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Federer: "I Have To Prove Myself Somehow"

Halle, Germany

Federer © Gerry Weber OpenRoger Federer unveils his star as the 2013 Gerry Weber Open champion.

Roger Federer is no stranger to playing on grass, but this year’s swing has a decidedly different feel for the 32-year-old Swiss.

Federer admitted on Monday that he felt more pressure competing this week at the Gerry Weber Open than in two weeks' time at Wimbledon. Last year, he claimed his lone title of the season in Halle before suffering a surprising second-round exit at the All England Club, his earliest loss at SW19 since 2002.

“It’s an interesting period because I have my title to defend here, and actually at Wimbledon, I don’t have anything to defend," he said. "But I have to prove myself somehow. So, actually it’s the kind of the wrong way round for me, because usually the pressure in Wimbledon is much bigger because of the points and because you want to play well.

“But this year, I might go to Wimbledon a bit more relaxed. The pressure here is quite big, because I want to play well. The draw at the Gerry Weber Open is tough. Therefore it's not easy to target the title. But to me it’s obvious why I’m here. I want to capture the title and play well. So, that’s absolutely my priority.”

Following his fourth-round loss to Ernests Gulbis at Roland Garros, Federer returned to Switzerland for a few days, where he worked on fitness training and back exercises. He stepped onto a grass-court on Saturday, upon his arrival in Halle. Despite leading the FedEx ATP Win-Loss Index for career grass-court matches with a 122-18 mark and 13 titles, he admitted the transition wasn't seamless.

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“The first time on Saturday wasn’t that easy,” he admitted. “I enjoyed it, but I didn’t have the feeling I played that well. I was a bit disappointed after the practice. Yesterday, things went better. Therefore, I’m curious how it will go today.

“But I do have the feeling that I’ve found my rhythm. It’s important to keep on playing points and you need to be sharp and make quick decisions because there isn't a lot of time. You need to adapt properly and be creative. Therefore, usually practice is a lot of fun, although it can be frustrating at times.”

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The father of four, who has been joined in Halle by his family, also stressed the importance of rest to his success.

“Today, I had to catch up on some sleep,” he said. “I was still a little tired from the practice and, also, the change to grass is always challenging. It’s a different kind of tiredness. You need to be more explosive, sharper, that’s very important on grass.

“Therefore, Mirka and I will have to make sure to get well organised for this week. Of course it’s important that my family is here and why I’m here, in order to play tennis.”

Federer will have a couple more days to prepare for his singles opener against Portugal’s Joao Sousa, and will get his first taste of match play this week when he teams up with fellow Basel native Marco Chiudinelli in doubles.

Top seed Rafael Nadal, who arrived in Halle 24 hours after winning his ninth Roland Garros title, will begin his grass-court campaign on Thursday against Dustin Brown. Federer watched part of the Sunday’s final and applauded his rival’s success.

“I was very happy for him because it’s tremendous what he proves on clay every year,” he said. “You have to raise your hat to him. For me, it was clear before that he is the favourite. Now, everybody says that it was evident that he’ll win. But before it was said that he can’t play tennis anymore because he had lost on clay twice. Therefore, I think it’s nice that he proved them otherwise.”

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