Hard graft behind Federer's resurgence
Roger Federer puts his return to form down to working harder than the world's best during the off-season after recovering from a lingering back injury.
The 17-time grand slam champion endured the toughest season of his career in 2013, failing to reach the final of a major for the first time since 2002 and sliding to seventh in the ATP rankings, his lowest position in the standings in over a decade.
His ranking slipped to eighth despite reaching the semi-finals of this year's Australian Open, but his results in 2014 have been far more impressive, with final appearances at all three ATP tournaments he has played so far this year, including victory in Dubai.
Now back up to fifth in the rankings, Federer puts his recent revival down to hard graft in the short break between last season's Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and his arrival in Brisbane for the first tournament of 2014.
"December was crucial," Federer told the Daily Mail. "I don't want to say this in a cocky way but I believe I worked the hardest from the top eight in the off-season. Many guys went off to play exhibitions, or were in the Davis Cup. I had time, I put my head down and worked and I did it without any setbacks.
"I played three straight weeks without any problems, ending at the O2 Arena. I thought if I could handle that and then all the December work and emerge in good shape with no problems that would be a great platform."
Federer, who has brought Stefan Edberg - a player he idolised growing up - into his coaching set-up, admitted that his second-round exit at Wimbledon at the hands of Sergiy Stakhovsky forced him to question his game, ultimately leading to a change to a racket with a larger head.
"It was one of the season goals and when I fail I reassess: why did it happen? Is it training, mental, my team, is it just me? Do I need to change?" said the 32-year-old.
"For me it was hard in itself because I truly believe I could have done something there. I wasn't in pain. I had won less than two weeks before on grass in Halle. I think I would have at least have made the semis, but Sergiy Stakhovsky played well. Returning to Wimbledon this year I have much higher hopes."