SHANGHAI – Roger Federer said on Monday he is pinching himself over a resurgent season that has added two more Grand Slams to the Swiss great’s trophy case and put 100 career singles titles within reach.
Following an injury-plagued 2016 in which he failed to lift any silverware, Federer has thrived on a reduced schedule aimed at easing the strain on his 36-year-old bones.
“I couldn’t be happier with this season, to be quite honest,” the world number two said as preliminary play in the Shanghai Masters got under way.
“I’m just happy being here now, and it would be nice to pick up another title and get in training and start again the next year, and get more chances then.”
Looming in Shanghai is a potential clash in the final between Federer and Rafael Nadal, whose friendly rivalry has blossomed anew this year as they force the next generation to wait their turn.
Nadal, who in August reclaimed the world’s top ranking for the first time in more than three years, is also enjoying a stellar campaign.
The Spaniard comes to Shanghai’s hardcourts having dispatched dangerous 22-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios in straight sets to win the China Open in Beijing on Sunday.
The veteran Federer, on the other hand, skipped Beijing to arrive early in Shanghai to practice – and pace himself. “To win tournaments is not an easy thing to do. I came to realise that obviously last year,” he said.
“I’m playing only the big tournaments now, so you need to really be in tip-top shape and ready to go, and it’s just not so simple.”
With many predicting players like Germany’s Alexander Zverev to become the sport’s next dominant players, Federer and Nadal aren’t done yet.
Starting the year ranked a relatively lowly 17th in the world, Federer beat Nadal in the Australian Open final in January and then won a record-breaking eighth Wimbledon in July without dropping a set.
He now has 93 singles titles, just one shy of overtaking Ivan Lendl for second-most in the Open era. Jimmy Connors has 109.
But Federer, who has five singles titles so far this year, is just focused on staying healthy.
“I’m not that far away (from 100 titles) it seems, but there is no point to really to think about it on a daily basis. This is something that is either going to happen or not going to happen,” he said.
“I’m happy I’m here, and I’m happy that I’m healthy.”
Federer has third-seed Zverev in his half of the draw, while Nadal’s side has tough customers like Mario Cilic, Kyrgios and US open finalist Kevin Anderson.
Federer said he was surprised that Nadal, who won the French and US Opens this year, had even competed in Beijing after a busy recent stretch of tennis.
He also marvelled at the hardcourt versatility of the Spaniard, whose 10 French Open wins had already proven his mastery on clay.
“It’s nice to see him keeping going. This (the China Open) is a really big win for him. So, for him to go to Beijing and win it right away, I expected him to pull out, to be honest.”
He added: “Why not? There is no reason for him to push it too hard, but that’s Rafa.”