Dubai: Roger Federer may have 77 ATP Tour titles and 17 Grand Slams to his name, but the record five-time Dubai Duty Free champion says his hunger for more trophies remains undiminished.
He insisted on Sunday that his “best tennis is just around the corner”, comforted by the fact that he is injury-free and galvanised by the inspiring support of new coach Stefan Edberg.
Speaking at a media briefing at the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel ahead of his Dubai opener against Benjamin Becker at 7pm on Monday, Federer said: “Could Rafa [Nadal] eclipse my [Grand Slam] record? Yeah, absolutely. But the good thing is I am still playing and my goal is to add more titles to my count — and not just Grand Slam titles. I love any tennis tournament I play in and Dubai is an important tournament for me.”
The Dubai event is Federer’s first singles tournament since his creditable performance at January’s Australian Open, where he provided glimpses of his brilliance of old in beating Wimbledon champion Andy Murray en route to a semi-final defeat to Nadal.
It was an emphatic reminder that despite being a tennis veteran at the age of 32, he remains capable of rivalling the best in the game — and he insists there’s even better to come.
“I am playing top tennis,” the Swiss said. “For me it’s just a matter of staying healthy, staying consistent and getting to semis and finals. I feel as if I’m in as good a shape as I have been for a year, so that’s very encouraging. I feel my best tennis is around the corner.
“I know I’ve said that a few times, but this time I really feel it’s the case. I have zero pain and spent a very encouraging month in Dubai training in December. I am confident for the year ahead.”
The fact that he is a frequent visitor to Dubai for training stints — he also has property in the emirate — imbues Federer with further confidence of success this week, he added. The Basel-born star said: “I always feel like I don’t have to make any adjustments when I come back to this place. I practise here and I am looking forward to the tournament.”
Recent changes have also been a positive for the world No 8, who is playing with a larger racquet this year in addition to adding Edberg to his entourage in a bid to recapture his former glory.
“I’ve only been playing with the racquet for a few months now, but it feels much longer,” he said. “The good thing is I am not thinking about it. It’s been a good switch.”
Of his brief but beneficial association with six-time Grand Slam champion Edberg, who is not in Dubai this week and will return to Federer’s side at next month’s Indian Wells Masters, he added: “I only worked with him for a week in December and then for two weeks in Melbourne [at the Australian Open]. It’s clearly inspiring just hearing him speak about the game.”