Dubai – Roger Federer uttered the astounding revelation after reaching the semi-finals of the Dubai Open on Thursday that he could conceivably remain on tour for another decade.
The 32-year-old appeared to dismiss the idea when it was first put to him by the on-court interviewer, Chris Bradnam, but further questioning revealed that he did not rule out going on almost as long as Jimmy Connors.
The American was still performing at a high level on tour past the age of 40, back in the early 1990's.
In Dubai, the Swiss legend was presented with a fan's request that 'win or lose, please would you keep playing another ten years?'
“No problem with that - the question is whether it would be on the tour or not!” answered Federer light-heartedly. Then he became a little more serious.
“Clearly the goal is to play as long as I can, and to enjoy myself,” he said, knocking back critics' suggestions that he should quit when he no longer has a chance of winning another Grand Slam title, which may be quite soon.
“Playing is not a problem: the question is (whether it is) on the tour or not,” he repeated, and then offered one important insight as to why it is no problem.
“The family love it on tour,” Federer emphasised, referring to his wife Mirka, a former tour player, and to his two twin daughters, Myla Rose and Charlene Riva. It was a remark which prompted him to a slight rethink.
“So ten years, maybe,” he concluded, only half smilingly. “Ask it again and we will see. Let's talk in ten years.”
Part of the enduring dynamic is that much of Federer's popularity is unrelated to just winning the biggest titles.
It appears not to have waned at all, even though he slipped from top spot in the rankings 15 months ago to world number eight now.
He has won frequent accolades for sportsmanship and charitable works, and his public relations efforts are famously and modestly generous. He also enjoys promoting many of the ATP Tour tournaments, at whatever level.
But the biggest ingredient of his future is probably the welfare of his twin daughters, and on a separate occasion here this week Federer explained how well the lives of his two 4-year-olds appear to fit with his schedule on tour.
“They're coming to matches from time to time,” he said. “You depend on the stadiums, and some are easier and some are harder to come to. It's fun for them to come to the site sometimes, you know.
“They play a little bit of tennis themselves now. They can relate a little bit to what I am doing, and it's not a bad thing.
“Yeah, it's enjoyable and I like it when they come to the courts, and I'm warming up and they're running around too.
“Then I come back after the matches, and they help me take my tape off and it's really cute. It's nice,” he said.
These emotional vibrations are what the longevity of Federer's ATP Tour career - already 18 years, and perhaps capable of continuing till more records are broken - may hinge upon.
Connors did not officially retire until he was 44, thus playing on tour for 24 years, and reaching more Grand Slam quarter-finals (41) than any other male until Federer equalled it at this year's Australian Open.
The American eventually played 1,532 tournament matches and won 110 titles, which will take some beating, although Federer has already played 1,150 matches, and has won 77 titles.
His 302 weeks as world number one compares favourably to Connors' 268, and he has won many more Grand Slam titles (17) than Connors (8). – Sapa-AFP