MELBOURNE: Rod Laver says the ageless Roger Federer is playing as well as he was a decade ago and he can’t see the Swiss master calling it quits any time soon.
Federer claimed an incredible 20th Grand Slam title on Sunday in the stadium named after the Australian tennis great, beating Marin Cilic in five sets at the Australian Open.That is four more than his closest challenger Rafael Nadal and his third in the space of a year.
Laver, an 11-time Grand Slam champion who has been watching the 36-year-old’s progress at Melbourne Park this year, said he was as good as he’s ever been.“He’s certainly playing as well as he did eight or 10 years ago,” Laver told Melbourne’s Herald Sun ahead of Sunday’s final.
“I wouldn’t say he’s better but Roger is playing some of his best tennis. Not all the time maybe. But pretty close to all the time.”A decade ago, Federer, who cites Laver as his idol, was virtually untouchable, reaching 18 of 19 consecutive Grand Slam finals between Wimbledon in 2005 and the 2010 Australian Open.
Laver said Federer was now “playing smarter”.“You learn when you’re playing an opponent or you see him a lot, he sees weaknesses that other people don’t see,” he said. “That’s the difference between Roger and the field.”
And given the Swiss star’s continued love of the game, Laver doesn’t see him ending his career any time soon.“He’s enjoying it more. It’s another edge,” he said.“When he’s hitting a backhand down the line, if he sees that happening still that will keep him going for another year.”