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Federer says he 'can't think too far ahead' nowadays

| Monday, July 17, 2017, 7:42 p.m.
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Roger Federer celebrates winning his eighth Wimbledon championship and 19th Grand Slam singles title Sunday.

LONDON — Roger Federer has learned not to take anything for granted.

That's why he said what he did during the trophy presentation after his record-breaking eighth Wimbledon championship: “I hope this wasn't my last match. And I hope I can come back next year and try to defend the title.”

Some wondered whether that meant Federer was considering retirement.

Hardly. What he meant, Federer explained Monday, was simply: “I can't think too far ahead.”

“I didn't think about what I was going to say. It just came out that way, to show the people that, yes, of course I hope to defend my title and, of course, I wish to be back here next year. But we just don't know if it's really going to actually happen,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press at the All England Club the morning after beating Marin Cilic, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4, in the final. “We have to wait and see.”

He didn't always take that approach, back when he was in his 20s and reached a record 10 Grand Slam finals in a row.

Things are different these days.

“At 25, when you win, you're like, ‘All right, I'll see you next year.' because it's normal. The body's going to be fine, most likely. And if not next year, well, then the year after that, you know?” Federer said as he walked through the hallways of Centre Court. “But I can't really think two years ahead now. Let's be honest.”

First of all, there's the no-way-around-it matter of his age: Federer turns 36 on Aug. 8; he is the oldest man to win Wimbledon in the Open era, which began in 1968.

And then there's what happened about 18 months ago: A father of four, he was preparing a bath for his twin daughters when he turned and felt a “click” in his left knee. In February 2016, he had the first operation of his career, arthroscopic surgery to repair torn cartilage.

Federer returned to the tour that March, then missed the French Open because of lingering back problems, ending his record streak of 65 consecutive Grand Slam tournament appearances. After a semifinal loss at Wimbledon a year ago, he took the rest of the season off to let his body heal, missing the U.S. Open, Rio Olympics and every other event.

“I've seen how quickly things can change,” Federer said. “Filling a bathtub for my girls changed the whole next 1½ years of my tennis life, really.”

These past six months turned out OK, though.

Federer is 31-2 with a tour-leading five titles in 2017. That includes his 18th Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open — ending a 4½-year drought without a major title — followed by his 19th at Wimbledon, where he became the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1976 to win the tournament without dropping a set.

Federer himself is surprised at how well this year has gone so far.

He said he certainly didn't expect to win both majors he has entered.

Now he moves on to the hard courts, including the U.S. Open, which starts Aug. 28.

“I have a hard time thinking I could win three Slams in one year. It just sounds totally surreal to me,” said Federer, who did collect trios of major titles in 2004, 2006 and 2007. “But I'll prepare myself the best way possible, so that I will have the best chance to really excel there in New York.”

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