Roger Federer and a host of top players gave pre-tournament interviews today in Melbourne. Roger was asked a lot about the “Rafa Slam” and how he felt about Nadal’s dominance in the Majors.
No surprise, Federer says he’s cool with it.
Q. With the attention on Rafa, whether he could get the Rafa Slam, whatever you want to call it, the focus has been on yourself, the records you’ve been setting. When you see the attention on Rafa now, does that set the desire to be the man on top again?
ROGER FEDERER: No, I mean, I don’t read much press, so I don’t know where the attention’s at right now. I hope it’s on him. He deserves it. He’s world No. 1. He’s going for four in a row. I always knew that is going to be big news, like it is big news that I’m the defending champion, that it’s big news to follow Sam Stosur, see Del Potro coming back. I know what makes headlines. I don’t necessarily need to go read it.
I am excited when we’re talking about tennis in the media in any shape or form, as long as it’s positive hopefully. That’s important.
But, look, I think it’s unbelievable what Rafa’s been able to do. That in some ways makes him the favorite for this tournament. I mean, he’s been playing incredible, an incredible run through the French, sort of the clay, French, Wimbledon, US Open. It was incredible to see. Then obviously it’s hard to maintain. But he’s going to be for sure ready for this. I’ll follow it very closely. If I get a chance, I hope I can stop him, obviously.
Q. Do you feel he should be favorite or you should be favorite, in your own mind?
ROGER FEDERER: No, he should be favorite. He’s holding the three slams. I hold this one still, but just, so… Of course, I won the World Tour Finals, I’ve been playing really well on the hard courts right now. But he’s been the one dominating the slams. Had hardly any tough matches in the last three slams. That makes him the favorite.
I don’t have any problems not being the favorite really.
He was also asked to handicap Rafa, since the Spaniard has been recovering from a virus:
Q. You mentioned Rafa. He has been struggling a bit of late. Do you read much into that? Do you think he’ll be good come Monday?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, look, I don’t know. I was not with him the whole time. I saw him a lot through Zurich, Madrid, the matches we played in our foundations, then Abu Dhabi. He was fine. I saw his physio was sick from Abu Dhabi. That’s never good, a guy that’s working on you is sick. That it caught him was no surprise. I was sick, too, before and after Christmas. Look, I think something going around a bit.
But he’s been practicing again. I’m sure he’ll be ready.
For his part, Roger says he’s “feeling well” and looking forward to starting a tournament that has a lot of personal importance to him.
Q. Obviously all Grand Slams mean a lot to players. Melbourne has good memories for you, but it sets you up for the rest of the year, doesn’t it?
ROGER FEDERER: Clearly. It’s a big gap, if you speak in terms of Grand Slams, between the Australian Open and the French Open. It’s obviously nice when you play so well here because it kind of slows down after that, Indian Wells and Miami being two tournaments, but only played over a one month period. If you don’t play well there, like me last year, it just gets a bit slow, people start talking faster than they should. Thank God last year I won the Australian Open, but still they were talking.
That’s why the Australian Open is really important, depending obviously on how your schedule all works out. I tend not to overplay usually. So we’ll see how it goes.
Look, the Australian Open is huge in terms of many reasons: I’ve had coaches from here, I used to come vacation in here back in ’95 or ’94. I always had great times here. Never had a bad tournament here in Australia. Loved my first time here as a junior back in ’98. Obviously the great memories from being here and playing some epic matches also, let’s say, in Davis Cup with Lleyton, the finals here with Rafa, or the semis with Safin that I lost here. I’ve had some amazing matches here. This is also where I got to world No. 1 in 2004. It’s been an amazing tournament for me really.
But before the main show, Roger and his colleagues will perform in the Rally for Relief, an exhibition fundraiser to support Australian flood relief. Cool: he consulted with Queensland native, Rod Laver, about the event.
Q. The big relief matches tomorrow, there’s been a lot happening in Australia, in Queensland. Why did you put your hand up? Must be quite distressing seeing what’s happening up north.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, I was in Qatar and was seeing the news. When I saw it hit the city of Rockhampton, I right away thought of Rod Laver, you know. I tried to reach out to him and see if he wanted to do anything, if he needed my help. Obviously very excited, but said probably can’t come down to Australia this year, which is unfortunate, but was very happy if I do something. Didn’t really know then how big the devastation was going to be.
Once I came down to Australia, I spoke to him. I told him, Look, I’m really trying to get something going like we had here going last year, but this time we have more than 24 hour notice, so I think we’ll be able to generate more money, especially in a country where we’re playing right at the moment. I think it’s very appropriate and a must for us to do something as a tennis family really.
I’m really happy we’ve been able to do it again. I mean, I always knew it was going to be possible. The question was, did all the people want to do it, as well. Here it is. I’m really excited that it’s happening tomorrow, will be able to really raise a significant amount, which is going to be fantastic to help all those people who lost so much.
Some recent practice pics of Roger:
The caption on this photo says this is Rafael Nadal’s headband. I think it’s Roger’s. Who’s right?