Federstalker Update: As if I needed an excuse to repost this picture.
The Austrian press Kleine Zeitung is reporting that Roger Federer invited Stefan Koubek and the hockey player Peter Znenahlik to Zurich for a week at his expense, where he trained twice a day in 2 hour sessions with Koubek. (Clickey)
Why Koubek? Kleine asked Znenahlik, “they’ve known each other for years and Stefan does exactly what Federer and his coach wants in training.” (Thanks, Google)
Znenahlik, the former hockey player who sometimes acts as Koubek’s fitness trainer, spilled the beans on what a Federer/Koubek training session is like.
“Even though they work very hard together, those two have only nonsense in their heads. There is laughter nonstop. Even if Federer is often a little reserved in interviews, away from the cameras, he is really like that. And a very fine person, who never acts like a star,” says Znenahlik.
By the way, dug up this old interview after logging on RF.com for the first time in a month. Thanks to LaRubia for the translation, hope she doesn’t mind my slight editing. Roger discusses his “injury”, form, as well as players such Nadal, Del Potro, and Soderling with the German Tennis Magazine.
Mr. Federer, this year, you failed to reach the Wimbledon final for the first time since 2003. You lost in the quarterfinal against Tomas Berdych. How much did this loss hurt?
Of course it was painful. It was frustrating. My game didn’t work. I had problems with my back and my legs. I didn’t played well in the deciding moments of that match. I was dissatisfied as I couldn’t play freely. But it’s not the end of the world. On the contrary: I’m looking forward to returning to Paris and Wimbledon next year.
A lot of people said this is the end of the Federer era.
I don’t think so at all. I can to dominate again. That’s what I play for. When Federer loses in the quarterfinal people say that this is shocking. People aren’t used to this, myself included. But I know that I can beat the other guys when I’m fit. They didn’t reinvent the game new in one year.
How do you explain the physically problems you had in Wimbledon?
On grass the balls are going deep and you have to bow a lot. It’s normal that this stresses the back. The back felt stiff, which happens to a lot of players. It wasn’t something really serious.
Are you satisfied with the calendar?
It surely isn’t perfect and it won’t ever be perfect unless you would start at 0. But that’s not possible. There are too many contracts which have to be coordinated. Even with a perfect calendar a claycourt specialist would say: I would like to have one more week. And the grasscourt player says: Me too. And the hard court players in the States would demand: We need to have two more weeks.
You are the president of the Players’ Council. What’s your visions for it?
There is a lot of feedback to shorten the tour. I’m in favour of having one month without any tournaments in the summer. Everyone could heal their injuries. The problem is that players could play exhibition matches then. There is always someone who would like to play. Maybe we can agree on having a 2 or 3 months break at the end of the year. You would have the time then to work on your game. That’s something we professionals are extremely lacking. We always play tournaments. In the short breaks we only practice a little bit. But on the other hand you can’t really work that much on your game anymore when you are 20 years old. That leads to stagnation. Therefore I like it to have 2 or 3 times a year practice sessions for 3 or 4 weeks. That’s how I can develop as a player.
On Rafa and the calendar
Nadal critized the tour calendar a lot lately. Rightly so?
I was surprised about it. He is part of the decisions-making, as he is the Vice President of the Players Council.
I think his criticism is against the calendar, when he – for example – has to cancel playing Barcelona. It’s more of an apology to the tournament organizer. I would like to play 15 tournaments more, but the body and the calendar don’t allow.
The great thing of tennis is that everyone can chose where to play. I can understand it that Rafa wants to play more on clay. I would also like to play 3 months more on grass, but I don’t complain.
Did you expect that Rafael Nadal would be able to play so consistent this year again?
Yes, but I thought he would be in better form even earlier. I was surprised that he wasn’t able to win a tournament for 11 months. He wasn’t able to beat top 10 players. Therefore it was an advantage for him that he barely had to play against any of the top players on the way to his titles in Monte Carlo and Rome. On clay Rafa is incredible strong. I was sure that he would win 2 or 3 of the Masters tournaments on clay and then go to the French Open as the main favourite.
He has displaced you as the #1 in the rankings. Meanwhile you slipped down to #3. How difficult is this drop?
Rafa held #2 or #3 steadily even during his crisis. I knew that he would have a chance to get back to #1 when he played well again. He used his chance. At the latest, in Wimbledon, where he didn’t played last year, he would have overtaken me anyway. I was relaxed about this.
What makes you confident that you can reach the top again?
That I was able to go through difficult situations quite often already. I only won one title this year so far, but the victory in Melbourne was extremely important. It was groundbreaking. I lost the supremacy on hardcourt after I got mono. There were players who came up strong like Djokovic, Murray and Del Potro. In Australia I didn’t just win, I dominated.
On Soderling, del Potro and co.
I was surprised how constant us four (Fed, Rafa, Djoko and Muzz) played last year. At nearly every tournament we reached the semifinals, always the same players. Then came Del Potro. He made a huge step. I should have never lost the US Open final against him, but he was incredible strong in the end. It’s pity that he is forced out of the game for such a long time. I think he would have had the chance to compete for the #1. Söderling has played very well, just like Verdasco, but Del Potro won tournaments. Just like Davydenko. Roddick also played well. 2009 was a very interesting year.
[Soderling] has played to the limit a lot. He has learned how to handle different situations. When you are as strong as he is, you are going to win. He has lost against me 12 times. I beat him in Paris, Wimbledon and the US Open last year. But he hasn’t won any of the big tournaments. That’s one step that is missing for him. The final in Paris (which he lost against Nadal) would have been the day of truth for him.
On retirement: school age for Myla and Charlene, which puts us at another 4-5 years.
Thoughts? What say you to the idea of a month without tournaments in the middle of the year – a mini off-season of sorts? How groundbreaking was Australia really? Has Soderling used up his “day of truth”? Is Roger Federer the most zen person you’ve ever had the frustration of following?