Yesterday some excerpts from Roger Federer’s conference call were highlighted regarding New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin. Here is the full transcript from the conference call.
Questions: Your thoughts on coming back to MSG?
RF: Good afternoon, super excited as you can imagine. Playing Pete was obviously a great moment for me. Especially, it was something Pete really wanted to get done after we played some exhibitions in Asia and I think…there was a buzz in town that we were back in the city at a different time of the year really. It’s been a successful event since, and I can’t believe it’s been five years already. I’m really looking forward to it, being in America and the great rival, and I’m sure it’s going to be a wonderful night for tennis and for New York.
AM New York: After facing so many young rivals, returning to a rival where you have a decided edge, how do you look at that as far as facing Roddick?
RF: How my rivalry matches with Roddick? It started way back when, I mean we were obviously at the same age and it was one of the first big matches. I remember when we had it against each other was back in Wimbledon, he came up winning Queens, I came up winning Halle. We both didn’t have a major Grand Slam win yet, and I just lost the first round of the French open a couple of weeks earlier, but we both came in some of the same of who could win the tournament. Then we played in the semifinals and I really played probably the match of my life and it was huge excitement for that round. You know, how I played, you know all of the sudden I was the overwhelming favorite going into my first Wimbledon and Grand Slam finals, which I was able to win. Then I went on to win the US Open that year. We’ve had the chance to have great matches against each other. It’s a really one-sided rivalry as in terms of head to head, but every time I feel when I’m playing him, I don’t feel I have that winning record against him for some reason just because he competes so well, and he really is an amazing player. He’s got one of the greatest serves of all-time in the game, and has a great personality for the game, and I really enjoy his matches. So I see him as a really difficult match and I’ve never played him in an exhibition really next to a couple of games for some charities, so it’s going to be different. In New York, as you can imagine, it’ll be really exciting for him to play against me. So I’m really looking forward to it.
WSJ: On the season so far, you’re playing a little bit more in the earlier part of the year than you usually do. Playing Rotterdam, playing Dubai, playing Davis Cup and now the exhibition, you know you’re now 30 years old, what was the decision to play a little bit more in the early part of the year, especially in an Olympic year? You know, why are you doing it, and what’s the plan, maybe?
RF: Well, I kind of kept my plan open to all the way after March till May. Just wanted to see how the Davis cup went first, I was always going to play a bit more often now in the last couple of years. I was hoping it was going to be earlier but just because there’s a couple issues with my back a couple years back it didn’t allow me to come back to the Davis Cup earlier. So I felt it was time to come back this time and go down to the tournament after 7 years, because I started to spend more time in Dubai and I always had sort of pick one or the other. So obviously Dubai was the easy choice. I tried to give a little to change my schedule up so I could play Rotterdam, and I really made it a priority this year, now that I was going to play Rotterdam for sure and maybe Dubai, and I only signed up to play in Dubai, actually. So, it’s working out well for me, I played really great in Rotterdam, unfortunately Davis didn’t go well. The Americans really played really good, too good, unfortunately, for us. They played good, they were a great team, and I felt it was the right thing to do. Maybe also looking back you always learn from your mistakes, and at times when I didn’t play enough tennis, or serve enough time, I wanted to make sure I had enough matches going into New York and Miami, which is obviously a big thing for me. I’ve been able to win that back to back a couple of times, and know the importance of that.
US Tennis Assoc: What are your thoughts on how much you hope a night for some of the biggest names in tennis might be inspiring to some young kids, especially some who don’t get a chance to go out to the Open? But have another chance to see you guys play in NY?
RF: It’s a great opportunity, you know. I really enjoy playing exhibitions, you know. Just because of that fact. It sort of throws in something different. It’s not the usual tournament, the atmosphere is different, there’s always a different crowd as well. And like you said, there’s people who otherwise don’t get a chance because, who knows, they are somewhere else, or during a different part of the world during that time of the year. This way, it gives people another chance to come be with tennis, you know. Maybe some come to the women’s, some come to Roddick, some come for me, I think it’s really a nice opportunity and hopefully many kids get to come and watch, and otherwise they know we’re in the area and for most sports in this area in this time, it kicks off state to state, and we continue on so then we’re in Miami and I think it’s a good time to play a match like this and keep the buzz going throughout New York and all tiers of time when we know we’re coming back for the US Open. It’s a good thing. Kids and families usually enjoy it. I couldn’t believe the buzz 5 years ago when I played Sampras, when the city created the buzz around us.
USA Today: Question about prize money, seems to me that the level of prize money is lower to your event, such as challengers, even in the early rounds of regular ATP events hasn’t risen as fast as in the later rounds of tournaments. So as a member of the player council, I’m wondering, 1) do you agree with that? And 2) does it matter that everyone has the same chance to win the money?
RF: I believe it’s a winner’s tour, so the money is there for everyone to play for. But at the same time, we wish as well that the lower rounds would also get a bigger raise as well. But then again that’s a difficult thing sometimes for tournaments to do. They want to allocate more of the money to the later rounds because its more sexy, more people talk about that, and it’s hard to say no to someone who is willing to give more to the finalists, semifinalists and quarterfinalists. It’s hard to say, “No thanks, it’s fine, we won’t take it.” It’s getting bigger between later rounds and earlier rounds. So we obviously factor those things in, but sometimes it works better and sometimes it’s harder with certain tournaments. But its always in the top of the agenda to make sure all the players are happy and the name of prize money doesn’t go up as much as we hope it does. Maybe that’s to redeem or the way we can help in hotel allocation or tournaments go all the way down to the little details to make the players happy =. We make sure that we can maybe help them that way, but obviously it has to be an issue. And obviously its an important task for the council and the board to make sure all the lower rounds get a bigger raise in the future.
USA Today: Does it seem more uneven to you since you came on tour, or not?
RF: honestly I don’t remember quite much. Because I’ve never played for money, and when I was coming up I was just happy, you know, making points and making breaks. So, it was nice making money and not living off the back of my parents and so forth. So I can understand if you’re obviously counting on the money to travel, maybe to afford a coach and all that then it makes it difficult obviously if you are looking at all of those. So for me, I don’t think it proves that much in the lower rounds, but I know at the top, I know it has. You can see it both ways. You can see it’s a great thing for tennis that it actually has improved in the later rounds, because everybody can reach those rounds. But at the same time, it’d be nice that offers sometimes would consider giving to the earlier rounds of the tournament.
AP: What are your plans for the Olympics? Would you know for sure which events you’ll be entering in? Will you do some doubles and the talk of you possibly pairing for the mixed with Martina Hingis but she says she’s not going to play? I’m wondering if you know what you’ll be doing in London.
RF: I think it’s going to be much straightforward. I will be playing doubles with Martina and she’s such a great player and friend, really. She helped me get on tour as well; she’s a good friend of my wife as well. She’s inspiring to me, it was natural for me to consider her, even though she’s in retirement, just knowing what a great talent she was. I did speak at the end of this last year and basically she told me I shouldn’t do it, it wouldn’t be a great thing for me, to play three events, but she was flattered, but she wouldn’t do it if she were me. I think she was also happy coming out of retirement, and I told her that too – it could be tricky for her as well, just coming back for the Olympics, and eventually she would have to come back completely. Or if she only played doubles, possibly she would have only come back for an hour match if we lost in the first round. I think we both felt comfortable not playing the mixed eventually, a little sad maybe, because it would’ve been exciting. But the priority is I’m with singles then the doubles, and I’ll play Wimbledon the tournament, and then I’ll have three weeks to do vacation, rest, prepare and practice extremely hard again before the Olympics and that’s what the time’s going to be before the Olympics. Before just playing the singles and the doubles.
Q: Roger we are in Madison Square Garden so the hot topic here is of course Linsanity. Have you been keeping up with the ongoing drama of Jeremy Lin’s rise in the NBA?
A: I have actually, I’ve heard a bit about it. I think it’s quite an incredible story actually. I hope he can come to the exhibition I think it would be great. I think this is why we all follow sports because of great stories like this, that all of a sudden someone breaks through that you didn’t know or didn’t expect and you didn’t know the result was going to happen and that he was able to help the Knicks to come through in the way he did now is a great thing. You know, I love New York Knicks, and obviously having played in that arena you know as well has been amazing for me. I wish the team well and I thought what Lin has done has been great, so I hope to meet him when I come to New York soon.
Q: Your opponent has had a really bad string of luck as of late with health. He’s had almost every injury you can think of in the last 9 months. I don’t know if you’ve spoken to him at all, but any advice? It seems like some of that can really get you down, what’s your sense of him getting out of that streak and what do you think he needs to do to get back to sort of, where he can be?
A: It’s tough, I haven’t spoken to Andy, because injuries weren’t good, but they weren’t horrible, let’s put it that way. It’s just really tough to handle these —- injuries, you have to do rehab and its tough because all he would want to do is maybe be on the match court in front of a great crowd and enjoy your life on tour really, and OK its gives you an opportunity to be home sometimes, but I think it’s a very different kind of a feeling, either you get used to being at home which you don’t want to actually as opposed to traveling as a professional tennis player, but I mean, I don’t like to see my rivals or good friends like Andy, sort of, be injured. I hope he’s going to be completely fine and recovered and if not I hope he’s going to be able to play so he gets back to his level where we all know he could play. So for him it’s about now playing matches, so I think this exhibition coming up for him with me is going to be a very good thing. And then obviously —- in Miami is going to be a big trip for him because its in the states still and before you can only return to the states in July, August. I really hope Andy can win a lot of matches you know, and I wish him well, I always do to all my fellow rivals, and I’ve reached out to numerous players in the past, but his injury wasn’t so bad that I almost had to reach out to him, but I’m sure he knows I care about him.
Q: Just wanted to congratulate you on winning Rotterdam and I was hoping that you would tell us that you got to celebrate or did you have to get on a plane and leave right away?
A: hmm, what did I do? I came back, saw my kids. It was just a nice moment, any title you win, and I’ve had a great sort of, last couple of months, so we had time to actually spend the night in Rotterdam and the next morning before leaving to Dubai, and then I had some days off here, now we just got back into practice but we didn’t have to rush out which was nice you know, it was nice to savor those victories and I had a great week, especially after Davis Cup which was a tough weekend for us so that was a great turnaround for me personally and I’m looking forward now to playing here in Dubai and then coming over to the states for a tournament, so I’ll see you guys all over there.
Q: You clearly love playing at MSG. Do you ever foresee the year end championships returning to Madison Square Garden?
A: I would love for it to happen. I mean we have a great world tour final at the moment in London, Shanghai was extraordinary, and Houston also I enjoyed a lot. There’s many great places I think the world tour finals could go, but obviously sort of back to the roots as well, where McEnroe, Lendl, and Borg, and all these guys used to be playing at the Garden. I think it would just be amazing. I don’t know if it’s going to happen. I hope the tour will consider and New York will have interest in hosting it, because I think it’s an amazing event and the players and fans and media will love it, so we’ll see how it goes, but for now, London is a very hot place to play and they put on an amazing show the last few years as well, so we’ll see how it goes, but especially after playing Pete and now Andy, you could imagine that I would love to have the world tour finals in NY again, hopefully in the near future.
Q: I wanted to ask you, a while back you referred to the 2012 Olympics as possibly a time you would consider retirement, I wanted to know where you stand on it now.
A: Well Yes, I did say 3 years ago, 4 even, that I will definitely play until the London Olympics. It was more getting journalists off my back to be quite honest and I held my word, I’m still playing, I will be playing at the London Olympics but hell, I won’t be retiring at the London Olympics. I’ve said it many times that I’ll be playing for hopefully many more years to come. My body will tell me when to stop but I haven’t set the date in any shape or form or thought about it in any way, so I’ve thought way ahead next year already in many different ways and I actually, at this point, I’m hoping to play in Rio still because this is my 4th Olympic games already and I think it’s like twice, or who know maybe a third time now in London, that will be a dream come true again, but will see how that goes. But no plans to retire at all.
Roger we really appreciate your time and were eager to see you here at Madison Square Garden on March 5th for the BNP Paribas showdown and thank you everyone for joining us on this morning’s call.
Federer is preparing for next week’s ATP 500 event in Dubai, starting February 27. See RF Activity for more.
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