Federer Asked About a Psychologist

I thought that Roger’s press conference after his match against Seppi was interesting so I’m back :D Here it is:

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

R. FEDERER/A. Seppi
6-4, 6-4

An interview with: ROGER FEDERER

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Three match points. Was that a good kind of a workout; something you needed to get your confidence?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, not that. Just the match itself I thought was a good one to have as a first round. I knew there was going to be some long rallies with Seppi. He’s very happy, you know, just rallying. He’s very steady off both sides, you know. So on a good day he can be really dangerous. So I’ve already played him twice this year, which was kind of good going into this match, knowing what to expect.
I thought I played okay. I had a good stretch at the end of the first set, beginning of the second. Maybe could have made it easier for myself in the second. Had some opportunities. He hung in there and I didn’t play my best. But still happy I came through so good.

Q. What is the most challenging thing for you about the adjustments to clay?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, I guess things like getting used to the bad bounces. We’ve been playing on hard court now for nine months, is it, or eight? You know, you never see a bad bounce. So all of a sudden you’re a little bit worried, sometimes hitting half volleys because you know they can bounce onto your frame and stuff like that. You’ve just got to look for confidence that you find by playing matches and practice a lot, you know. As we don’t have much practice yet, you’re maybe a bit tentative.
And I guess just the sliding, knowing when to slide, how much to slide. Sometimes you slide but you don’t have to. Those kind of decision makings just happen naturally the more time you spend on the surface.

Q. When was your first contact with clay this year?
ROGER FEDERER: Maybe nine days ago.

Q. And do you know approximately how many hours you spent on clay this year before this match?
ROGER FEDERER: Sure. Maybe 10 or so.

Q. Is it something that you enjoy, playing on clay? Is there a challenge in it?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, it just feels natural to me because I played so much as a kid. I mean, I remember even wintertimes I used to play indoor clay, you know, under the balloon in Basel. So I played that until I was, you know, 14, basically I only played on clay. Then after that I went to the National Tennis Center, where indoors then was Supreme Court, hard court, which allowed me to improve my indoor skills and, you know, my fast court playing skills.
But the clay has always basically been my first surface, you know, I grew up on. So the sliding and all this comes to me within the first five minutes, then it’s just the timing, you know, how much you have to slide. This stuff just comes with time.
But I like the challenge, you know, the way the rallies are sometimes played. Of course, in a match like today or in the beginning of the clay court season, I feel there’s many errors from both ends, the rallies, the points finish in an error. That sometimes is disappointing, you know, because you play actually a good point and then in the end you miss by this much and it’s not a winner, it’s an error. On hard court and on grass courts, you’ve got to go and fetch the point a bit more, whereas here you can actually pretty much wait for an error from the opponent if you move him around enough.

Q. You mentioned bad bounces. Is that why you hold back the way you play your first few matches on clay?
ROGER FEDERER: Not really. You’ve got to be careful. I feel sometimes like you want to rally to find the rhythm, and then you realize, well, you’re giving the other guy rhythm, too. So it’s a fine line, you know, of how you want to play it.
Being offensive is good, too, you know, because you want to keep the points short sometimes and take away time from your opponent and rhythm. So it’s always a close call how you want to play. You got to read the situation well.
I felt like I had a bit of both: I think I played well on the offensive at times and also just being steady. I had enough to work too much defensively today, so maybe the next match I’ll get more of that.

Q. You played a few times versus Seppi. Did you find any change in his way of playing? Does he play always the same?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, like I said, he’s pretty happy, you know, just rallying from the baseline, being aggressive. He can play more aggressive. But to me it seems like he decides not to.
I definitely think he didn’t have a good serving day today. Because I’ve played him like in Australia and, I don’t know, was it here last year? Yeah, two years ago. I thought he served better then which helped him a lot to stay in the set and be dangerous because he’s a good return player.
I like his style. He stays very easy on his backhand and on his forehand. There’s no big upper body movement, you know, and that allows him to pick up tough shots quite easily and make it look nice. So I like his style, yeah.

Q. Are you looking forward to playing Stan? Second time this year.
ROGER FEDERER: Well, yeah. I mean, the XO, whatever, doesn’t count to me.
Of course, I like to play against him. I’m so happy he was able to take it to the next level last year, getting into the top 10, finally sort of making the break. Not really finally, because he’s always been a work in progress. He was always a guy taking one step back, two steps forward. So it’s nice to see him playing more consistently now on a regular basis.
It’s our first match on clay against each other. I’m excited to see how it’s going to turn out.

Q. Some players use sports psychologists seemingly more and more these days. Have you ever used one? What do you think of the idea of using one?
ROGER FEDERER: I had one back in ’97/’98, I think, yeah, kind of during that time, for one and a half years. There it was more like anger management, you know (smiling). That was what it was about for me then.
I pretty quickly realized it was basically up to me and not someone else to tell me how to behave, because my parents were telling me anyway, friends as well. Other players were saying, What is wrong with you? That was just up to me to decide when I wanted to take that step and say, you know what, let’s try the quiet version of the Roger Federer. So that was pretty funny.
But, no, other than that, I never really considered one, you know. Honestly, I don’t know if many have used and that it’s been beneficial.

Q. Do you think they offer something to people, something extra to the players?
ROGER FEDERER: I don’t know. I think I feel like in different sports maybe I think they can be very beneficial. But I think tennis is quite a unique sport in the sense that we’ve got to take a decision so short term. I don’t know. There’s no time to waste. There’s no real trick behind winning a tennis match. You cannot sleep all night and still play great; and you can prepare as good as you can, you know, and play the worst match of your life. So there’s not a real preparation you can do really to make you play your best tennis.
Then decision making happens so quickly, and confidence is such a good factor that winning matches is what does it to you and losing matches does the opposite. So I think tennis is not the best example for that kind of stuff.

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Interesting to hear about Roger’s experience on clay growing up. It obviously helped him a lot playing on clay from a young age to get the movement right and everything. I remember when I started playing on clay coming form a country that had no clay courts. I was falling all over the place, literally ending up on my back a few times. It was very frustrating at the start because I always felt off balance and didn’t get set up properly for my shots. But once I got used to the movement playing on clay became an enjoyable experience. I liked slugging it out from the base line, but I also enjoyed the artistry of it, using angles and touch to construct the point. But maybe I was an exception. Players who come from the USA for instance often never really adapt to clay.

They just never quite get used to the movement and the way you have to construct points. Take for instance Andy Roddick. He has won the clay court event in Houston a couple of times I think but his results on clay compared to his results on other surfaces have been lacking at best. Americans don’t play much on clay growing up and it costs them. But lets get back to the presser. The reason I really made this post is because of the part at the end where he gets asked about the psychologist. Many people have been suggesting this and would have liked to know what Roger’s thoughts is about the subject. I’m not too surprised by his reply. He doesn’t seem to have much faith in psychologists, which is the same way I feel.

I went to a psychologist when I was younger and it did more damage to me then anything else. It’s like Roger says, I think going to a psychologist is almost like saying ‘I don’t have the discipline to get my act together myself so someone else has to tell me’. Now I’m not going to write psychologists off, different people use different things. But it’s not for me, and neither is it for Roger I think. For me the best thing is to find someone you like and trust and kind of confide in them, without having to pay them for that. In Roger’s case I think a coach would be the best thing, where the coach is someone he gets along with really well and someone that can give him advice on how to beat Rafa and Murray. Lets hope someone like that comes along at some point for Roger.


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