ranking change hands 12 times.

In that era of general disillusionment, Federer gave the men's game a new lease of life and extended its appeal beyond the usual frontiers. And he stayed at the top of the tree for a record 237 consecutive weeks.

Federer always believed he would do it, even as a 10 year old when he was learning the game at The Old Boys Tennis Club in Basle, but few around him took that boast seriously.

"People laughed at him, including me," said Adolf Kacovsky, who gave Federer weekly private coaching. "I thought that he would perhaps become the best player in Switzerland or Europe, but not the best in the world. He had it in his head and he worked at it."

Can he also win a major in his fourth decade, when most tennis players have already started their journey into the sunset?

In recent times, only Andre Agassi (2001 and 2003 Australian Open at age 30 and 32), Pete Sampras (2002 US Open at 31) and Andres Gomez (French Open in 1990 at 30) have won a grand slam in their 30s.

Rod Laver, born August 9, 1938, won all four Grand Slams in 1969 and Ken Rosewall also had four grand-slam titles after his 30th birthday. Jimmy Connors had two.

"It's very inspiring to see what they've been able to do for a very long time," Federer said.

"That's why, yeah, I'm looking forward to see how much I can achieve from this point forward, for sure."

arizvi@thenational.ae