March 8, 2012By Bill Scott
DUBAI - Roger Federer hopes to venture at the end of the year to the one place on the planet he's never really played tennis, with the Swiss player's management in the midst of organising an exhibition tour of South America for the end-of-season period.
The No. 3 has given a hint of what would be in store for eager South American fans if the project gets fully up and running. He said at the start of play at the Dubai Championships: "We're trying to put a nice tour together in South America at the end of the year.
"We are still looking at which countries and which players actually at this point. Some are sort of confirmed, I think, and some are not, so still some talks going on there.
"I hope I can play as many as I can. There are many countries I haven't been yet in South America except for the juniors back in the day. I hope we can make it a special down there."
Federer is well-known in China, venue for the annual Shanghai Masters and a country where he is also a brand icon for German automaker Mercedes and Rolex watches among other sponsors. But the Swiss has not been to South America during the major part of his superlative ATP career. The only events played in the regions are on clay, which has never suited his scheduling.
Now, at least, South Americans are likely to get a one-off chance to see the king in the flesh.
Meanwhile Federer is concentrating on his match results while hoping that he will put himself into the position for a return later in the season which was his for much of the past decade until being surpassed by Rafael Nadal and current pacemaker Novak Djokovic of Serbia.
Currently, Federer says he is thinking only of his immediate goal and not about a possible return this season to the number-one ranking he held during his golden run through much of the past decade.
"Sure, getting to number one again is a long-term goal," said the second-seeded Swiss on Sunday in the seven-star Burj al-Arab hotel where he, top seed Novak Djokovic and third seed Andy Murray are billeted for the week.
"It's not something I think about daily, but I think it could be possible if I play well between now and through the US Open," added the 16-time Grand Slam champion. "But I'm only really thinking of having a good run now, over the next five or six weeks."
After Dubai, Federer will head for a rich exhibition in New York on March 5 before the two American Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami in March.
Federer is riding high after thrashing Juan Del Potro for the February Rotterdam trophy after ending 2011 with three consecutive titles. "I'm on a good run now and I'd like to continue it," said the 30-year-old. "It's a tough stretch from now. I think that the number title will only really be decided between the French Open and the US Open. I feel good, even if I've played a lot of tennis recently."
Djokovic, meanwhile, has made his start a month after winning a dramatic Australian Open title which culminated in a final lasting for nearly six hours against Nadal.
The No. 1 is playing as much for his country as he is for himself in his individual sport.
During his down-time after Melbourne, the 24-year-old went skiing for the first time in six years at the mountain where he grew up, accepted a Laureus sportsman award in London and was feted by the Serbian government with one of the highest civilian honours which the nation can bestow.
Djokovic was clearly pleased with the impact his tennis has made on his nation, one of the newest in Europe, carved from the remnants of the former Yugoslavia. Serbian President Boris Tadic awarded the tennis hero the Order of the Karadjordje's Star of the first degree this month.
"I don't consider myself a celebrity but I don't mind if other people call me that," said Djokovic. "What I've done has been through hard work and dedication and a love of tennis. I'm happy to have received the highest award possible for an individual in Serbia.
"It has gone to kings and royalty and politicians but also to regular people - someone who saved another's life. It's not who you are but what you have done.
"I'm in an individual sport but I miss the team spirit, that's why I'm happy to play Davis Cup for my country, I also hope to win an Olympic medal for Serbia in London. You are always playing tennis with a flag next to your name.
"It is very special to represent Serbia. We are a young country and have been through a lot over the last 20-30 years."
Djokovic cannot help but be confident as he begins the spring hard-court run, with this week followed by Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami in March - both won a year ago by the Serb.
"I'm at the peak of my form," said the player who lost just seven matches last year and has won four of the last five Grand Slams. "I can expect to win most matches when I step onto the court.
"I'm keeping up my same routine and good work and trying not to change a thing. I've had time to prepare for Dubai (after taking two weeks off after Australia). I feel well here."