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Federer to scale back on exhibitions, focus on Slams in 2009

BASEL, Switzerland -- Roger Federer will cut exhibition matches from his 2009 schedule as he pursues Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles, his agent said Sunday.

Federer and Sampras played three exhibition matches across Asia last November and again in New York City last March.

Such commitments won't be repeated in 2009, agent Tony Godsick told The Associated Press.

"Roger will only play a schedule that works for him physically," Godsick said after Federer won his hometown tournament at the Swiss Indoors on Sunday.

"The next couple years you will see him put his seatbelt on and focus for the big ones, the Grand Slams and the big tournaments," Godsick said.

Federer is within sight of history with 13 Slams after a fifth straight U.S. Open victory last month.

The win at Flushing Meadows was defined as a defiant comeback in a year when Federer fell sick with mononucleosis, suffered untypical losses to players outside the top 10 and lost his No. 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal after a record reign of 237 weeks.

"It was tough for him when people were writing him off," said Godsick, who guides Federer's off-court activities for the IMG agency.

"For him to do what he did [at the Open] was good for him, good for his confidence and I think really silenced the critics."

Godsick dismissed the idea the 27-year-old Swiss is old in tennis terms, but says that after his rise to the top, and his seasons of sublime domination, Federer is entering a new phase.

"I think it is the third stage of his career, but it is just the beginning of the third stage. I think he has got many years to come."

Federer is already nursing his body more carefully through a successful Fall schedule after his usual training calendar was wrecked this season by the illness and timing of the Olympic Games in August.

He skipped a tournament in Stockholm, Sweden, earlier this month and has yet to commit to the Paris Masters beginning Monday.

His agent believes Federer must have time to build up to the Slams in '09.

"He is not going to overplay next year," Godsick said. "He is just going to try to make sure that he peaks for the tournaments that mean the most to him."

The exhibition tour against Sampras visited Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and Macau inside five days, then drew a sold-out audience of 19,690 at Madison Square Garden.

"The Sampras thing was fun," Godsick said. "Roger got to spend some time with Pete, who was a childhood idol. He learned a lot from him."

Now Federer wants to take Sampras' prized record, and show his lighter side off-court while marking the moment in tennis history.

"You will probably see some fun set of commercials that help celebrate what is potentially going to take place," Godsick hinted.

"For him, it can't all be serious. Off the court he is just a kid."