Roger Federer's season began with an Australian Open championship and ended with a victory over rival Rafael Nadal for the title at the ATP World Tour Finals in London. Even though he won no major tournaments inbetween, Federer considers 2010 to have been another great year.
"Every time people write me off - or try to write me off - I'm able to bounce back," Federer said on Monday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press while waiting to board a flight to leave England.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion acknowledged that Nadal was "supreme" this year, winning three major titles and returning to the No. 1 ranking.
But Federer also noted that he was pleased to overcome a midseason dip - quarterfinal exits at the French Open and Wimbledon - and finish strongly. Those losses to Robin Soderling at Roland Garros, then Tomas Berdych at the All England Club, came after Federer had reached at least the semifinals at a record 23 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments.
Then again, Federer chuckled at the notion that he only played well at very beginning and very end of 2010.
"It almost makes it feel or sound like I played horrible through the summer or I didn't play at all. That's not the way it was. I grinded it out. I played and I played and I played, and I tried, and I had some really good matches," he said. "And then I did have some tough losses, and some guys played better than me, and the next thing you know, half the season is gone. But I really felt like I had some amazing weeks."
The setbacks at the French Open and Wimbledon also brought back the sort of whispers Federer has heard before when he went through brief periods of suddenly not winning everything in sight. He doesn't let that bother him.
He's used to the way perceptions can change.
"I'm not angry. As an athlete ... you should be open to criticism, and you're allowed to be criticized, because not everybody has the same opinion, not everybody likes the same players," said Federer, who dropped to No. 3 in the rankings after Wimbledon but will end the year at No. 2.
"The rankings are quite volatile: Today you're 'great,' tomorrow you're 'not,' but then you're 'great' again. It makes for great stories," he continued. "Now, I always look at the long term and by doing that, obviously, I can stay calm through the storm. And I think that's what I've been able to do so many times." He went 5-0 and won 10 of the 11 sets he played at the season-ending tournament in London, capping it with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win over Nadal on Sunday.
"It's special to have the last match of the season against Rafa, because maybe you can enjoy it more instead of just running to the next tournament and playing another match," Federer said. "This one's going to carry me all the way to next season, which is kind of nice."
The two best players in the world went 1-1 against each other in 2010; Nadal leads their career series 14-8.
"When he's playing well," Nadal said, "(it's) difficult to find solutions."
After Sunday's match, Federer said he went through something of a crisis of confidence during the season. In Monday's interview, he clarified that he thought that dip was a result of not playing enough matches, in part because he missed time with a lung infection.
Federer credited Swiss Davis Cup captain Severin Luthi and new coach Paul Annacone with helping to get things going in the right direction late in the year.
"Sure, I had some tough losses, and maybe I didn't win two or three Slams, like I did in other seasons," Federer said. "Rafa was supreme, and he deserves to be No. 1, but my season still was a good - or a very good - one, and I'm happy with the way I played." Now comes a chance to rest and reflect for the 29-year-old Federer.
He will take about a week's vacation, then resume practicing in earnest for next year in mid-December. Federer and Nadal will play each other in exhibition matches Dec. 21-22, raising money for their charitable foundations.
Federer will start off the 2011 Grand Slam season in January as the defending champion in Australia.
But during his time off, Federer will not pick up a racket. "During vacation, I don't hit," Federer explained. Then he paused and added: "Except if Mirka, my wife, wants to go for a hit, then I'll go. She's the only person who can get me out on the tennis court."