Last year, some wondered what happened to Roger Federer, especially after he dropped the Australian Open to Rafael Nadal.
This year, though, there’s no doubt the master is on track.
“It’s not something I’ve ever put in my mind that this is something I want to achieve,” Federer said after defeating Andy Murray in straight sets, 6-3 6-4 7-6. “I’ll still go and play the smaller tournaments, you know, the Masters 1000s, the ones we’re supposed to play. I try to give my best everywhere I go to, because I think there are not only the Grand Slams.
“Of course, they are important, but I try to respect every tournament that invites me to go play there. There’s the fans who pay tickets. I want to live up to my expectations, too.”
After a scare in the first round, Federer had a pretty easy time in the Oz Open as he dominated the competition in Melbourne. Although the more exciting matches over the past two weeks were played by others, the Swiss Master just went about his business.
“I always knew I had it in my hand,” he said. “The question is do I have it in my mind and in my legs, you know. That’s something I had to work extremely hard at. Now I feel like obviously I’m being pushed a great deal by the new generation coming up. I always feel sort of tennis changes sort of every five years.
“Because when I came on tour, matches were played very differently. It was more of a bluff game, guys serving well, but there was always a weakness you could go to. Today that doesn’t exist anymore. I think that’s also thanks to guys like Murray. They’ve made me a better player, because I think this has been one of my finest performances, you know, in a long time, or maybe forever.”
Now Federer is on track for that elusive Grand Slam. Even with all the major wins, he never won all four in a year, as the French always gave him problems. But now, after winning in Roland Garros last year, Federer has a real chance to nail down the elusive achievement.
Of course he will play the tournaments as they come, but Federer feels now that he’s in position to dominate everything in 2010.
“It’s not an easy thing to do to win your first Grand Slam,” Federer said. “That’s not mental, you know, trying to screw with his head, you know. It’s just a tough thing, you know.
“The next one is not going to get any easier. But his game is so good that I’m convinced he will win one, you know. And I thought he did really well tonight because conditions were tough. I mean, I think I played a great match. So someone’s got to win, and I’m happy it was me.”
The road ahead won’t be easy. Although Federer has said he’s become a better player, the rest of the field has become tougher as well. Besides the usual suspects, like Nadal, Murray, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Roddick, upstarts like US Open Champion Juan Martin Del Potro have become elite players, who will give Federer fits as he tries to nail down the Slam.
Yet, that’s what keeps the Swiss Master going. With every match he learns something about himself, on his quest for perfection.
“[It’s] a tough generation at the moment,” Federer said. “There’s many guys. You know, I’ve dominated hard court and grass for a long time; Rafa did clay. Rafa also became very strong on the other surfaces and so forth.
“So I think it’s just not an easy thing to do, Grand Slams, and I proved it again tonight.”
One down. Three to go.