Roger Federer hits the ball in his second round matchup against local favorite Tommy Haas at the Mercedes Cup tennis tournament in Stuttgart, southwestern Germany, on June 14, 2017. (Xinhua)
By Oliver Trust
BERLIN, June 14 (Xinhua) -- Cars are one of the big loves of Roger Federer, the 18-time Grand Slam winner. He is enthralled by the technology and the freedom he gets from sitting behind the steering wheel. At the majority of tournaments, the 35-year-old Swiss tennis great pilots himself and his family around in a Mercedes. When driving, Federer is even more relaxed than normal.
In a recent Xinhua interview, Federer talked about his new hair style, family, and his goal of winning this year's Wimbledon, his dream to regain the No. 1 spot and why the Shanghai tournament is one of his favorites.
The interview was naturally conducted driving around the German city of Stuttgart, the home of Mercedes-Benz, where the father of four is starting his grass court campaign at the Mercedes Cup.
Xinhua: Roger, let's talk about this week's biggest taking point.
Federer: I'm all ears.
Xinhua: You've got a new hair-cut and fans around the globe are talking about it rather than your first tournament for 10 weeks.
Federer: That's right, hey it's nice and short for summer.
Xinhua: For some, your new hair-cut indicates a new life.
Federer: Well it comes pretty close (laughing). It hasn't been this short for the last 20 years.
Xinhua: Why now, any special reason?
Federer: It either has to be short or long. Nothing in between makes sense to me. It's much easier with short hair. With medium length hair, you always have to watch what you hair is doing ... and ... to be honest, my wife likes shorter hair.
Xinhua: What about you?
Federer: I like it longer. But I'm optimistic it'll grow again. To be honest, I can't wait to see it grow.
Xinhua: Talking about new strategies in life - isn't it time the ITF (the International Tennis Federation) started to think about introducing tournaments for under 30s? You've just won the Australian Open at the age of 35 and the 31-year-old Raphael Nadal has followed up by claiming the French Open. Today's youngsters have no chance of winning a major tournament.
Federer: It looks like it'd be a good idea. Seriously though, the older generation like myself or Nadal has developed an extremely professional approach when it comes to our bodies. It's all about fitness, food, sleep and physiotherapy in that case. Years ago, you'd practice for four hours and then meet up with the rest of the guys at the bar to relax.
Xinhua: Sounds like you miss the bar?
Federer: Things have changed but I liked the, let's say, less professional life we players were much like a big family. Friendships between the players could develop more easily as you spent more time together. Today you travel around the world with a big team. We're still friends and you spend more time with your team than your fellow players.
Xinhua: And the secret of the tennis grandpas?
Federer: Who said grandpas? Seriously, we know it won't go on forever. It's what makes us continue competing despite having to leave the family again to play a tournament. Many retire because they no longer want to be separated from their loved ones. They're not performing any worse but they have been on the tour for 10 to 15 years and maybe say enough is enough. They are just not prepared to be away from their families anymore.
Xinhua: What about you: The ambition to be successful or the desire for tennis?
Federer: It's a combination of both, but I like the phrase desire for tennis. It forms the fundament for everything I do. The desire for tennis is also at the essence of everything. Success is also essential, success solves a lot of problems, it' s fun and makes you relaxed. You can fulfill your dreams. Without success, I'd no longer be on the tour especially considering the success I had in the past.
Xinhua: Despite your new haircut, people are saying this is the best Roger Federer ever. He is playing better than ever and has reinvented himself as a world class tennis player.
Federer: Last year, I wasn't around as much as I was before and it was maybe a chance to think over things like tactics, new ways to practice and so on. When you have time, you think about all kinds of things that can be improved. I had that time last year. I changed my racket to a bigger head which makes it easier for me on my backhand. Aspects of my game have changed. Together with my coaches, I took a long hard look at our approach to improve my game. And one thing seems to be important too.
Xinhua: Now we're listening.
Federer: Due to the injury break, I'm maybe more relaxed. But no, that's not quite right. I was always relaxed. But today I approach a tournament with far fewer expectations. The years beforehand, I was always ranked in the top five. I was in good shape, I was young, meaning winning had to be the only option. Now it is new for me seeing things differently. Now I can say that everything' s possible, let' s face what comes. I can act differently today and fans can watch my games from a new perspective. I can tell you that it' s is a new and cool feeling for me. It is great to experience such a change.
Xinhua: So coming back from an injury led to a mental change?
Federer: I went through a sort of reset. I felt new energy growing. I got it from the time with my family, with friends around the world. I could do things I couldn' t do for many years as I never spent several weeks at the same spot. All of a sudden I could do all this. The idea behind everything was to do the rehabilitation work properly and come back full of energy and desire. It worked and I feel happy and fit. I obviously radiate this feeling to the people too. People recognize I love tennis and it's the reason why I' m still playing
Xinhua: The meniscus operation last year was your first serious injury in your entire career. From the outside, we can well imagine that it was a far from easy time for your and that it could have easily led to an end of your playing career.
Federer: To be honest, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to continue. I had no experience of injuries like that. I had problems with the knee for a long time and my back reacted so that I had to reduce training. I found myself in a vicious circle knowing I can' t go on like that anymore. I, or better my body needed a break. After 16 years of never having a break between January and November, I finally took some time off.
Xinhua: Have you changed your game? Do you take more risks?
Federer: Maybe I take more risks, but I'm always aware that uncontrolled risk does not lead to success. I try to stand close to the line and dominate the rally from the beginning, naturally always depending on the surface. I try not to get into long rallies but to quickly return the ball and put speed on the ball. To have enough power for my game and give my body a rest, pulled out of the clay court season.
Xinhua: Meaning you are concentrating on grass and Wimbledon?
Federer: It would be a dream to win Wimbledon again and it is one of the big goals for this season but for now I'm concentrating on the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart.
Xinhua: You once said it would be a dream to be the World No. 1 again. Is it your next goal?
Federer: I wouldn't call it a goal. It'd be nice though, but most important of all is to win tournaments, which inevitably leads you towards the No. 1 spot. But it' s also changed: The ranking does not play biggest role anymore. Important is to get the feeling of being able to win tournaments. The main thing is to stay healthy and being able to challenge the world' s best.
Xinhua: As you are 35 and Nadal is 31, it would be helpful for you to win some more Grand Slams to keep him at bay. So far, you've won 18 and Nadal 15.
Federer: I can only tell you that I'm totally relaxed and proud of what I've achieved so far. We will see at the end who has won what, but I certainly won't change my game because of Rapha or anyone else in order to win more Grand-Slams. I am still around because I love the sport. Winning in Australia was a magical feeling and of course I hope I can repeat this somehow for my fans and my country.
Xinhua: Were you surprised by your performance in Australia? Winning was far from being a lucky punch, you dominated the tournament.
Federer: It was the maybe biggest surprise since 2003 when I first won Wimbledon and my first Grand-Slam. Before I had lost in the first round in Paris at the French Open and was totally frustrated going into the grass court season. I managed to stay concentrated, won win in Halle and reached the Wimbledon semi-final.
Xinhua: And Australia?
Federer: I thought the quarterfinals would be nice to reach. But in the end, I had three five-setters and had to face Rapha Nadal in the final, which is always tough on whatever surface you play. It was unbelievable that I managed to go through all that and win. And don't forget Australia was followed by Indian Wells and Miami.
Xinhua: Indian Wells and Miami was additional confirmation that your new path was right?
Federer: The last time I achieved something like that was in 2006 when I was playing my best tennis ever. But now I had to come from a six-month break.
Xinhua: Do have the feeling of being specially gifted for tennis?
Federer: First of all, I have been gifted with a lot of talent but also with a lot of ambition and an easy-going attitude. I get along with media, sponsors, fans, with travel and business very well despite the stress it all creates. I' ve always had the right people around me throughout my career. But above all I' m happy about my ongoing desire for tennis. I have never lost that special feeling for tennis.
Xinhua: Your talent has led you to becoming popular all over the world. You're the fans' favorite in China too. What memories do you of your trips to China and the tournaments there?
Federer: The start was very special. In 2002, I played the season-ending championship in the EXPO center in Shanghai. I finished the year as the world No. 6. For me as a young player, it was an incredible experience. I was fascinated by the city of Shanghai and officially opened the arena. I later won the Masters 1000. Shanghai is still one of my favorite tournaments. The people's enthusiasm for tennis and myself is tremendous. And special for me: My first sponsorship contract ever with Mercedes was with Mercedes China. They were the first to openly believe in me. Today, I am one of the world ambassadors of Mercedes.
Xinhua: You will play the Shanghai tournament again this year?
Federer: Shanghai is a regular tournament for me. It's one of my goals this season.
Xinhua: Can you imagine taking up tennis coaching after your career?
Federer: Never say never, but at the moment I can't imagine continuing to all the travel. Meanwhile I am the father of four kids. I can imagine coaching youngsters in Switzerland and playing some exhibition matches every now and then. I will have to stay in shape of course, but the kids keep me running around all the time anyway.
Xinhua: And now onto cars. You are known to be a petrol-head and like everything from classic cars to modern ones full of technology.
Federer: For long, I was mainly fascinated by modern cars because I was amazed by the technology in them. So many clever innovations have turned cars into amazingly safe vehicles. It wasn't available until not too long ago. But now, getting older, I also focus on older cars as well as old watches. They have been produced with much fewer resources. I appreciate the effort that has gone into them.
Xinhua: Do you drive classic cars yourself?
Federer: I ordered a 1960s bus from Mercedes and I'm eagerly waiting for the right tires.
Xinhua: That means Roger Federer soon will be a bus driver taxiing the family around?
Federer: Exactly, it will be ready right after Wimbledon. I'm really looking forward what driving will be like in the bus. I hope I don't destroy the clutch.
Xinhua: Talking about your kids, we have to mention the rumors you are afraid of water or just a terribly nice human. You once visited a public lake side resort with your kids but instead of going for a swim but instead gave autographs and had your picture taken with fans.
Federer: I'll tell you a secret: The water was just freezing cold that day, at least too cold for me. The nearby pool was so crowded that weekend that I decided to watch them all from the outside. We often go to public pools, I went with the kids a few days ago, but indoor this time.
Xinhua: What is life like for your kids together with such a famous father?
Federer: We do everything not to live life in a cage. In my home country, the people are very fond of privacy and they leave space for me to live a more or less normal life. I drive my Mercedes cars all the time. At half of my tournaments I have my car around and use it. To have such normal freedoms is very important for me.
Xinhua: Until now your kids and wife have travelled a lot with you around the globe when you are playing tournaments. How does it work out?
Federer: Most of the time they are all with me and it's what makes me happy. They enjoy seeing many parts of the world and are simply used to it. Now in summer, they are stay in Switzerland to be with their friends. The girls will be eight soon, the boys are three. It takes a lot of effort to organize the travelling but my wife and my team are great helps. Especially my wife is my biggest supporter and allows me to go on playing tennis for a while. I get a lot of energy returning home from the big cities to the Swiss mountains where we live near St. Moritz and Davos. I can take a deep breath there and gain energy.
Xinhua: That is what you call a normal life?
Federer: We try to do everything to provide that. Of course, the kids don't attend a normal school but have home schooling. As soon as that is no longer possible anymore, I would stop playing tennis. Things will possibly change when I end my career. That won't be long I guess. I remember someone called me a tennis grandpa today.