HE IS turning 32 this year, an age when many others in his sport are already contemplating hanging up their racquets. But mention the word "retirement" to Roger Federer, and the Swiss tennis champion is quick to pooh-pooh any suggestion that he is thinking about calling it a day anytime soon.
With a record 17 Grand Slam titles in the bag and countless other tour triumphs to savour, Federer's desire to add to his already bulging trophy cabinet remains insatiable. The Australian Open - the year's first Major that begins in Melbourne on Monday - is firmly on his radar.
Sure, there are many rivals breathing down the neck of the current world No 2. Names such as Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal, immediately spring to mind. Then there are up-and- coming stars like Bernard Tomic, Juan Martin del Potro, and David Ferrer. These players are younger and some even say faster and stronger than Federer today. But hungrier? That's a pretty tough call.
Federer turned professional nearly 15 years ago, and he has seen and done enough during that time to know how to prolong his playing career as long as he can - even if it means disappointing his legions of fans by missing certain tournaments or exhibition events throughout the year.
Tennis players, unlike those in other sports, don't really have a very lengthy off-season. The tour starts in early-January and runs all the way until mid-November. After that, they get some rest before hitting the practice courts soon after Christmas as the grind starts again.
Federer knows that if he is going to challenge for honours well into his mid-30s, he will have to listen hard to his body and rest whenever he can, even though he would have to sacrifice precious ranking points along the way by pulling out of some events.
"I've never been scared to take those decisions (about taking breaks during the season). In the long run, I want to stay healthy. I want to enjoy what I'm doing. I want to have fun. I want to be eager, excited, and motivated coming back on the tour," he tells a packed room of journalists recently during a stopover in Singapore en route to Melbourne.
Federer even chose to skip his traditional warm-up events in the Middle East and has not played a competitive match since losing to Djokovic in the final of the ATP World Tour Finals last November.
The trade-off? He got to spend more time with his family, which he values more than any trophy or silver plate. His wife Mirka and twin daughters fly with him wherever he goes, and are often spotted cheering him on from the VIP box.
Despite having less time on the courts ahead of the Australian Open, it would take a rather brave man to write him off. Federer himself doesn't quite care if he's the top favourite or the eighth favourite - he's entered tournaments as the top dog for half his career, he says, and he enjoys that extra pressure as it spurs him on to perform even better.
"(Being a favourite) doesn't change much for me. At the end of the day, if I know I'm playing well, I can win tournaments. I want to put myself in contention at the biggest and most important events that count," he says.
The boy from Basel is as cool as a cucumber when dealing with such high levels of expectations. He knows that Murray had a stellar 2012 and that world No 1 Djokovic is playing some irresistible tennis at the moment, but he makes the point that "anything can happen" over a two-week long tournament. Federer simply wants to let his racquet do the talking and prove the naysayers wrong.