Roger Federer: Playing Novak, Andy, Rafa, Stan the ultimate challenge, but…

Roger Federer press conference

He “enjoys playing” the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, but Roger Federer admits he prefers not to face them early during tournaments.

Nadal, Murray and Wawrinka all skipped the Indian Wells Masters as they are recovering from injury while Djokovic made an early exit as he was shocked in the round of 64 by unseeded Taro Daniel.

It means Federer’s passage to a sixth BNP Paribas Open title appears to be quite easy with so many top-ranked players not in the draw.

“Many times I have looked at the draw and, ‘Oh God, Rafa is my second round,’ or something,” the 20-time Grand Slam winner said. “So I prefer if Rafa is not in my second round. At the same time, I enjoy playing the guys, just because it’s one of the ultimate challenges to play Novak, Andy, Rafa, Stan, you name it, all these guys.

“But of course there is a different vibe when all these guys are not around. It’s not in your control. You can only beat the guy who’s opposite to you.”

With second seed Marin Cilic and Dominic Thiem also bowing out early, Juan Martin del Potro looks to be his only biggest threat.

Next up for Federer is unseeded Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, but he is not looking too far ahead.

“I haven’t really checked out my draw entirely,” Federer said. “I really do go day by day. I wasn’t playing that good in my first round. So when you play that way and you feel that way, you can’t right away think, Oh, who would I be playing in the semis or in the finals? I think that would be a major mistake by myself.

“There is still plenty of good enough players around me to cause an upset. So I’m on a good run right now, and I try to maintain that, and you only maintain that if you respect every opponent, to be quite honest.”