HOT ON THE COME­BACK TRAIL

Fed­erer in full flight head­ing into Mi­ami

New Straits Times - - Sport - IN­DIAN WELLS

ROGER Fed­erer keeps say­ing he’s still on the come­back trail, but he’s cov­er­ing ground faster than he ever imag­ined. The Swiss, side­lined much of 2016 with a knee in­jury, soared to a fifth ATP In­dian Wells Masters ti­tle on Sun­day to go with the 18th Grand Slam crown he claimed at the Aus­tralian Open in Jan­uary.

And now that he’s back at num­ber six in the world, Fed­erer is re­assess­ing his goals for 2017.

“This was not part of the plan, to win Aus­tralia and In­dian Wells,” Fed­erer said af­ter his 6-4, 7-5 vic­tory over fel­low Swiss Stan Wawrinka in the In­dian Wells fi­nal.

“The goal was to be top eight by af­ter Wim­ble­don, so I’m there much, much faster.

“I will make the plan for the re­main­der of the sea­son, es­pe­cially for the clay, af­ter Mi­ami, and then see also what the goals are be­cause the goals are clearly chang­ing af­ter this dream start.”

Fed­erer emerged from a daunt­ing quar­ter in In­dian

Wells that also in­cluded World No 2 No­vak Djokovic and 14-time

Grand Slam cham­pion

Rafael Nadal as well as for­mer US Open cham­pion Juan Martin del

Potro and ris­ing tal­ents

Nick Kyr­gios and Alexan­der Zverev.

Kyr­gios sent Djokovic pack­ing, and the Ser­bian star has since with­drawn from this week’s tour­na­ment in Mi­ami say­ing an el­bow in­jury he’s car­ried for months had wors­ened.

Fed­erer wiped the floor with Nadal in In­dian Wells just two months af­ter his thrilling five-set win over the Spa­niard in the Aus­tralian Open fi­nal.

Wawrinka was the only player who man­aged to break Fed­erer’s serve in the Cal­i­for­nia desert, but even­tu­ally even he could only stand back and ad­mire his su­per­star com­pa­triot’s ma­jes­tic progress to the ti­tle.

“The way he’s play­ing is just so beau­ti­ful,” Wawrinka said of the 35-year-old Fed­erer. “Ev­ery­thing looks per­fect. He’s mov­ing amaz­ingly well. He has amaz­ing touch. He’s do­ing ev­ery­thing you can do on the tennis court.”

Fed­erer cap­tured his 90th ca­reer ti­tle. Al­though he said it was too soon to start think­ing about the mile­stone of 100, he cer­tainly goes into Mi­ami a strong favourite with Djokovic as well as in­jured World No 1 Andy Mur­ray out of the se­cond Masters event of the year.

He has leapfrogged Nadal to sixth in the world rank­ings. Whether he can move past Wawrinka, Djokovic and Mur­ray and re­gain the num­ber one rank­ing is a ques­tion that Fed­erer, in his cur­rent in­car­na­tion, isn’t too wor­ried about.

“Sure I’d love to be num­ber one again,” he said. “But any­thing else other than world num­ber one for me is not in­ter­est­ing. So that’s why the rank­ings is not a pri­or­ity right now.”

In­stead, he’s fo­cused on ap­proach­ing each tour­na­ment he plays with en­ergy and ea­ger­ness, some­thing he ad­mits was miss­ing when he turned up in Dubai and lost to 116th-ranked Evgeny Don­skoy.

“I just wasn’t 100 per cent pre­pared, un­for­tu­nately, be­cause of the in­jury I was car­ry­ing af­ter Mel­bourne,” he said. “I was still tired. I was lack­ing en­ergy.”

At In­dian Wells, he said, the prepa­ra­tion was com­plete and the en­ergy was good, and he an­tic­i­pated the same for Mi­ami.

“I think I’m go­ing to be fine on that front just be­cause I’m feel­ing too good on the court and I’m hav­ing too much fun,” Fed­erer said. “Win­ning cre­ates a lot of good en­ergy.

“But I know how hard it is to win back-to-back In­dian Wells and Mi­ami ti­tles.

“That’s why I go to Mi­ami know­ing it’s go­ing to be re­ally dif­fi­cult,” added Fed­erer, who is showing re­newed tal­ent for mak­ing the dif­fi­cult look oh so easy. AFP

Roger Fed­erer is now num­ber six in the world.

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