Federer hasn't lost his motivation

Roger Federer smiles during a news conference at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

Roger Federer smiles during a news conference at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

Write off Roger Federer at your own peril.

On Day 1 of the Rogers Cup and on the eve of his first match since a quarter-final loss at Wimbledon, Federer sounds nothing like the down in the dumps, confidence-fighting individual he appeared some three weeks ago after that loss to Czech Tomas Berdych at the All England Club.

Perhaps it was the family holiday in the interim, or the time for nagging back and leg aches to heal or even the time to actually work on his game with a new voice in the mix. Most likely it was a combination of the three.

That new voice belongs to Paul Annacone, and while that may not resonate outside tennis circles, it does within. As much for who he tutored -- Pete Sampras during his glory years -- as for the fact that Federer is actually reaching outside his cosy circle to bring in someone from the outside.

Federer, after all, is the guy who almost proudly points out that in the midst of his dominance in men's tennis -- an unmatched 237 weeks atop the ranking from February 2004 to August 2008 -- he had neither a coach nor an agent.

But now times have changed and Federer is willing to change with them. If it means bringing in another coach from outside his circle, so be it.

"Now it's, you know, coming from behind again," Federer said of his present situation. "Being ranked No. 3 in the world is something I haven't been in a very long time, so it also gives me motivation and a drive to come forward again, and I'm doing all the right things and it's, to me, just a matter of time. But guys are getting good and it's inspiring for me also to get better.

Annacone comes with a track record and Federer, while he continues to call Annacone's addition to his coaching staff "an experiment" that could or could not last, sounds like a guy who has found another edge that can be the difference between winning tournaments and merely advancing to the latter stages of them.

Quarterfinal losses at both the French Open and Wimbledon have some in the media predicting the beginning of the end for Federer.

If it bothers the Swiss master, he's not letting on, although it's also clear that he has seen the premature obituaries.

"They wrote (Rafael Nadal) off, too, which was to me surprising, especially because he couldn't play Wimbledon last year," Federer said. "There was a bit of negativity hype around him being awfully injured and stuff, but he also only missed six weeks. I missed about the same at the beginning of (this) year, too, but I only missed Dubai but he missed Wimbledon.

"Sometimes, you know, the press gets too carried away too quickly. It's understandable with our success we've had, Rafa, myself."

Clearly Federer is not ready to call it a career just yet.

Annacone and Federer have had a little more than two weeks of practice together. His current coach, Severin Luthi, is still very much in the picture. Luthi will be with him in Cincinnati, the next ATP stop and the one that precedes the next major, the U.S. Open.

Federer said it should be after the U.S. Open when a decision on his future with Annacone as a member of his team will be made.

But as long as Annacone's around, Federer plans on taking full advantage of the situation.

Normally, he would have been entered in the doubles after a lengthy break like the one he's coming off, but Annacone's presence and his desire to work on his singles camp trumped that this time around.

"Having Paul around, I didn't want to spend extra time on, you know, warming up for doubles or thinking about it. I just wanted to focus on singles and getting back on to the tour," Federer said.

Federer will open the tournament today against unseeded Juan Ignacio Chela. Chela either did Federer a favour or is denying him a chance to restate his dominance when he took out Colombian Alejandro Falla. That would be the same Falla, who put a first-round scare at Wimbledon into Federer before the Swiss master knocked him out in the fifth and deciding set with a 6-0 thumping.

To hear Federer yesterday, those days are either over or soon to be a thing of the past. He's rested, relatively healthy and motivated to regain his perch atop the ATP rankings.

We'll know by the end of this week whether that's mere talk or not.


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