Federer: 'Being At The Top Requires More Hunger'
This is Roger Federer’s record 21st Wimbledon appearance, and with his straight-sets victory on Saturday against Lucas Pouille, the 37-year-old Swiss is into the second week at SW19 for the 17th time.
It’s easy to forget that in three of his first four runs at the All England Club, Federer lost in the first round. So was he more motivated at a younger age trying to break through, or now, as he tries to win his ninth title at this Grand Slam championship?
“I think being at the top requires more hunger because in the beginning every number higher you can get, it's like, ‘Oh, my God, I'm 50, I'm 25, I'm 13’. It's just so exciting. It's easy to stay motivated,” Federer said. “But to be at the top, obviously it's also motivating because you can win tournaments. It's a totally different ball game. I think you need both. But I think staying at the top requires a lot of dedication, sacrifice and all that. I've done well, so I'm proud of myself there.”
Federer has performed well through the first week after losing his first set of the event against Lloyd Harris. The 102-time tour-level titlist has been largely untroubled, while 10 of the Top 14 seeds have been eliminated.
“The panic can set in quickly on this surface. I don't know if that's got something to do [with it], and if age calms the nerves there,” Federer said. “I'm not sure. I also think it's maybe a moment in time.
“At the same time, we know how hard it is to beat Novak, how hard it is to beat Rafa here. Me, as well. I have a great record here. We obviously also have better draws because we're seeded, and we're away from the bigger seeds earlier. Our path to the fourth round is definitely not as hard as maybe some of the younger guys on the Tour, as well.”
It did not take long for upsets to pop up at Wimbledon this year, with both reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev and reigning Next Gen ATP Finals titlist Stefanos Tsitsipas being sent packing in the first round, as was Roland Garros finalist Dominic Thiem.
“The surprises were definitely there that first day with Stefanos and Sascha and everything, Dominic. Now, I do believe it's nice to have experience on this surface. The problem is it's not like you can play a ton of tournaments, just say, ‘I'm going to focus on the grass court season this year’,” Federer said. “You can, and play three tournaments leading in, then maybe you'll be tired by the third match. It's just not so simple.”
It’s been a different season for Federer compared to the last couple of years, as the Swiss competed on clay for the first time since 2016. He has had no issues with the surface change, winning all eight of his matches on grass so far in 2019.
“I feel like I was able to come through [the clay] really good," Federer said. "Number one, the first buildup I had on the clay when I started, before even playing tournaments, [I] didn't know where it's going to take me. In practice I felt really good.”
Federer became the first player to earn 350 Grand Slam match wins on Saturday. And next Sunday, he’ll hope to lift a record ninth trophy here. But first, he will have to get by Matteo Berrettini in the fourth round.
“The records mean something to me, but not everything just because I am very much aware that not everybody for the last hundred years played all the Slams,” Federer said. “It's really only the past 20 years that that's been going on. Travelling has gotten easier. I'm sure that's going to keep happening from now on, most of the players will keep playing.”