“There are no more breaks now,” Federer told ATPWorldTour.com Monday. “I’ve had enough breaks. I'm a practice world champion now and that's not who I want to be. I want to be a champ on the match courts. So I'm going to be playing a regular schedule for the second part of the season... And this is the beginning here at the MercedesCup in Stuttgart.
After an unpredictable first half of the season that now sees Rafael Nadal and Federer in first and second place in the Emirates ATP Race To London, the Swiss said that he remains surprised at how the season has unfolded. When Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic played a pulsating final in Doha in the first week of the season, most tennis fans thought that last year’s No. 1 and No. 2 finishers would wage a two-man battle for the year-end No. 1 Emirates ATP Ranking again in 2017.
So far this season it has been a two-way battle for year-end No. 1… between Federer and Nadal, The Spaniard has now firmed as a strong favourite following a dominant clay-court swing that included titles No. 10 in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona and Roland Garros, as well as a fifth crown in Madrid. But Federer will hope to close that gap during the next five weeks on his favourite surface, grass. He’s playing the next two weeks in Stuttgart and Halle before taking a week off before chasing an eighth title at Wimbledon.
"I was terribly surprised to win the Australian Open and to back it up and win the sunshine double in Indian Wells and Miami was a complete surprise to me,” Federer said. “I think Rafa winning the French Open is less of a surprise because he'd done it nine times before... I was hoping he was going to dominate the clay-court season like the olden days.
“But I'm still surprised we were able to do it. It maybe had something to do with Murray having a bit of a letdown after his great finish to last year and Novak not playing his absolute best. We were able to take advantage of the fact that we were in great shape and came refreshed into the season after our injuries at the end of last year.”
Federer readily admits that Nadal is a hot favourite to finish No. 1 for the fourth time, but says that the second half of 2017 promises to be much more competitive than the first half.
"Obviously Rafa is in great position to finish World No. 1. For him it's going to be all about staying injury free. For me it's about getting back to winning ways, where I left off in Miami.
“I'm sure a lot of guys are going to start playing their best in the second half of the season, like Murray, Djokovic, Nishikori, Raonic, Zverev, Kyrgios, Stan. We'll all be playing our best tennis. It's going to be an epic finish to the end of the season. Quite exciting actually for the ATP Tour.”
Federer’s opening match in Stuttgart will be against the winner of Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert and German veteran Tommy Haas.