Roger Federer feels a return to top form could be months away although he’s not ruling out something special at the Australian Open.
By the 17-time grand slam title winner’s freakishly high standards, 2013 was a poor year.
For the first time in 11 years he did not reach the final of any of the four majors.
His streak of reaching at least the quarter-finals of 36 straight grand slam events also ended and he fell out of the top five in the world rankings for the first time in more than a decade.
But rather than contemplate retirement, the 32-year-old’s response has been to train harder in the off-season, hire boyhood idol Stefan Edberg as his new coach and experiment with a new, larger racquet.
He’s confident he can revive his career fortunes, even if it doesn’t happen immediately.
“I trained probably harder than all the guys ranked ahead of me in the off-season, because they went off to play exhibitions, like I did last year,” Federer told reporters on Wednesday night, after a charity event at Melbourne Park he instigated.
“So that goes with me. I did full-on months, which I haven’t done in a long time and my body held up for that.
“Then I played singles and doubles in Brisbane (last week) … I really feel I’m on my way back.
“Who knows? Maybe I’m playing my very best in March or April is my feeling.
“But I still feel there’s a lot possible right now.”
During Wednesday night’s event at Melbourne Park, Federer traded shots with 75-year-old Australian legend Rod Laver, something he said as a passionate tennis historian was an “absolute dream come true”.
He then won a tight three-setter against French world No.10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, on a night that raised more than $1 million for his foundation, which supports education for underprivileged children in southern Africa.
Federer said promoting such causes was part of his motivation for continuing to play, as was simple enjoyment of the game.
But it’s the lure of winning more tournaments he feels most strongly.
“The thrill of holding up a trophy and the thrill of being before match point is an amazing one,” Federer said.
“That’s probably deep down why I’m playing.
“But of course there’s so many other things I can do at the same time.”