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Feisty Federer focuses on fitness

China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-29 07:27

Swiss superstar puts his health ahead of ranking

MIAMI - Roger Federer's impressive return from injury has sparked speculation of his possible return to No 1 in the world, but the 18-time Grand Slam champion said looking after his body is far more important than chasing the rankings.

Since returning from a six-month injury layoff, Federer has won the Australian Open and Indian Wells, and on Monday he cruised past Juan Martin del Potro to move into the fourth round of the Miami Open.

On the eve of the tournament, Swiss compatriot Stan Wawrinka said he believed Federer could get back to No 1, but Federer said he had other things on his mind.

 Feisty Federer focuses on fitness

Roger Federer of Switzerland hits a returns to Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina during his third-round victory at the Miami Open on Monday. Wilfredo Lee / AP

"It's not my priority. Health needs to be the priority. That's why if I were to get there again I have to really win a lot of big tournaments, and I know how hard that is. I tried to do it for the last five years," he said.

"For me the priority is actually winning tournaments at this point in my career. My ranking is very secondary.

"That's why my schedule is going to be based on what makes sense for my goals of the season, staying healthy, and then also so I can enjoy myself and have a good schedule with the right waves going through the season.

"As long as I'm healthy, I feel like I can play good tennis, enjoy myself, and hopefully beat some of the best players in the world, or most of them, and win tournaments as well.

"I think I just have to be a bit more clever in terms of my scheduling."

Federer is expected to take a break after Miami and his earliest return to court could be the Rome Masters in early May.

Can't do it all

The 35-year-old said fans will have to get used to him skipping certain events he might have played in the past.

"Unfortunately, I can't do it all, you know. I can't chase the Davis Cup and the Slams and play all the Masters 1000s. At some point something has to give, unfortunately. I wish I could still do it all, like when I was 24 years old.

"So I think that's where I have to take some important decisions that work well for me as a tennis player, but then also for my family and just for my whole team. We get the work done, I get the rest that I need but then also I play enough matches.

"If you don't play enough, normally you kind of lose touch of how to play break points, save break points, the shoulder gets rusty. Who knows what it is?

"You need the right balance. I think that's more key than ever right now. I mean, it hurts for me, you know, sometimes in the future probably not playing some tournaments that in the past I would always play. Now all of a sudden I have to skip them for the sake of my health.

"But because it is for a good reason, I'll get over it."

Energy of the crowd

Federer, who was facing del Potro for the first time since 2013, never lost serve and improved to 15-1 this year with a 6-3, 6-4 victory.

He broke del Potro twice, once in each set, and that was all he needed.

"I feel like I earned it more," said Federer, the 2005 and 2006 champion at Key Biscayne.

"I was more the aggressor. It was more my racket, and I like it that way."

Del Potro was philosophical.

"I did my best," said the 29th seed. "He played well in the break-point moments and I think that was the only difference in the match."

It had the feel of a final, not a third-rounder on a Monday afternoon.

The stadium court, largely empty for the first two matches of the day, was filled - with huge roars greeting both players as they entered for warmups. Many fans wore hats or shirts with Federer's "RF" logo, while many others either donned Argentina soccer jerseys or carried that nation's flag in support of del Potro.

"It was really a great, nice atmosphere," Federer said.

"It was a lot of pleasure playing in nice weather, great opponent, great crowd. What else do you need?"

The last seven Federer-del Potro matches coming into this meeting all went the distance, and some are regarded as classics.

At the top of that list is the 4 1/2-hour, three-setter at the 2012 Olympics at Wimbledon, where Federer prevailed 19-17 in the third. Another was Federer rallying from two sets down in the French Open quarterfinals that year, and del Potro winning the 2009 US Open in five sets.


(China Daily 03/29/2017 page24)

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