Reuters: Roger Federer says he is “very excited” about his prospects for next year after finishing 2011 riding a wave of optimism and with the mental scars of some painful defeats apparently healed.
|Nov 27, 2011; London, UNITED KINGDOM; Roger Federer (SUI) celebrates with the trophy after defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) in the ATP world tour finals at O2 Arena. Leo Mason-US PRESSWIRE
The Swiss won his last grand slam title at the 2010 Australian Open and was overshadowed by Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and to a lesser degree Andy Murray this year but after winning a record sixth ATP World Tour Finals title on Sunday, he looks primed for a new assault on major silverware.
Despite being the elder statesman of the “Big Four” at 30, Federer ended 2011 on a roll. He was unbeaten since the U.S. Open, claimed a hat-trick of indoor titles and stretched his winning streak to 17 matches.
His resurgence, he said, comes after having a long, hard look at himself in the wake of a series of shattering defeats.
He blew a big first-set lead in the French Open final against Nadal, squandered a two-set advantage against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Wimbledon quarter-finals and then snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Djokovic in the U.S. Open semi-finals.
“I think it was a mental thing,” Federer told reporters after fending off a Tsonga fightback to end the season on a high in London on Sunday. “Sometimes it’s about the other player.
“Jo played better than me at Wimbledon. Maybe not much, but enough just to come through. Same as Rafa at the French Open in the finals, Novak in the semis of the U.S. Open.
“It’s fine to respect that. But I feel when it happens maybe that often, I do have to question myself that maybe I did something wrong.
“For me it was important to step back and sort of have that bird’s eye view from up top and say, ‘where am I right now in my year? It’s been a good year. I know I’ve been playing well, I’ve been healthy. When is all this hard work going to pay off?’
“I think I’m mentally good right now. There are a lot of times that goes by out on tour, during a match, you’re just trying to stay positive, but you can’t always be positive.
“It’s just too difficult. That’s where maybe the doubts were just a bit too strong during certain important moments. I think I didn’t have those doubts now for the remainder of the season, which is what I wanted to get out of my system.”
During his two-year grand slam drought, Federer’s impending slide has been widely predicted.
Yet with a new season looming the doom-mongers may soon be eating their words.
After reversing a downward trend in the world rankings by reclaiming his place in the top three, it is not inconceivable that Federer could reclaim the No.1 ranking again in 2012.
It is the prospect of adding to his record 16 grand slam titles and an Olympic gold medal in London, not ranking points, which motivates the Swiss though.
“This was the strongest finish I’ve ever had in my career, which I’m very proud of,” he said. “I’m looking forward to next year. I’m really excited.
“To win grand slams would be nice (next year). I’ve missed out on a few occasions now this year, and maybe also some last year. So I feel like it might be around the corner. Maybe not. But I think the prospects are good.”
While Nadal revealed a dip in “passion” at the end of a long season, Murray was injured and Djokovic looked jaded after his romp through the first three quarters of 2011, all three will be firing on all cylinders again in a month, Federer said.
However, Federer is ready to go toe-to-toe with them for the forseeable future with his hunger to improve and meet the challenges undiminished.
“I love this game more than anybody, so I’m not all of a sudden going to wake up in the morning and say I don’t like it anymore,” he said.
Worryingly for his rivals, he thinks he can still get better.
“It’s interesting how you evolve as a tennis player. For me it’s only logical to improve,” he said. “I have been amazed how long I’ve been able to keep it up. But I’m happy my level is still very high and my body’s holding up.”