Victory in Dubai wasn't just a return to the winners' circle for Roger Federer, it was also a move up the all-time standings for most titles. Tied with John McEnroe at 77 ever since winning at Halle last June, Federer captured his 78th title last week to take sole possession of third place.
Though still trailing Ivan Lendl (94) and leader Jimmy Connors (109) by a significant margin, the 17-time Grand Slam champion indicated he also had an important triumph during his title drought—renewed fitness. "I’m just happy that I’m healthy again and that I can focus on tactics and not focus on am I feeling all right when I wake up tomorrow or am I going to feel better tomorrow, that kind of stuff," Federer reflected, referring to the back problems that began last year at Indian Wells. "I went through that weeks and months, like every day I hoped there was going to be a little improvement. I only started to feel that improvement halfway through sort of the U.S. Open maybe, so it was a long time.''
Along with his physical recovery, he feels he has also adjusted to the new, larger racquet he is using this season.
"I’m just happy that now it’s clear and I don’t have to think of it, and I can just play tennis. When you can play that way, you’re more free, you have an open mind and that’s when usually you are more successful, but not always,'' he said. ''That’s why you have to take them when you can."