MONACO • Tennis legend Roger Federer believes it will be hard for the younger generation to emulate him and fellow veterans Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in winning multiple Grand Slams.
The 36-year-old Swiss, who holds the men's all-time record of Grand Slam titles with 20, made the assessment prior to winning two Laureus awards - Comeback of the Year and Sportsman of the Year - on Tuesday. Laureus is a global movement that uses the power of sport to tackle the world's most devastating social challenges.
Federer, who missed the ATP tournament in Dubai this week to attend the awards ceremony, said the younger generation, such as Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and Dominic Thiem of Austria, have the ability to win a Grand Slam but 10 might be beyond them.
"It is definitely hard to see one player right now getting 10 slams," said Federer. "It is much easier to say that probably a lot of guys are going to win a slam or two but winning 10 slams is not something you can predict, people didn't predict that with me, to be honest.
"Maybe with Rafa (Nadal), with the French Open, you say yes he is going to grab a few there. Maybe he is going to win five (he already has 10 to his name) as he was an amazing junior (player) as well like Bjorn Borg, they were the best teenagers we ever had in the game."
Federer said fortunes can change with the slightest of tweaks.
"Once you get rolling like Novak and I did, all of a sudden you don't look back, then a few years later you do look back and you have eight or 10 Grand Slam titles, it's crazy," said Federer, the oldest world No. 1 in ATP history.
"Confidence and momentum are a big thing. When you unlock your game through success or a coach explains the one ingredient that is missing, then that can change things."
Federer, however, believes the sport will not suffer once the likes of him, 16-time Major winner Nadal, 12-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic, and Andy Murray finally hang up their rackets.
"The game of tennis always has a way of producing champions and the future has never worried me," he said. "Someone will follow in our footsteps and be a champion.
"We are a shadow over the game, the top guys, and clearly we don't allow them (the younger ones) to completely flourish but, once we are gone, I think it will still be very, very exciting."
Federer, who says his lighter tournament schedule keeps him hungry and motivated, urged two-time Wimbledon champion Murray not to rush back to competition following hip surgery in January.
"What I learnt is just be patient when you are hurt, only come back when you are 100 per cent, not 92 per cent," said Federer, who will decide whether to play the French Open after the Indian Wells tournament this month.
"I've come to realise it is better to wait. If you are hurt or struggling in a tournament, no one knows so that is okay but, if people know you have had a problem, it is better to wait it out and train really hard to get back at 100 per cent."
Federer also paid tribute to long-time rival and friend Nadal, saying: "To my rival Rafa, I wanted to just give a shoutout to him. He had an unbelievable year himself.
"We had a great battle and it's because of a guy like him, I feel like I've become a better player as well.
"He could very well be here as well and standing here with this award. He's an incredible player, incredible friend, an incredible athlete."