Federer: Fire still burns brightly
Roger Federer will begin the 2013 season more motivated than ever to compete for tennis' biggest prizes.
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The 31-year-old was unable to make it three titles in a row at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals as he went down 7-6 (8/6) 7-5 to world number one Novak Djokovic in a high-class final at London's O2 Arena.
Federer is six years older than Djokovic and Andy Murray and five years older than Rafael Nadal and has won almost everything there is to win in the game, but the senior member of the big four remains as committed to the sport as ever.
He said: "I think it's the love for the game, the appreciation I get from the crowds, I guess playing for records from time to time, playing against different types of generations and playing styles.
"I think you need inspiration, motivation from different angles to keep you going because it isn't that simple just to wake up every morning and go for another travel around the world, another practice, another fitness workout, another stretch."
And, while the challenges presented by Djokovic, Nadal and Murray contribute to fuelling his hunger, Federer also enjoys playing his part in inspiring the next generation.
He said: "It's part of the puzzle that makes me motivated, trying to play against them. But Novak, Andy and Rafa are not the only guys out there. I'm trying to play against many other guys.
"I love playing against particularly young guys just because to many sometimes I'm an idol, which is very strange to me, to be honest. But it's nice seeing them grow, see what the next generation comes up with. So, for me, that would suffice as well."
The dominance of the top four has again been the big story in tennis, with the quartet splitting the grand slam titles between them and almost all tennis' other main prizes as well.
Federer believes the uniformity of speed of surface these days plays a part and would like to see a greater difference.
He said: "I think some variety would be nice, some really slow stuff and then some really fast stuff, instead of trying to make everything sort of the same.
"You protect the top guys really by doing that because you have the best possible chance to have them in the semis at this point, I think. But should that be the goal? I'm not sure."
Federer will now have a two-week holiday before heading to South America next month for an exhibition tour, his first trip to the continent, and then stepping up his preparations for next season.
The Swiss star is more than satisfied with his achievements in 2012, which brought him a seventh Wimbledon title and an Olympic silver medal, but he feels he has plenty of work to do.
"I think it's been a fantastic season to be part of," said Federer. "Four different grand slam champions, then having the Olympics as well was obviously very unique.
"I'm very happy I stayed injury free throughout. That allowed me to basically play a full schedule almost. I'm very pleased I was able to pick up my performance at the end of the season. Obviously that gives me confidence for next year.
"I haven't really set clear goals yet for next year. I first have to make sure I create my schedule so it makes sense for my practice schedule.
"I need to practise a whole lot more next year because this year I hardly had an opportunity to do so. I have some catching up to do from that standpoint."
When Djokovic finished 2011 with three grand slam titles and 10 titles overall, many wondered how he would ever follow it up in 2012, but he has had another stellar season.
He successfully defended his Australian Open title in January, reached two more grand slam finals in Paris and New York and won more matches than he managed last season.
Djokovic said: "I actually feel even more satisfied right now than last year, even though I had an incredible 2011.
"I feel this year, considering the circumstances that I had to face on and off the court, expectations, all these things, I believe that this year has been even more successful for me."
Djokovic left London today to visit his father, Srdjan, who has been seriously ill with a respiratory condition, before also heading to Brazil.
As well as an exhibition match against three-time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten, he will also have the chance to play football alongside the likes of Bebeto, Cafu and Zico.
He said: "Hopefully all these great legends of that sport will be there. I'm a big football fan. I've played a couple times only on the big pitch. I'm terrible. But I try to enjoy the moment and hopefully have fun."