An evergreen legend
|"U Can't Touch This", Federer Edition|
Inevitably, an aging tennis player can't escape questions of retirement, whether or not he's playing at the highest echelon of the game.
This has been the unenviable fate of Roger Federer for the past four years. No matter how well he's playing -- he's No. 3 on the ATP rankings -- the inquiry keeps popping up.
So Federer, 34, recently decided to spare fans any speculation as to his 2016 plans.
"I have quite a clear idea how the schedule could look," Federer told reporters at the recent Shanghai Masters. "I'll be playing through the end of next year, actually. There's some moving parts, which I still don't know. But I have a bit of a very good idea what I think I want to do."
Not even a family of six -- Federer's twin daughters are 6 years old and his twin sons are 17 months -- can slow him down. The nomadic lifestyle clearly works for them.
Included in his plan is a steadfast desire to go for gold at the Rio Olympics next season. Federer already has a gold medal in doubles from the 2008 Beijing Games and a silver in singles from London four years ago.
"Of course, Rio is one of the priorities of next year," Federer said. "It's not the only one. It's going to be a different type of schedule next year because of the Olympic year. It's always like that, when there's a bit of a change in the calendar."
Federer's play this season proved he is still capable of winning Grand Slam titles, having reached the Wimbledon and US Open finals. In both of those events, he lost to No. 1 Novak Djokovic in four sets. But it's not as if Federer can't beat Djokovic; he did so twice this season, in the Dubai and Cincinnati finals.
When asked whether he could add to his 17 Grand Slam titles, Federer was reflective.
"We shall find out next year if I'm going to make it or not," Federer said. "Novak's definitely the man to beat at the moment. He's had an unreal season again. He's not only doing it at the Slams, but he's also doing it on the tour week in, week out. It's tough to break that for any player right now. I think the player's got their work cut out for them."
In 1969, legend Rod Laver won his second season Grand Slam. Although he wasn't quite 30 yet, he had been around the game a long time and understood the potential travails of older players.
Now 77 years old, Laver, who was a guest at the Shanghai Masters, still has a keen eye when it comes to vetting talent.
"I think if you love the game and you enjoy it, there's no end," Laver told reporters. "You don't have to just say that's it. [Federer] is playing great tennis. I almost think he's playing better tennis now than he was a couple of years ago."
Of late, Federer has made adjustments to his game, playing more aggressively and eagerly ending points earlier, a methodology for conserving energy. His serve and forehand have changed a bit and he's even added a half-volley return to his arsenal, a shot he first tried in practice as a joke. [Didact: This is known as the "SABR"- "Sneak Attack By Roger"- and it is a thing of beauty to watch on the roughly 40% or so of the attempts where it actually works.]