LONDON (Reuters) - Winning the French Open was not just a personal milestone for Roger Federer, it was the making of him.
Armed with the belief that he can win titles even when he is not on top of his game, the Swiss master is determined to snatch back the Wimbledon crown from his nemesis Rafael Nadal when the grasscourt grand slam begins next Monday.
“I feel like I’ve definitely become more a man now than in the last few years since I‘m not scared of five setters anymore. I can handle the pressure,” Federer, who became only the sixth man to achieve a career grand slam with his triumph at Roland Garros 10 days ago, told a small group of invited reporters.
“I had to show my fighting spirit more than ever and it’s nice to have had a chance to show those qualities because before everybody was just used to my dominance. It’s good to know for myself that I can also do it differently,” added Federer, who for the first time had to play two five-set matches during a successful run to a major.
“Now going into the grass season, and Wimbledon, and being on top of the world it’s a fantastic feeling.”
In his previous 13 assaults to grand slam titles, it seemed as if Federer’s aura was enough to beat most opponents before the warm-up had even finished.
If that was not enough, the Swiss quickly outwitted his opponents with his silky shots and killer instinct.
But none of that was on display in Paris and if anything, Federer’s cloak of invincibility looked tattered and torn when he was just five points from defeat in the fourth round against Germany’s Tommy Haas.
That win from two sets down against Haas not only set Federer on his way to a record-equalling 14th grand slam title, it also boosted his chances of regaining the number one ranking Nadal took from him last August.
“For me it’s about the majors because right now Wimbledon is around the corner,” said 27-year-old Federer.
”From Paris until Wimbledon, this is when you want to play your best tennis. So the ranking will always follow when you do play well.
“I know it will take a special effort to get back to number one because Rafa has set the bar high. It’s going to be hard to take it away from him because he has so many great tournament victories in his 365-day rankings. But I feel I‘m a step closer now by winning in Paris and winning my 14th.”
That triumph led to a chorus of players declaring Federer was the greatest of all time and Martina Navratilova even suggested the Swiss could “just go on and sip Margaritas for the rest of his life”.
However, Federer does not have it in him to simply put his feet up and soak up the sun.
For him it is all about timing and with a baby on the way, he feels there is no better way to prepare for the new arrival in his family by breaking the record of 14 grand slam titles he shares with Pete Sampras at Wimbledon.
“I do think I‘m the favourite actually, with the success I’ve had. I came close again last year,” said Federer, whose run of five consecutive Wimbledon titles ended with a heart-stopping five-set loss to Nadal in last year’s final.
”Once you arrive in London, you start getting into the frame of mind and it’s like ‘let’s go again’, I know what it takes. It only takes a couple of hours to feel at home.
“With no disrespect to the other players ... I feel like I’ve got the game, I’ve got the mental approach and I’ve got the experience to win at Wimbledon many more times.”