Federer still without coach

It is a funny thing about success -- the better anyone gets at something, the less they are able to do. The rich, the famous and the feted tend to be surrounded by ever increasing hoards of people, all specialists in their field. The average celebrity has someone to answer their phone, open their mail, cut their hair, do their shopping, drive their cars -- no aspect of life is not taken care of by somebody else. It leaves our stars free to concentrate on their art, whatever that may be.

But Roger Federer is different. The boys in the locker have long known that Federer's tennis is different and the rankings list proves that he stands apart at the very top of his profession but it is the fact that he has done it alone that makes him remarkable.

For years everyone had known that Federer was a marvellously gifted player but it was turning the talent into titles that was the problem. And then, last year, in one magical fortnight, Federer got it right. His tennis was sublime, his self-belief was rock solid and his focus was fixed. He graduated from player to champion in the space of 14 days and, from there, set about taking over the world.

To get to that point, though, had taken a long time. Trying to get the balance right between passion, purpose and relaxation was not easy. Sometimes he was too fraught to play his best, sometimes he was too laid back to play his best and then, one day, it all fell into place.

"It took me a long time because I was rather crazy when I was young," he said. "I was using too much energy with all the negative thoughts and all of it would make me very tired at the end of a tournament. I would get to the quarters or the semis and I was very tired already and I couldn't imagine myself playing two or three weeks in a row.

"Then, at one point in my career, I started to realise that I should take it easy, I should calm down, and then I got too calm. I had no more fire in my body. My emotions were very quiet. It was very strange for me to go from one extreme to the other. But as time went by I started to get the fire back. I could pump my fist again and I reached the solution I was always wanting. And that only came one or two years ago."

From winning the title at Wimbledon, Federer headed for the Masters Cup in Houston where he walloped everyone in sight. Then it was on to Australia and the No1 ranking. Since he beat Juan Carlos Ferrero in the semi finals in Melbourne, he has been at the top of the tree and no one has been able to touch him. He has collected another two Masters Series titles -- Indian Wells and Hamburg -- and it has all been done without the aid of a coach.

He split up with Peter Lundgren at the end of last year and ventured down to Melbourne on his own. Unsure of how everything would pan out, he was pleasantly surprised by his success and working on the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-mend-it theory, he has been flying solo ever since.

"I was not quite sure how it would work in Australia without a coach, just with my girlfriend, physio and friend. But when I won I was very relieved and I thought: why change things if it's going fine and I'm happy with it.

So now he is coming back to Wimbledon, the place where it all started 12 short months ago. That emotional victory was like a dream come true but once he had dried his tears and packed away his trophy, Federer knew that he had what it took to win grand slam tournaments. It is a very different Roger Federer who will plot his challenge for the title this year.

"That Wimbledon victory was such a dream and such a relief for me," he said. "Now, it's still nice, it still gets me all emotional inside but now, in the last year, I feel that I can win majors."

On the form he's shown in 2004, it will be very difficult for anyone to stop him retaining his title at this year's Championships.

For more information on The Championships, log onto Wimbledon.org.