Following his quarter-final exit at Wimbledon this year, Roger Federer spoke to Jonathan Heaf of the GQ Magazine about a number of topics, including his campaign at SW19 and how he has modified his training regimen with age.
The Swiss was defeated in straight sets by Hubert Hurkacz in the last-eight at Wimbledon. Federer appeared to be bothered by an injury and fell to one of the heaviest losses of his career. At the time of the interview, the severity of his injury was not yet known.
Speaking about the match, Federer addressed the love and support he received from the crowd at SW19.
"The standing ovation I received there this year was certainly a special one. When I left the court, I could feel the crowd’s love and their support," Federer said.
The Swiss maestro has featured in 31 Grand Slam finals, 12 of which were at Wimbledon. He has lost four title clashes at the All England Club, but according to the Swiss, this year's relatively early exit was even more painful than a defeat in a final.
"Obviously, it's always hard leaving a court after losing at Wimbledon earlier than a final… When you reach a final, there's a trophy ceremony, there's more to it, but when you lose earlier, well, you pack your stuff and you go and, at that point, the stage is your winning opponent’s, in my mind, not yours. So that was important for me to give that one to Hubert [Hurkacz], obviously, as quickly as possible," Federer said.
It wasn't just his relatively early defeat that was a deviation from the norm, but also the manner of it. Federer looked well off the pace from the get-go and was bagelled for the first time ever at Wimbledon.
The Swiss, who had only returned to competition a few months before Wimbledon following double knee surgery, said he hoped he could have been in better shape to compete.
"I'm actually very grateful, very happy I was just able to play. I mean, my last year and a half, it's been really difficult. It's been hard with the double knee surgery I had last year and rehab was really slow. And, look, in some ways I wish I would have been in better shape for Wimbledon this year," Federer lamented.
The Swiss nevertheless expressed satisfaction over his run to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon for an 18th time. Federer was quick to point out that many players had never made a single last-eight appearance at SW19, and that it was important not to take any result for granted.
"But at the end of the day, I made the quarters – I played Wimbledon," Federer remarked. "You can never take that sort of thing for granted: remember, other guys never had a quarterfinal in their life at Wimbledon and I've had so many that I think I have got to have a little perspective and see that actually, overall, it was a really good tournament for me."
After the defeat, Federer quickly walked off the court amid a standing ovation from the fans. Asked how he felt in the aftermath of his loss, Federer said he went through a mixture of different emotions.
"Losing is never fun. And it should hurt. You know, I feel like if you're OK with losing, I feel like your days are already numbered. But I think it was a mixture of disappointment, anger at what I should have done, or could have done, differently, not just in the last 20 minutes of the game but over the last six months, for that matter. There are so many thoughts going through your head at that point," Federer explained.
The 40-year-old remarked that he was trying to enjoy the ovation he received, whilst still trying to come to terms with the result. Federer said he was initially worried about having to face the press in the aftermath of the defeat.
"And while you're thinking all of that, you know, you're digesting the loss and still trying to enjoy the crowd," Federer recalled. "But that's short-lived because then you're in the tunnel and you're going back to the locker room and then you're thinking, 'What in the world am I going to tell the press?' Everything moves very quickly."
While losses of any nature are hard to deal with, Federer believes his ability to stay positive is one of his greatest strengths.
"But I must say, I think one of my big strengths is to regroup and reassess the situation fast and see the positive aspects of every decision," he added. "So, yes, I missed out on the Olympics, you know, which hurt a great deal, but my knee definitely needs a rest."
"When you are 20 you just do everything all the time; at 40 you need to be smarter" - Roger Federer
During the course of the interview, Federer also spoke about how different his body feels now compared to when he was 20. According to the Swiss, there are always certain niggles that tend to pop up at 40.
"I used to have a lot of back problems, but these kind of went away because I was able to fix those, you know, but then, naturally, you have other issues as they come about," the Swiss explained.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion highlighted the fact that an older body needs more time to recover from minor problems, which limits the time on court.
"I think the biggest difference for me that I feel is that when you are 20 and you have a back issue, a couple of good sleeps and it’s done, it’s gone. Not so much now! Nowadays, the pain can last for days, weeks or longer. And this slows you down in terms of how many tournaments [you can play]."
Federer also emphasized the need to be selective with his training regimen and to pay attention to his body.
"So as you get older you need to get stricter, I think, with what you can do, even in training. Maybe you need to pick what you do: the jumps or the running, but not both at the same time as you once did. You need to listen to your body more, take notice of the signs," Federer continued.
While the need to be more cautious might be a dampener for most athletes, the opportunity to spend more time strategizing off the court is one that Federer relishes.
"Essentially, when you are 20 you just do everything all the time without having to think; at 40 you need to be smarter. I actually enjoy strategising it all nowadays," Federer remarked.