With just days until the US Open kicks off, Roger Federer appeared agile and healthy at a Mercedes-Benz tennis clinic Wednesday at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York.
The competition wasn’t exactly stiff — kids with wrist bands and wide eyes, local tennis weekend warriors — but luckily for Federer, neither was his back.
Coming off his 19th career Grand Slam and eighth Wimbledon title, Federer has battled a back injury since the Rogers Cup Finals in Montreal in mid-August, and there was some question if he would be able to compete for what would be his first US Open title since 2008.
He said on Wednesday that he felt ready to go after some rest and rehab, following his decision to withdraw from the Cincinnati Open.
“Look, you’ve got to always take care of yourself, especially in the later years of your career,” he said. “It’s normal to be hurt sometimes. You live a normal life, you hurt sometimes.”
Federer said that at this point in his career, his regimen has changed, his body requiring extra tuning before matches, even practice.
“I’m warming up more than I ever have in my whole life,” he said. “I used to warm up for two minutes before matches, and now I’m warming up for 20 or 40 minutes. You just have to remind yourself why you’re doing it.”
In Federer’s case, remaining a dominant figure in tennis is a motivating factor.
At 36 years old — he celebrated his birthday earlier this month, which included being feted by a Vogue party in New York — he does not have the self-expectations and demands he once had. His life and his growing family, which includes two sets of young twins with his wife and former WTA player Mirka Federer, now takes up more of his thoughts.
That makes his rather surprising success this year — after missing several months last year following knee surgery, he stormed into 2017 with an Australian Open win, becoming the oldest Grand Slam winner since Ken Rosenthal won the same tournament in 1972, then followed up with his Wimbledon title — all the more satisfying.
“This is more gratifying,” Federer said. “When you’re young, it’s all a mind thing — can you cope with the attention, with the pressure? Now it feels like everything has to click. You have to line it up a perfect way. Fitness, tennis, how you sleep — all these things matter. You can’t play as much when you’re 20. You have to pick your moments, and when you do succeed, it’s an incredible feeling, almost a deeper satisfaction.”