Battled back from a 3-1 fifth-set deficit in his Australian Open triumph against Spaniard, then went on to win back-to-back Masters and Wimbledon
Roger Federer says his year would have been 'very different' had he not fought back to beat Rafael Nadal at Australian Open
Roger Federer has admitted his year would have been "very different" had he not battled back from a 3-1 fifth-set deficit in his Australian Open triumph against Rafael Nadal.
Without a grand slam title since 2012, Federer fought back to beat Nadal in January's decider in Melbourne, setting himself up for a stunning return to form.
He followed it up with back-to-back Masters victories at Indian Wells and Miami before winning his 19th grand slam title at Wimbledon and has risen to second in the ATP rankings.
"I don't think I would have won both Indian Wells and Miami," said Federer, 36, in an interview published in Saturday's edition of The Times newspaper.
"Maybe I would have won one. I would have played on the clay maybe. The season would have been very different.
"My plan was to play maybe the quarters at best at the Aussie and then take it from there.
"By winning all those big three events at the beginning of the year, it allowed me to sit there in the top eight of the world already after a few months of the season and not worry about being ranked No 35 if I had lost early in the Australian Open because of the points I had to defend.
"It changed the entire mindset. Thank God it happened like this."
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Federer and Nadal's resurgence coincided in difficult seasons for Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, both of whom saw their years curtailed by injury.
Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic are also currently sidelined, but Federer does not believe players are put under too much strain on the tour.
"I think that all of the guys had to take a break because either they are carrying an injury for a while or they are really not doing well. Some have had surgery," Federer said.
"I think this is just a freak moment in time that it hit a lot of the guys at the same time. The US Open wasn't quite the same.
"It was still a successful event; Rafa played phenomenal and four of the women in the semis were American, so the tournament was a success. But you did miss those guys. It's normal."
While Federer is resisting the ravages of time thanks in part to his fast, aggressive game, he does not think Djokovic or Murray would necessarily benefit from adopting similar tactics.
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"Andy or Novak, we are talking about big champions and future hall of famers," said the Swiss, who was speaking at the inaugural Laver Cup team event in Prague, which he has launched.
"These guys know what they have to do. I feel if you had the success they had, they will be able to get close to it or again do it. I don't worry too much about the playing style.
"These guys are so good, they can play different ways. That's what sets them apart from pretty much the rest."