Into the 21st year of his storied career, Roger Federer remains dedicated to playing tennis and continuing to rewrite tennis history books.
At 37, the Swiss sensation still delights in procuring records. He even takes great pride in achievements he didn’t actually pursue such as capturing his 100th career title, which happened at the Dubai Duty Free Open last weekend.
“I’m obviously very happy and it’s a great milestone in my career, there’s no doubt about it,” Federer told USA Today in a phone conversation on Wednesday. It’s just a wonderful, big round number that I can be proud of. To me, though, it’s the one I never really went for.
“The 100 only really came into the conversation when I reached like 98 (Stuttgart, Germany) or 99 (Basel, Switzerland) last year. Then what you don’t want to have is having to speak about it every single week, like ‘Do you think the 100 is going to happen here?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I hope so, but we’ll see.’ You could do that for months and months and months so that’s why I”m just happy it’s over, not that it was a burden.”
The Dubai victory placed Federer into a very exclusive fraternity. He became only the second man in history behind Jimmy Connors to crack the 100-title mark, which now finds Federer identified as the “Century Man.” Three women have also captured over-100 titles in the Open Era: Martina Navratilova (167), Chris Evert (154) and Steffi Graf (107).
“You can make jokes like, ‘I can’t believe I’m still walking after so many matches,’” said Federer, laughing. “I’m sure funny names will always pop up especially with social media nowadays.
Although they don’t know each other well, Connors was one of the first to congratulate Federer via Twitter: “Welcome to the “ Triple Digit” tournament victory club @rogerfederer — I’ve been a bit lonely – glad to have the company !!!”
Federer quickly responded to Connors with a “Happy to join! 😄”
Among the many records Federer’s established in his career are a men’s record 20 Grand Slam titles, 310 overall and 237 consecutive weeks at No. 1, the oldest No. 1 ranked man at age 36 in February 2018, a men’s record eight Wimbledon titles, and a record six year-end ATP Finals titles.
Federer, who claims he could make a list of 90% of the titles he won from memory, insists he isn’t putting much emphasis on equalling — or surpassing — Connors’ record of 109 titles.
“I know that in this day and age everybody wants every record to be broken,” he said. “With the 109, I’m not going to aim for it. It seems kind of close, but it’s still very far away as well. Titles are not won every week, especially for me now that I’m not playing every single week. So I’m just content I reached 100 and I don’t need to break every record. That’s not why I’m in the game today.”
Whether or not he’s going to privately be ticking off future titles won, Federer does have two more title possibilities on the immediate horizon. It’s not only ‘March Madness’ in college basketball as the tennis community congregates in the U.S. for the next month to play the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., and the Miami Open — two of the most prized tournaments in the game. Federer’s won Indian Wells on five occasions, and Miami three times.
“It’s actually not good that America has lost as many tournaments as they have,” said Federer, who will start his March campaign in the California desert this Sunday. “I’m happy to see Indian Wells growing and Miami taking a chance by moving away from Key Biscayne (to a new, state-of-the-art location at the Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium). It’s like a month of tennis here in the States, which I think is key and very important, and crucial.”
Federer acknowledges that as a teenager he had no understanding as to what his life would be like on the pro tour, and he would’ve been shocked at the suggestion he’d become a personal version of a multinational corporation.
“My perception — I just though tennis is tennis and there’s nothing else to it,” he admitted. “It’s holding up trophies, practicing a little bit, and playing matches. Then you arrive and you’re dealing with press, photo shoots, promotional stuff, and trying to explain yourself to people who don’t know who you are. They think they understand you and you’re being misquoted and misunderstood. It can be quite tricky to get through that part.
“Today, looking back, I never thought I’d have the life I have today that is full of organization, anticipation, looking ahead, scheduling, family, kids, the business on the side that runs the (Roger Federer) Foundation,” he added. “There’s just so much to it that I can’t believe I’m doing all that I”m doing. But it’s an incredible amount of fun and I’ve learned so much.”
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A definite tennis history buff, Federer admits he’s spent reflection time looking back at photos of himself hoisting trophies through the years. From a more serious contemplation, Federer’s taken note of how he always looks happy or relieved, and is most impressed he’s been free to show his emotions.
From a more humorous perspective, Federer pinpoints the physical trait he believes stands out most noticeably in chronicling his career.
“Of course, I see the haircut change,” he said, laughing, as visions of a ponytail, bleached blonde locks and the current more traditional style come to mind. “For sure, I think that strikes me the most. I would’ve liked to have taken more chances with the hairstyles but at the end, toward the second part of my career, I was happy with the hairstyle I had and just kept it that way.”
Federer remains steadfast in believing retirement isn’t on the immediate horizon — there’s more tennis to produce and records to break. In fact, this year he’s returning to play the spring clay court season, including the French Open which he won in 2009, after a three-year hiatus.
He’s also willing to share credit for his continuing in the game with his loyal fan base around the globe.
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“They’ve been terrific and that I’m still playing today, they’re a big part of the reason why I’m still going,” he said. “I still feel like I have home court advantage anywhere I go and that’s a massive privilege.”