But to the third-seeded Federer, those accomplishments mean little this fortnight at Roland Garros, his first in Paris since 2015. To the 37-year-old Swiss, he’s the “outsider” looking in on the favourites, such as 11-time champion Rafael Nadal and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
“It’s nice to be an outsider. That’s how I feel, anyhow. Just see how it goes. I know when Wimbledon comes around, sure, I’ll be probably a higher favourite. That’s OK, too. I’m happy that I’m there where I am,” Federer said.
The Swiss returned to a packed Court Philippe Chatrier without drama on Sunday, day one of the season’s second Grand Slam, advancing 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 against Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego. And although the fan support remains enthusiastic for Federer in Paris, he is viewing his return differently than past experiences at Roland Garros.
“For many years it was either, if I don’t win, it’s a disappointment, and you explain yourself in the press room. People don’t understand why you lost,” Federer said.
But now, he said, “I feel like if I lost first round or in the final or wherever it is, people would be, ‘OK, that could have happened.’
“I like that approach for me also once in a while. It relaxes you on the bigger points maybe, or it relaxes you subconsciously as you walk through the grounds and go to practice and go to the press room,” he said.
Federer, and athletes in all sports, have been known to downplay expectations and set the bar low for their future performances. But Federer insisted he’s being honest.
“This is not a show I’m putting on. This is the truth. I really don’t know how far I can go in this event, and I am very happy with my first round. It was a really good performance,” Federer said.
The Swiss also shared why he, with four children and a wife, still travels the world and plays in events such as Roland Garros: Pure passion.
“I love the ATP Tour,” he said. “I love to play. The traveling, to me, doesn’t bother me too much. I feel like I have a lot of friends around the world, so it’s nice to see them as well. I think that’s also helpful, going to places and getting to see my old friends I only see maybe once a year. [I’m] just very happy with how things are going on the Tour.”