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Prime behind him, Roger Federer happy to be 'laid-back' going into Rogers Cup

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TORONTO - Roger Federer is pretty relaxed.

Who could blame him? At the age of 33, Federer has 17 Grand Slam titles and a family now four children deep after his wife gave birth to twin boys in May.

Off the court, Federer has had a "beautiful time" with his young family. Back on the court at the Rogers Cup, the Swiss star considers himself "more laid back" than he has been at any point during his illustrious tennis career.

"I see the positive side of things today," Federer said Sunday. "When I was younger I felt much more pressure. I felt like I had to do what people said, and I would listen to everything. Today I kind of go my pace, and I really enjoy it in the process."

Federer will play his opening match in Toronto on Tuesday night against Canadian wild card Peter Polansky. As the No. 2 seed, he's aiming to win his third title of the year but isn't showing much stress to the people around him.

"What is great is (for Federer to) still have the determination to go out there and work hard and still have the motivation, which I think is something that's really, really important," said tennis legend Stefan Edberg, who's now serving as Federer's coach. "It's been good to see him making some progress this year."

Past his prime, Federer joked that he doesn't have to defend a dozen tournaments a year these days. The No. 3-ranked player in the world has made his mark on history and retains a simpler approach now.

"I feel like I don't really have to prove anything to anybody, even though people are always going to disagree with that," Federer said. "For me it's about how do I feel in practice, how is my motivation, how am I actually really playing, how do I feel it, rather than how is everybody else thinking they see and know it. I can analyze it much more clearer today than I ever have."

Federer has seen plenty of things on the tennis landscape change since turning pro in 1998. Back then, he said, there was much more turnover between world No. 1 players compared to the past 10 years.

Since February 2004, the top spot has rotated between only Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Federer hasn't been No. 1 since 2012, but he spent a record 302 weeks there.

During his reign, Federer saw string and racket technologies improve and tennis itself undergo stages of evolution.

"I think some tournament directors are probably sick and tired of just the big serving matches where there's no rallies whatsoever and it got very physical and athletic from the back of the court, and in the process we lost a lot of volley players," Federer said. "Coaches everywhere, around the world, have made sure that their players are very good just forehand and backhand players and good servers but neglected probably a little bit of volley play, even though I do believe there is a place for it but it became harder and harder and everyone who had success was a baseline player.

"Clearly then, you inspire the next generation by doing that and I think now we're again at a crossroads a little bit where things are speeding up."

At this point, things are slowing down for Federer. At the height of his career, he was counted on to do news conferences in English, German and French.

Federer will still gladly do that, or help with ticket sales to build up a tournament's reach. But he's also prepared to step back.

"Today I'm anyway in a place where I feel like less is more because people already know a lot about me," he said. "And I think the stage is also for other players to make a name for themselves."

While Federer is letting others enjoy the limelight off the court, he hasn't stopped trying to stay shape on it.

"There are certain things still to work on, which is always keep things in check, so to say," Edberg said. "It's also about improving at this stage of your career. There is still room for improvements."


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