YOU would not normally expect a player to share the secrets of his success with his rivals, but Roger Federer is a generous sort. As he prepares for his last tournament of the year at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, which begin in London on Sunday, the 30-year-old Swiss believes he can teach other players a thing or two about how to pace yourself through a season.
While some of the top men are entering the final phase of the campaign with their bodies battered and bruised - Novak Djokovic, for example, has struggled physically ever since the US Open - Federer is in arguably his best form of the season. Having won only one title in the first 10 months of the year, he has triumphed in Basle and Paris in the last fortnight and heads for the O2 Arena as favourite to win the year-ending title for a sixth time.
There are several reasons why Federer has had an excellent fitness record throughout his career, ranging from his economical game to his meticulous physical preparation, but careful scheduling is one of the most important. The world No 4 takes small breaks when he can during the season and plays few tournaments outside the mandatory events.
After flying to Australia to play in the Davis Cup the weekend after the US Open, Federer took a six-week break and missed the entire Asian swing in order to rest and recuperate. He came back in his hometown tournament in Basle and went on to win 10 matches and two titles in the space of 13 days.
"In hindsight it was good scheduling,' Federer said after his triumph at the Paris Masters. "I always plan in the long term. Even if this hadn't worked out and I'd lost early in Basle and struggled here, I still would have felt it would have been the right thing to do for London and for next year.
"I hope also in some ways I can educate some other players, some young, up-and-coming players, to make sure they do take their time away from the game as well sometimes. I know how gruelling it is out there. I know how tough it is. Even I need my time away."
Federer said he would head for London, where he is the defending champion, with "great confidence". The draw is at lunchtime today.
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