by JAMES HENRY
CINCINNATI – Roger Federer is 31 years old – and proud of it.
“I’m happy where I am,” he told reporters at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. “I don’t need to feel 25 again. I’m very happy to feel my age.”
Fortunately, Federer said, he now is being asked less about it.
“It’s gone away a little bit just because I have been winning a lot of tournaments,” the 2012 Wimbledon champion said. “I think journalists and fans are anyway tired of me being asked every single week about it.”
Federer, once again ranked as the world’s top tennis player, said the same thing happened with Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and others after they turned 30 and still kept competing.
“I kind of felt that it was just going to be a thing that people were going to ask me over a certain period of time and then eventually let go,” he said.
Tennis pundits also should stop putting so much pressure on younger players, Federer stressed.
“People expect too much from young players at times, I do believe. The problem is that the top guys all are so consistent, so whenever one guy loses one week of the year first or second round, people are like, ‘Guy can't play tennis anymore,’” he said.
“When a youngster does that three or four times, you jump on top of him like you can't believe, you know. That's where I am so impressed by Novak (Djokovic) and (Andy) Murray and Rafa (Nadal), how consistent they were at a young age already.
“Because I remember making the breakthrough and then not winning matches for six months again, making a great run for three months, but then going away for two months and then playing well for a month and not playing well for three weeks. It wasn't classic for me.
“So for me to see a youngster struggling a little bit is maybe not a bad thing, because you have to actually handle tough situations, tough moments, and they actually probably maybe in the long run bring you further.”
Federer noted he needed time to develop his game to be able to successfully compete with players such as Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin, Andy Roddick and Juan Carlos Ferrero.
“I didn't have basically almost any titles, any Grand Slams, I was ranked 20 in the world, and they were all in the top 10 and winning Grand Slams,” he said.
“So I guess that was a key for me of trying to become a better player, understanding that I need to improve if I want to keep up with these guys. Then I would beat them from time to time, I would lose from time to time, but I would learn a lot.”
Federer offered some advice to today’s younger generation.
“Eventually you feel like you're gonna break through, and then it can be frustrating. I went through the same thing,” he shared. “Important is to just keep on working hard and not get too frustrated by the whole traveling and losing early and just spending time on the practice courts.”
The four-time Cincinnati champion is scheduled to face Mardy Fish – a repeat of the 2010 final – in the quarterfinals not before 7 p.m. Friday.
James Henry is a contributing writer for OnTheGoTennis and is currently in Cincinnati covering the tournament. To follow him on Twitter click here.
Photos by James Henry