STUTTGART, June 6, 2016
Roger Federer is the main attraction of the Mercedes Cup 2016, making his tournament debut. He will return to action for the first time since losing in the third round at the ATP Masters 1000 in Rome. The 34-year-old withdrew from the French Open, breaking his record of 65 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments played. On Monday morning, he spoke to the media representatives at the venue of the Tennis Club Weissenhof.
“After all the years on the tour, it’s really something special making a new experience here in Stuttgart. In the course of the extension of the grass court swing, I wanted to take advantage of playing here. Now, I am here so close to Switzerland and I also hope for a lot of support from my compatriots,” Federer is looking forward to getting back to the courts.
“I played here in Stuttgart by the age of 15 or 16 years in the Hans-Martin Schleyer Halle. A lot of things have occured since then but I am still on the tour and I am happy to experience this week here,” Federer played twice against Yevgeny Kafelnikov in 2000 and Wayne Ferreira in 2001.
Federer will appear at his only fifth tournament this season
In 2016, Federer could only make it into one final in Brisbane in January.
“It has been a difficult season for me so far. I was only able to play one tournament in a normal way – this was at the Australian Open. I always have high expectation when I play on grass but with this season, I have to be very careful with the preparations and the goals. I just want to take it step by step. If I am able to survive the opening stage of the tournament and you reach the semis, you will dream of winning the title. But that’s still too early,” the 17-time Grand Slam champion told, feeling prepared for the grass court swing.
“I feel good, skipping Roland Garros was the right decision. I was suprised people were thinking that I pulled out due to the weather. Of course, I felt sad but I simply didn’t feel strong enough. Only to play in Paris for the record and maybe risk the rest of the season, would not have been okay for me. After all the years, it is okay to miss a major, it’s not all about the Grand Slams. It’s about health, feeling good, my career as well as the rest of my life,” Federer explained his priorities.
“I just wanted to take my time in order to come back even stronger on the grass and it has gone really well for the last three weeks. Yesterday, I took one day off, as I have been practicing a lot in recent times. I did a lot of fitness to strengthen my body. I will have another practice session today as well as tomorrow and then we will see when I start into the tournament on Wednesday or Thursday.”
Asked about his emotions watching the final at Roland Garros with Novak Djokovic completing his career Slam, the Swiss said:
“Novak winning his career Slam, it’s absolutely great for our sport. Tennis will headline the news again. It’s world class! This is a very rare achievement. I couldn’t watch the match, as I was driving and had some appointments with the press. I do not watch a lot of tennis when I do not play at a particular tournament. But if I play an event, I will watch everything,” he told with a smile.
New constellations on top of the ATP Rankings
Federer is the current world number three. Djokovic the undisputed number one. Things have changed within the “Big 4” with also some new players climbing up the rankings.
“That Rafa got injured, changed the situation with the big 4. Since my surgery in February, my own situation has changed as well. So, there are new possibilities for Novak and Andy but maybe they would have succeed as well with us still playing continously. There are also new chances for other players like Thiem or Goffin, as well as Stan, who is for me also part of the top guys. And there are also Nishikori and Raonic. After the Olympics we will see, who can also crack the top 10 or even the top 5 next but in the nearer future Novak and Murray will represent the players to beat.”
Here in Stuttgart, Federer could square off with ATP’s Next Generation star Taylor Fritz. The 18-year-old from the United States will face a qualifier in the opening round to have a chance with a second round meeting with the former world number one.
“It’s nice to see the young players, in particular from the United States. But there are also other talents like Coric or Zverev. Most of them will still need some time. It’s not like in the past anymore, that teenagers like Chang, Hewitt or Becker win Grand Slams to start the career. Nowadays, this has become more difficult. The youngsters still have to work hard, also mentally getting used to the tour. I practiced with Fritz last year in Wimbledon and I was only rather average impressed by him. I thought that he played well but it is very difficult to foresee who is going to be the next incredible player. It’s not all about talent anymore. You really have to work hard but when it comes to the matches and balls got hit harder, they got better and better. Fritz has already proved his quality. I would be happy to play against him here.”
Tournament director Edwin Weindorfer was also very pleased to present one of the greatest tennis players of all time here in Stuttgart.
“It is a milestone for the tournament. It has proved again that switching the surface from clay to grass was the right decision. Thanks a lot to Roger for coming, we are very proud and happy to welcome him in Stuttgart! As we have a two years contract with him, he will return in 2017.”