Roger Federer during the media round table at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Sunday. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: The cliché ‘all good things must come to an end’ holds true especially in the case of sporting heroes.

If one, however, is talking of Roger Federer — then his legion of fans hope that the Swiss master’s roadshow simply never ends.

The talk at every Grand Slam, ever since Federer 3.0 emerged by ending a five-year drought of slams with the 18th one at Australian Open in 2017, had been if he would be coming back next year. The man with 20 grand slam titles — and every conceivable record in men’s tennis — had been understandably open-ended in his replies as there are now a lot more ifs and buts before making any commitment.

The road was long and rocky, but to win all the Grand Slams that I did … I often have to pinch myself to believe it but it’s been an amazing journey — it has made me tougher.

- Roger Federer

While Federer picks and chooses his tournaments for quite a few years now, the indications are that he is still game to come out of his comfort zone — as his decision to play the claycourt season this year after a gap of two years vindicates. There is this landmark of 100 ATP titles waiting to be over and done with, and it will be a great advertisement for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships should it happen this week.

As someone who has nothing more to prove in the game, Federer came up with a wonderful analogy to explain the philosophy which drives his game now. “When I went to a concert of Alicia Keys the other day, I saw how she was enjoying herself playing the piano for 12,000 people. People have bought an expensive ticket and she was trying to give them the money’s worth — I try to do the same to entertain people,” Federer told Gulf News in an exclusive interview on Sunday.

The answer could be music to the ears of the tennis romantics, who still run out of adjectives in trying to compare his range of shots to a painter’s brush strokes or that of an instrument player in a western classical music concert.

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Grand Slam titles Roger Federer has claimed so far

Does he see himself primarily as an entertainer now? “Well, I don’t know. I see myself primarily as a tennis player but then the magnitude of whole thing ... when you show up somewhere, you see the queues for tickets and all the love and affection of the fans.

“It makes you realise that may be you are more than a tennis player — an entertainer or an ambassador of the game if you like. I do what I can to inspire people by shaking hands at a meet-and-greet or by saying something in an interview. I want people to think that this Roger Federer gives the crowd 100 per cent and not do anything half-hearted, so that they can come back to a tennis arena again.”

Asked if he saw in himself the making of a GOAT (greatest of all time), as he is often referred to as, from a fresh-faced, ponytailed youngster from the country better known for its Alps, watches and chocolates than producing tennis players, Federer said: “No, no. I was a talented youngster and I was good at the local level, then national and international. By the time I was 18, I thought may be I can make it to the top 100 or even top 10, but I never thought I could be the world No. 1 one day.

“The road was long and rocky, but to win all the grand slams that I did … I often have to pinch myself to believe it but it’s been an amazing journey — it has made me tougher as a person and taught me to handle situations. Life has been good for me and I wish all players go through this phase.”

99

ATP Tour titles the Swiss ace has claimed in his 20-year career

If his philosophy had been now defined as a performer, there is another benchmark that Federer has set for himself throughout his illustrious career — with his non-demonstrative nature on the court under the most trying of circumstances and his down-to-earth nature off it. Agreeing that his success as a professional showed the world that you don’t be the swearing, fist-clenching monster to show the killer instinct, Federer went on to explain how he acquired it.

“Look, it came to me naturally, and it was also a bit of upbringing. There is no need to step over people or bully others … make them feel bad or small. People often say you have to be hard and tough to win, but I feel that’s not me. I have been told in the past that you are too nice to be successful, but I think I have been able to do both by being respectful to people,” Federer said.

“I have had also to take tough decisions along the road, but in a nice way. You also have to remember why you are in such a privileged position, I can’t thank enough my fans, my team, the tournament officials — so many of them have touched my life along the way,” he added.

There have been the Federer fanatics who often say that they may even stop watching tennis on his retirement from the sport. What does Federer himself think about it? “Look, I have got a great 20 years on Tour and I have loved every single minute of it. There have been some tough times in between. The fans who are saying that will need some adjusting to do (smiles). If you are a tennis lover, you will always have the next superstar like me — or may be not like me.

“However, there will always be new names, new tournaments, so I am not really worried about the future of tennis,” Federer signed off.