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Grand Slam possible for thrill-seeking Federer

Last updated on: February 2, 2010 10:10 IST

Federer has a chance to emulate Rod Laver

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Roger Federer described his performance against Andy Murray to win the Australian Open title as possibly the best of his career and his words were not intended just to make the tearful Scot feel better.

Improbably the 28-year-old Swiss, who notched a 16th Grand Slam title with his 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 victory, appears to be still improving, which for the players hoping to garnish their own CV's with majors is a frightening prospect.

Few who watched his performance against Murray would doubt that Federer has a real shot at emulating Rod Laver by sweeping all four Grand Slam titles this year, especially with his claycourt nemesis Rafael Nadal troubled by his creaky knees.


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'For him, first and foremost, tennis is fun'

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Physically, Federer is in his prime, while he also appears to have found an emotional nirvana. He is playing with no pressure and for him, first and foremost, tennis is fun.

At the end of the an intense third-set tiebreak he looked as though he could play all night if needed while Murray, one of the most durable players on the circuit was spent.

Mentally Federer is blessed with inner peace. The magic of becoming a father has given him a purpose outside tennis. His rivals may have hoped that marriage and twin daughters would blunt his edge but the opposite appears to be the case.

"My game is not as taxing as other players' games. I also think I have a very relaxed mind when it comes to the game of tennis," Federer told reporters when asked whether his domination could last until beyond his 30th birthday.


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'I really want to try to enjoy my end to my career'

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Whereas a few years ago the weight of making history weighed on his shoulders, particularly at Roland Garros where Nadal upset his equilibrium, Federer now seems to be playing for thrills.

Against Murray, Federer even seemed to relish digging holes for himself in some of the rallies just so he was forced to dip into his apparently bottomless box of tricks, be it a net-skimming slice or a forehand winner flicked off his toes.

"I really want to try to enjoy my end to my career, because I've reached already so many goals I thought were never possible. I really want to enjoy the tour, and that's what I'm doing at the moment," Federer said.

"I've always had a clear vision of how my life is and that's helped me to go through better and tougher phases."


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Federer's game appears more solid

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Technically too, Federer's game appears more solid. Rallies of 20 or 30 strokes never used to be his cup of tea with his natural instinct favouring an earlier kill.

Murray peppered Federer's backhand all night with some stunning play of his own, but more often than not the ball came back with interest.

His forehand, which is always played at full-tilt whatever the circumstances and prone to occasional malfunctions, was simply devastating every time Murray failed to land his shots within a footprint of the baseline.


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'Whatever happens happens'

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So, what are the chances of Federer reaching 19 Grand Slam titles at the US Open in September?

His first obstacle is the French Open where he finally got the monkey off his back last year by claiming the trophy for the first time by beating the man who beat Nadal, Robin Soderling.

The real test would be if Nadal is back to his best and Federer has to beat the Spaniard to retain the title. It is a big if, however, with the Mallorcan still way off his best as the claycourt season approaches.

Wimbledon is Federer's favourite playground and unlike Roland Garros, where a dozen or so grizzled claycourters can do real damage, the list of players capable of beating him can usually be counted on two fingers...if that.

The US Open produced a shock last year when powerhouse Argentine Juan Martin del Potro ambushed Federer in the final, depriving him of a sixth successive title.

It is still a long way off but Federer, whatever he says in public, will know that 2010 could be his last chance of becoming the first man since Laver to win a calendar year Grand Slam in the professional era.

"I won't just put the entire calendar just around trying to win the calendar Grand Slam," Federer said. "It's something if it happens, it's great, but it's not something that's my number one goal. Whatever happens happens."


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