DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP):
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have played in the last two Grand Slam finals and it's easy to imagine their rivalry overshadowing an aging Roger Federer and an injury-plagued Rafael Nadal in the years to come.
But the second-ranked Federer will have none of it.
As he prepares to defend his Dubai Championships title, the 31-year-old Federer said yesterday he is playing "excellent tennis" and is confident he can overtake Djokovic for top spot although he acknowledged it will be a challenge given that he plans to scale back his schedule in 2013.
"Absolutely realistic, if you play great," Federer said of returning to No. 1, a spot he last held for 17 weeks until October 29, breaking a record of 286 weeks at the top held by Pete Sampras.
"The question, is will I be able to do that or will I be allowed. Time will tell," Federer said. "I know it's possible. I know it's possible to win tournaments. But right now, a big focus is on making sure every tournament I enter that I'm perfectly prepared like for here, for Australia, for Indian Wells."
Federer also brushed aside talk of retirement, making it clear he remains healthy and hungry to win more trophies.
"I want to give myself the best possible chance to play as long as I can," Federer said.
"Eventually, it will be clear that it is time to stop, but the time is definitely not now," he said. "But then again, things change very quickly. You have to be ready for it and open to it. I'm not naive that I can play for 15 more years, but I would like to give myself a chance to play for many more years to come. I'm happy with where my body is at."