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By Chris Oddo | Monday March 13, 2017

Oh, the difficulties of playing with only 17 major titles to one’s name. Roger Federer had to suffer this ignominious fate for nearly five years, but now that he’s won his 18th major title, the monkey is most certainly off his back, and likely for good.

Watch: Federer on Fans and Happiness

After his 6-2, 6-1 thrashing of Frenchman Stephane Robert on Sunday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, Federer spoke like a man without worry. Being in the twilight of his career certainly doesn’t mean that he can’t be in the prime of his life.

And winning that major in Melbourne, and more specifically beating his longtime nemesis in the final, has Federer seemingly permanently in Cloud 9 state of mind. “I think it was a beautiful thing that happened for my team and for myself down in Australia,” he said on Sunday when asked about it. “I think I should play very relaxed this year, not just here, not just in Miami, not just in Dubai, wherever I'm going to go.”

Federer, now 35, mentioned earlier this week when being grilled by 50 kids in a press conference (yes, seriously!), that if he could play five more years it would be amazing. Whether he does or not remains in question, but the mere fact that Federer still feels that way after his most difficult professional season, should put a wide smile across the many millions who call themselves “Fedophiles.”

“I really hope I can play with this lightness, this freshness throughout, because I worked so hard to get to 18 the last five years,” Federer said. “It's not always been easy, especially with injuries. And losing some tough matches, but I did have good moments, too, you know. I won a lot of tournaments, beat a lot of the top guys, basically all of them. But then basically won the Davis Cup, which is big for us, for me.

Federer wants to reiterate: His five-year Grand Slam drought that started the day after he won his 17th major title at Wimbledon in 2012, hasn’t been a nightmare. In fact, it has been quite good, particularly in the last two years. If it weren’t for a guy named Djokovic he might even hold 20 majors right now.

“So it wasn't all bad, you know, like maybe people make it sound like there was this huge lull or a bad stretch,” he said. “It wasn't. It was just one that I couldn't get a slam because of Novak, mostly. So I'm happy I finally got it.”

And this year, what many feared might be one last victory tour for the Mighty Federer, actually appears to be just another season in the career of the game’s greatest player. Still lithe, still lightning quick, still capable of dreamy athleticism and otherworldly shotmaking, Federer just has to keep an eye on his fitness and make sure he’s not burning himself out. If he does that, and picks his spots to really ramp up his efforts, he could go on playing—and winning—for quite some time.

“I have to be careful of any letdown after the Australian Open,” he says. “I think it's real. That's why I'm really out there, like today, pushing myself on, one more point, shot-for-shot, point-for-point mentality. So important to see and not look too far ahead and think things are going to come easy. If you watch Novak today or Rafa, margins are small. If you're not up to your best, you're struggling. You might lose. Saw it with Andy yesterday. It happens so quickly. That's why I'm really pushing for me to have good energy on the court.”


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