‘One day I would travel this beautiful country in a big way’
‘The great moments I spent here will forever be in my memory’
‘Let's not talk money. It is boring’
Roger Federer's countless fans did not have enough of him on his rare Indian sojourn, and the Swiss superstar reciprocated their feelings saying that one day he will travel the ‘beautiful country in a big way’.
How much Indian fans love Federer was in full display on the final day of the International Premier Tennis League's India leg in Delhi Monday when he beat world No 1 Novak Djokovic in a one-off set amid a roaring crowd rooting for his victory.
He had asked his Twitter followers to photoshop him around the country, drawing 'hilarious' suggestions. Most of his two days in Delhi were spent on court and in hotel but it was enough to overwhelm him.
"The great moments I spent here will forever be in my memory. Thank you New Delhi! Tremendous crowd support! Forever grateful," he posted in the wee hours of Tuesday before leaving India.
Around five hours before his parting tweet, he spoke at length about his India experience.
"Photoshop was so much fun. It was crazy reading it on the timeline. It was like 'are you serious'?, said Federer, after his night match against Djokovic.
"I really enjoyed it (being in India). Unfortunately I could not do much of those trips (as suggested on Twitter) but I know that one day I will definitely travel this beautiful country in a big way. I hope to get the company of some locals while I am travelling India. There is much to see. I want to come with my family and hopefully we can do it in peace," said Federer, drawing applause from the media.
Did he expect to be revered here, so much so that most at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium would support him over someone like Djokovic?
"Of course, I did. I am in the Indian Aces team," he quipped, adding what makes him an adoring figure around the world.
"My fans are the ones who support me the most. They know how much I appreciate their support. I don't really scream about it all the time and they know it. But if they don't know and they are insecure that I didn't appreciate, or I didn't see the banner, I didn't see the flags, didn't see the t-shirt, I want to tell them I did and I really loved it. And that is why I came here. I can't thank them enough.
"I hope to see some of them on the tour; those who will not be on the tour, hopefully will get to see them here or in some other Indian city," said Federer, winner of a record 17 Grand Slams titles.
He called the IPTL an exhibition, but it was serious stuff all the way against Djokovic.
"I thought the match was great. We both played at a very good level. May be he struggled a little bit in the first one or two games. After that he was really good, really strong and I was happy with my level of play too. We had great points. There was unbelievable excitement in the crowd. It could not have worked out any better."
It is learned that Federer was paid a fortune to appear just for the India leg of the competition.
"Next question please. Let's not talk money. It is boring," was his reply when asked whether his appearance fee disturbed the overall budget for the event.
On a more serious note, he expressed a desire to play in India again, but said he could not predict the future of the newly-created IPTL.
"I am the wrong guy to ask about the future. It is for the guys who crunch the numbers, whether it made financial sense. I am too curious to see how it was successful for them. I was only here for two days. Let's see if I come back because 12 months is a long time for me. I have four kids and being 33 years old, having played 85 matches this season, it is tough to say.
"I need to play an injury-free season in 2015. I will consider it for sure, but will be tough say yes or no, as I had such a great time here."
The new season is not far away and Federer remains determined to add to his Grand Slam tally, something he hasn't been unable to do since winning at Wimbledon in 2012.
"I would probably pick Wimbledon; you never have enough Wimbledons. It all started from there for me, watching Edberg (Stefan) and Becker (Boris). It inspired me to play tennis," said the seven-time Wimbledon champion when asked to pick a tournament he would want to win next year.
Federer will start the year in Brisbane again, followed by the Australian Open next month. He said he would reassess his competition schedule after Melbourne and would try to play as many events as he can.
He went on the say that 2014 was a good year for him after a "not-so-good" 2013 before giving his thoughts on the next year.
"Regardless of who is going to play Slams, it is always hard to win five-set matches for two weeks; those tournaments are hard to win.
"I have won it (Slams) a few times; more times I have lost. Every year you feel it goes up a notch. The draw gets deeper. It is tough in the initial rounds and Novak is playing great, in his prime right now. Then I expect Rafa (Nadal) to be in ship shape again. From that stand point it is going to be interesting."
The closest Federer got to winning a major in 2014 was at Wimbledon, where he ended up losing an epic final to Djokovic. He is backing himself to win a Grand Slam in 2015.
"This year I was close. Novak played well at Wimbledon, Cilic (Marin) was on fire at the US Open; French Open is always more difficult than the others. People are always going to talk me down that 'he is old and not so fit anymore', but I feel I have never cramped on court. I am one of the fittest guys on the tour."
His trip was also about catching up with his idol and friend, Peter Sampras. The two, who arrived in Delhi on the same flight, share great respect for each other. For Federer, Sampras remains an idol and the American also looks up to his friend.
How was his time with Sampras?
"I know Pete very well. He is actually a friend. Catching up on the family front, his wife, my wife, talk about the game. It is always incredible to share moments with him. He would always remain someone whom I look up to. Doesn't matter how successful I become, he will always inspire me to chase more.
"Earlier there was so much said about chasing his records. I did not want to break his records but they were right there. Everybody was talking about it and it was motivating. For me to share the bench with him was such a privilege."