‘Play until I’m 40’: Federer eyes new era of supremacy
Cutting back his playing schedule pays off for Roger Federer
London — Buoyed by his record-setting eighth Wimbledon title, Roger Federer says he could play until he is 40, spearheading a late-life era of supremacy alongside Rafael Nadal.
Federer eased past injury-hit Marin Cilic to become the oldest Wimbledon men’s champion of the modern era on Sunday, breaking the tie for seven All England Club titles he had shared with Pete Sampras since his last triumph in 2012. It also gave him a 19th Grand Slam title in his 29th final at the Majors.
With his 36th birthday just three weeks away, Federer believes he could still be playing the tournament when he is 40. "You would think so, if health permitting and everything is okay," he said on Monday.
Federer won his first Wimbledon title in 2003.
His confidence in his longevity is based on the radical transformation he has made to his playing schedule since his semifinal defeat to Milos Raonic at Wimbledon in 2016.
He immediately shut down his season, missing the Olympics and US Open, to rest a knee injury. As a consequence, his world ranking slumped to 17 in January, his lowest since 2000.
But the gamble paid off as a rejuvenated Federer won a fifth Australian Open on his return before adding back-to-back Masters at Indian Wells and Miami. He skipped the clay court season in the knowledge that a fully-fit Nadal was always likely to dominate the French Open.
Back on grass, Federer won a ninth Halle title before easing to his stunning Wimbledon landmark. Wimbledon, where he became the first man to win the trophy without dropping a set since Bjorn Borg in 1976, was only his seventh tournament of 2017. By contrast, the unfortunate Cilic was playing his 15th, so it was hardly surprising that wear and tear contributed to his downfall, albeit in the shape of a humble but debilitating blister.
Federer’s match-win record for 2017 now stands at 31-2.
His appearances on the tour will remain limited. He hinted he could sit out the Montreal Masters and play only in Cincinnati before an assault on a sixth US Open, which he has not won since 2008.
As always, it is a decision he will make with those closest to him just as he did when he took his six-month break in 2016.
"I did ask them the question sincerely, to everybody on my team, if they thought I could win Majors again. Basically, the answer was always the same from them: they thought if you’re 100% healthy and well-prepared, you’re eager to play, then anything’s possible.
"That’s how it played out, so they were all right. I believed them. I had the same feeling. I think that’s why the break last year was necessary to reassess and get back to 100% physically," he said.
Federer is also within touching distance of returning to the world No1 ranking by the end of 2017.
Eleven of the last 14 Wimbledon champions have finished the season on top of the pile. That list includes Nadal who, despite losing to Gilles Muller in a five-set, last-16 epic at Wimbledon, remains one of the in-form players of 2017, with 46 wins and seven losses.