That isn’t to say the Swiss is immune to the magnitude of what happened against Novak Djokovic in London. He admitted to having “flashbacks” when he began training for this week’s Western & Southern Open. But after 21 years on tour, Federer has learned to treat matches as individual moments. After a family vacation and some relatively light training sessions, he’s only looking forward as he seeks an eighth crown in Cincinnati.
”You look back for a few days while you decompress what happened. There are flashbacks of the final, both the good moments and bad moments, when you go back to the practice court,” said Federer. “Those usually go away after the first couple of sessions and then it’s just getting ready for Cincinnati.
”We went caravaning the day after my Wimbledon and enjoyed Switzerland. I relaxed for a bit and then started practising, fitness first and then tennis after. It’s more about coming in fresh for this tournament and not killing myself during the practices.”
Cincinnati is Federer’s most successful ATP Masters 1000 event. He’s made it to the championship match in his past three trips and reached at least the quarter-finals in his past eight appearances. The friendly Midwest atmosphere suits Federer’s relaxed approach and makes him feel at home from the moment he steps on the grounds of the Lindner Family Tennis Center.
“It’s peaceful, quiet and easy-going. We have enough tournaments in big cities, so it’s a nice way for me to start the summer,” said Federer. “You also have these great fans who come here for the game and nothing else. It reminds me of Indian Wells in that sense, so that’s one thing which is cool about this event.”
Although Federer will be focused on his own game, he’ll also have an eye on Andy Murray’s singles comeback this week. The Swiss famously won the 2017 Australian Open in his first event after missing eight months to recover from left knee surgery. Federer admitted to feeling optimistic before his first match that year in Melbourne and believes expectations are often set before even walking out on court.
“You do have a sense of how things will go before your first match,” said Federer. “Are you crushing everybody in the practice sets or losing more often than not? How’s the pain and your movement? It’s obviously not something you can tell other players or the press, but you know if there’s a chance to have a big run or if you’re just happy being back on Tour and maybe winning a match or two.”
More than two years after that run in Melbourne, Federer continues to defy the odds. At an age where almost all of his peers that he started on Tour with have retired, the 37-year-old sits firmly at No. 3 in the ATP Rankings and could climb even higher by the end of the season. He’s not willing to put a timeline on how long he will keep playing, but with a 38-5 record and three ATP Tour titles to his name already this season, there’s little reason to stop.
“I’ve been consistent across all the surfaces. I haven’t had a back issue in two years and was obviously happy with how my knee recovered [in 2016],” said Federer. “I don’t know how long I’m going to be playing, but I’m very happy with my level of play and it shows in the results.”