By Leighton Ginn
When Roger Federer returned to the court to start the year, he didn’t know where his level would be following knee surgery and six months off the tour.
So the man many think is the greatest tennis player ever said he wanted to keep things simple — play well and enjoy himself.
After winning the Australian Open and reaching the finals of the BNP Paribas Open for the seventh time after beating American Jack Sock 6-1, 7-6 in Saturday’s semifinals. If Federer beats fellow Swiss star Stan Wawrinka in Sunday’s final, he will become the tournament’s winningest player with his fifth title, breaking a tie with Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic, the No. 2 player in the world, has won the previous three titles before being upset in the fourth round.
But if you look around the men’s tour, no one is playing better than Federer, who won his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open to start the year. He had a hiccup in Dubai, when he lost to No. 116 Evgeny Donskoy in the second round. But in the two biggest tournaments of the year so far, he’s reached the finals.
And looking around the tour, Djokovic and No. 1 Andy Murray both failed to reach the quarterfinals of both the Australian Open and the BNP Paribas Open. Earlier on Saturday, Murray announced he will miss the Miami Open, another huge event, with an elbow injury. There is also speculation that Djokovic will also miss Miami with his own elbow injury.
But Federer said he set a goal of seeing where he is at following Miami, and was judging on how well he’s playing and how he’s enjoying himself on the tour.
“(It’s about) how can I remain healthy and how can I keep the fire and the motivation for the tournaments that I will be playing,” Federer said. “What I don’t want to do is overplay and just get tired of traveling and tired of just playing tournaments and just entering and, I don’t know, just doing people a favor just to be there with no aspirations. That’s not why I’m playing.
“I want to play, if people see me, that they see the real me and a guy who is so excited that he’s there. So that’s a promise I made to myself that if I play tournaments that’s how my mindset has to be and will be.”
But with the winning comes possibilities, such as Federer returning to the No. 1 ranking. Because Federer doesn’t anticipate playing a heavy schedule, so he knows there will be an even higher premium on wins and titles.
“Sure, I’d love to be world No. 1 again. But anything else other than world No. 1 for me is not interesting,” Federer said. “You would think I would need to win probably another Grand Slam for that to happen. Because I have one in the bag, I guess there is a possibility.”