Federer 'Better Than A Decade Ago'

Roger Federer is sounding a timely warning for his younger rivals.

One week after celebrating his 34th birthday, Roger Federer arrives as the defending champion in Cincinnati of the belief he is a better player now than he was a decade ago.

Considering his dominance of the 2005 season, it should be cause for concern for his younger rivals. The Swiss player made the assessment on the eve of his 2015 campaign in Cincinnati, where he returns as a six-time champion.

A decade ago he was consolidating his dominance of the game, winning Wimbledon and the US Open crowns with four ATP World Tour Masters Series 1000 titles among his 11 titles for the year – the most a player had landed in one season in more than 20 years. He finished the year with an 81-4 win-loss record. On paper, his numbers this season may not stack up to that impressive run but his game has developed in the years since.

“I think I'm a better player now than when I was at 24 because I've practised for another 10 years and I've got 10 years more experience,” Federer said. “Maybe I don't have the confidence level that I had at 24 when I was winning 40 matches in a row, but I feel like I hit a bigger serve, my backhand is better, my forehand is still as good as it's ever been, I volley better than I have in the past. I think I've had to adapt to a new generation of players again.”

After falling short in the Wimbledon decider to World No. 1 Novak Djokovic last month, Federer took time out to recuperate back in Switzerland, barring a quick trip to Malawi for his foundation. It marked a change in routine from his usual US Open lead-up.

“It's a totally different preparation this year for Cincinnati than I had last year,” he said. “Last year I came in tired from five straight matches in Toronto. I arrived late and wasn't sure if I was going to play. Thankfully I did and ended up winning here. Now I've had plenty of time. I'm fresh and eager to play and can't wait for tournament to start. Practice has been going well and I'm very happy with how I'm feeling.”

He opted to skip last week’s Rogers Cup in Montreal, having last year reached the final in Canada where he fell to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. He was keen to avoid back-to-back events, instead choosing to focus on defending the title at one of his most successful stops on tour, having never lost a final in Cincinnati. Despite losing his No. 2 position in the Emirates ATP Rankings to Andy Murray, Federer is the tournament’s No. 2 seed this week and arrives fresher than he did 12 months ago. With more than one-third of players in the Top 100 30 years or older, he  admits that he is surprised the next generation has not yet taken over.

“We definitely had a very good generation of players,” he said. “I still remember my junior years. My year, 1981 and also 1982 and 1980, we were all very strong. It's nice to see that so many actually made the Tour. Personally, I'm surprised to see how many of them are still hanging in there and still playing.”

The 17-time Grand Slam champion puts it down to two main reasons. “Number one, it was a good generation,” he said. “Number two, the generation that usually pushes players out wasn't as strong as maybe other ones. I'm talking about the players who are 25 years old right now. That generation only had a few players and the same thing for age 20 right now. There are some good ones, but not like 30 of them when we came along. I think those are usually the guys that push the older guys out. So we're able to hang on. It's nice to see because in a few years, many of them won't be around anymore.”



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