Eight years have passed since Roger Federer hoisted the Sony Open championship trophy on Key Biscayne.
But don’t call him an old-timer.
At 32, the ever-popular, genteel Federer is not nearly among the youngest at the Sony Open, but he is once again among the highest ranked — No. 5 after an exceptional 19-3 start to 2014.
The Swiss father of twin daughters is expecting a third child at an unspecified date and will face World No. 53 Ivo Karlovic of Croatia — also a dad and at 35 the second-oldest Sony men’s player — in a match at 4 p.m. Friday on Stadium Court.
When Federer was told by a reporter Thursday that there will be a point, “no matter how healthy your body is,” when he inevitably would not be great anymore, he made it clear that the “inevitable” wouldn’t necessarily occur for several years.
“I don’t quite agree with you that the body inevitably has to give in,” he said, noting that avoiding “overtraining” and “overplaying” are instrumental in longevity. “Clearly, if you’re playing tennis at 50 years old, sure it’s a different story.
“But nobody wants to play till 50. You want to go play doubles with your friends and not be ridiculous on center court.
“It’s about, What does your mind say? … Where is your life at? … Because you want to do it as long as you want to and as long as you really enjoy it. I guess part of it is also [that] being a little bit successful helps in the process.”
A lot more than just “a little bit successful,” in Federer’s case, would be accurate.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion has finished among the top 6 every year since 2002, ending 2009 and 2004-07 at No. 1.
He won the Sony in 2005 and ’06.
Last year, Federer injured his back at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and took several weeks off — including during the Sony Open. Since January, he has finished no worse than as a semifinalist in his four tournaments. He lost in the final to Lleyton Hewitt in Brisbane, Australia; to World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in an Australian Open semifinal; to No. 2 Novak Djokovic on Sunday in the Indian Wells final; and won Dubai by defeating Djokovic and Tomas Berdych back to back.
“But as you know, you have to keep on working and trying hard,” he said. “Every tournament it starts from scratch.”
Hewitt, an Australian who turned 33 on Feb. 24 and won his 600th career match Thursday, praised his peer.
“Roger, what he’s done and the way that he competes still at his age and pushes the best guys in the world week in and week out, and [with] the pressure that is on him. … He’s a target every week. He’s remarkable.”
Federer announced on Twitter in December that his 4-year-old daughters Myla and Charlene “will be big sisters in 2014!”
On Thursday, he said he didn’t know whether the next baby’s birth would affect his schedule.
“We’ll see. It’s clearly a top priority for me, being there and being supportive at one of the most incredible experiences of my life,” he said. “That’s why I wouldn’t want to miss it for the world.
“After that I will go back on tour when the time is right. We’ll figure it out.”
So, when is the due date?
“Only my wife knows,” he said, grinning. “If I knew, I wouldn’t tell you.”