KEY BISCAYNE, FL —- Though heâ€™s now No. 2 in the computer rankings, Roger Federer remains No. 1 in the hearts of many of his fellow tennis pros, primarily because heâ€™s maintained a â€˜good guyâ€™ image throughout his career.
The 27-year-old Swiss recently was named winner of the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship award for the fifth consecutive year.
â€œHe never had that No. 1 mentality or whatever when he came into the locker room,â€ said James Blake, after defeating Julien Benneteau 6-4, 6-4 Friday in second round of the Sony Ericsson Open. â€œI never felt like he was looking down on people, or that he was better than anyone else or he was above picking up his own trash or tossing out his dirty towels. Heâ€™s always been just a very-down-to-earth guy and I donâ€™t think that changed now that heâ€™s No.2.”
Federer, who defeated Kevin Kim 6-3, 6-2, advancing to the third round, still needs one more major title to tie Pete Samprasâ€™s career record of 14. The softspoken superstar showed just how badly he wanted that record when he sobbed openly on court after losing to Nadal in the Australian Open final last January.
â€œI was tired and disappointed that I didnâ€™t play better,â€ Federer said. â€œBut I got emotional when Rod Laver, Tony Roche and Ken Rosewell walked on court. I realized the people were waiting for the trophy ceremony and thatâ€™s when I realized I lost the match. All the legends were back and I wished I was the winner. I usually always have a tear after I lose a Grand Slam final. At Wimbledon, it happened when I just walked off the court; At the Australian Open, it happened when I was on court. That was the unfortunate part for me.â€
Nadal defeated Federer in three ( 2008 French Open, 2008 Wimbledon and 2009 Australian Open) of the last four major finals. Federer captured the 2008 U.S. Open, defeating Andy Murray in the final.
â€œLast season was really tough,â€ Federer said. â€œSome people forget I had mono and had a bad back. Iâ€™ve been struggling against Rafa (Nadal), even though I got close at Wimbledon and again at the Australian Open. I just have to make sure I get the wins against them in the future, and then hopefully, I can turn it around.”