Friday, March 09, 2018

Roger Federer doesn't want to be 'Bubble Boy'

That feeling of ascending to the pinnacle, knowing the struggles from having been there before, as Roger Federer admits, is “deeply gratifying”. As athletes in any sport will attest, though, it can be lonely at the top.

The defending BNP Paribas Open champion understands how it can happen. Your opponents want to emulate your winning ways; media and sponsorship commitments escalate and as your profile grows, your every move is scrutinised. Relishing the pressure that comes with his return to World No. 1, though, is a bubble the Swiss is careful not to slip into.

"I think when you're at the top, everybody is watching everything you do extra carefully so you maybe go into a shell to some extent, because you don't want people to know your magic formula, if there is any," Federer said. "As you're riding the wave and have the momentum, you want to try to maintain that as long as possible so you sometimes do tend to go into a bit of a bubble. I try not to ever really go there."

"Even when you're busy, you're playing well, you have routines. I know how tennis is; I don't know how to compare it to other sports. I see only how Rafa [Nadal] and Novak [Djokovic] and everybody else is doing but only on the surface."

A successful title defence at Indian Wells will land the 36-year-old an unprecedented sixth trophy at the event. Should he bow out before the semi-finals, though, he will relinquish the No. 1 ranking to Nadal.

Federer has made a flawless start to his season by claiming both events he has contested: He successfully defended his Australian Open title (d. Cilic) to rack up Grand Slam trophy No. 20; title No. 97 at Rotterdam (d. Dimitrov) saw him become the oldest World No. 1 in history.

He begins his BNP Paribas Open title defence against either American Ryan Harrison or Argentine Federico Delbonis, one of only a handful of players to own a winning FedEx ATP Head2Head record against the Swiss (1-0).

Given his return to the pinnacle in the ATP Rankings, Federer would be forgiven for feeling a temporary lull in motivation. Another record ticked off, what next?

"You always have [something to prove]. As much as I’d like to tell you, ‘Yeah, it doesn’t matter how I play here’, I didn’t come here to lose in the first round [6-2, 6-2],” Federer said. "You care about that moment, about the fans, and how they portray you. You care for the result; you care for so many things. As little pressure as there seems to be, there is always pressure on the top guys. You’re always at the center of attention and expectations are there."

"I'm definitely in a good place. I feel like I have less to prove today than in the past, but that doesn't mean that I don't want it badly. I need to have that drive to be successful."

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