Roger Federer says he’s living the dream as he prepares to defend his Australian Open crown once again with his four children in tow.
Twelve months on from his unforgettable surge to a fifth Open crown aged 35 and in his first official tournament back after six months out of the game, Federer admits he can still barely believe what he pulled off.
The Swiss marvel rates his magical Melbourne Park comeback from a career- threatening knee injury above even his incredible eighth Wimbledon triumph last July.
“I just thought that the game and the wins weren’t going to come, I was probably going to lose at some stage,” Federer said at Thursday night’s Open draw at Melbourne Park.
“The quarters, semis at best, because I would just run into a red-hot Djokovic or Murray or Nadal or somebody and my game wasn’t going to be good enough for that day – and it was.
“I had all these great five-setters and, at the end, the epic match against Rafa and, of course after six, seven matches, you start feeling like a different player, that you can’t miss anymore and the fifth set was maybe the best set I ever played.
“So (it was) a huge surprise, especially after the six months I had off, and what a comeback it was and it was definitely the highlight of the year.
“It even beats Wimbledon and all the other tournaments I won last year.”
The Federer fairytale has continued in 2018, with the record-setting 19-times grand slam champion opening his 20th season on tour with an undefeated run at the Hopman Cup in Perth.
And, in a touching tribute, Federer says doing it all with a family on board is quite something else.
“Unbelievable. In my vision, I never had this, that I was going to be playing tennis with four kids. That was not part of my dream,” says men’s tennis’s oldest year-ending world No.2.
“My dream was hopefully holding up a trophy of some kind, my home-town tournament in Basel or a Wimbledon trophy or being world No.1 of the ATP.
“That was my sort of dream, not the kids bit.
“Family was something I always wanted when I got together with Mirka, way back when in Sydney at the Olympics in 2000, and my whole life changed completely and it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.
“So this phase now, the last eight years have just been the best.”
Federer says his three-year-old sons Leo and Lenny “seem very interested” in tennis and that his eight-year-old daughters Myla Rose and Charlene Riva, also identical twins, think his friends in the locker-room like countryman Stan Wawrinka are all part of the family.
“The boys are young and one of them was watching me at the Hopman Cup last week and he said: ‘I can do what Papa can, I can play tennis too.’
“The girls, they’re funny. They know I’m a professional tennis player … I don’t want to educate them on everything, but they know I sometimes win.”
Sometimes, he says.
“But winning or losing to them shouldn’t matter because my attitude will always be the same towards them.”