(REUTERS) - Swiss ace Roger Federer believes he has benefited from a lighter schedule and says players should not be afraid of taking breaks from tennis to improve their game.
The 36-year-old was sidelined for a significant period in 2016 with a knee injury and upon his return in 2017, he competed in just 12 tournaments and the move appears to have paid off.
Federer, who stormed to his 20th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open last month, says he understands the demands of the sport after playing a full schedule for over 15 years and believes that players can improve from intervals.
"You can always play more if you want to," Federer told The Guardian newspaper.
"You can always play less if you want to. I just hope people don't think that what I'm doing at 36 they can start doing at 25. I played full schedule from 1998 or 1999 to 2016. Until I was injured.
"My philosophy is I play when I'm ready... What I did last year - and what Rafa (Nadal) is doing also - is maybe a bit of a lighter schedule, and it shows to others by working or practising a bit more... you become a different or better player."
World No. 1 Nadal, who evenly split the four Grand Slam titles with Federer last season, also had a similar layoff in 2016 with a wrist problem and came back stronger to take his major title tally to 16.
"Say I go out for six months and I only work on my serve-and-volley game. I feel like I'd be a different player six months later but everybody's scared to do it...," Federer added.
"I hope I take that fear away a little bit, that sometimes it's OK to take time (off). That would be a wish for me: that players would read something into that - not that they just start doing it because the top guys are doing it.
"We're doing it because we're older and we have thousands of matches in our bodies. That's why we have to do it this way."
Federer is set to play Belgian Ruben Bemelmans in the opening round of the ABN Amro World Tennis event in Rotterdam on Wednesday (Feb 14) and is in contention to reclaim the top spot in rankings.