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Federer honoured on postage stamp

(Keystone)

A special one-franc stamp celebrating the extraordinary career of Swiss tennis star Roger Federer has been issued by the Swiss Post.

The world number one, who is widely accepted as the greatest player of his generation, is the first living person to receive the honour.

The one-off stamp, bearing a photo of Federer holding the Wimbledon winner's trophy, was officially unveiled in Basel on Tuesday.

"It's a great honour for me. I compare it to winning a grand slam title such as Wimbledon," an emotional Federer told swissinfo. "It's a big moment in my life."

The head of Swiss Post, Ulrich Gygi, explained how Swiss Post had bent the rules to immortalise Federer.

"Up to now you had to do something big and then die before appearing on a stamp; we made an exception as Roger is truly exceptional," he said, adding that Federer was a fantastic athlete and outstanding ambassador for Switzerland both on and off the court.

With the odd hiccup, Federer continues to dominate men's tennis.

At the age of 25 he has won ten grand slam titles – nine of the last 12, including three consecutive Wimbledon titles and three consecutive US Opens. Although he has yet to win the French Open, he is still on course to surpass Pete Sampras's record of 14 grand slam titles.

Last year he won three of the four grand slam singles tournaments and ended the year ranked number one, with his ranking several thousand points greater than that of his nearest rival.

At the beginning of this month he was also named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year for the third time in a row – the first time anyone has won the award three times.

Question marks

But two recent shock defeats to unseeded Argentine Guillermo Canas have challenged his reign at the top the game.

Canas ended Federer's 41-match winning run at the Indian Wells Masters in March (7-5, 6-2) and then stunned the world number one for the second time in a fortnight at the Miami Masters (7-6, 2-6, 7-6).

"They were tough matches for me and Miami hurt. To lose 7-6 in the third is never fun. I should have won as I was playing great tennis. But I'd rather lose against the same guy twice rather than two different guys – it's easier to digest," said Federer.

Not looking his best mentally, Federer laboured to impose himself on concrete against the tenacious clay-court specialist and committed uncharacteristic errors.

"It's definitely taken away my confidence a little bit – but it's given me more time. Maybe that's exactly what I need for the clay court season and the rest of the year," Federer told swissinfo.

"I never had a surprise loss where I had more time off. I hope it's going to help me out - I'm a very positive-thinker, so I assume it will."

Training hard

As the men's tennis tour moves to clay, the world number one has been training hard.

"I feel ok – but I haven't played much on clay; the next few days will be very important. I've been working hard on my fitness over the last few months. Physically, hopefully I'll be fine and now the tennis just has to follow, rediscovering the geometrics of the court again."

Federer is hoping to complete a career Grand Slam at the French Open in April, but he has repeatedly stumbled on clay, like many other Grand Slam champions. Sampras, Boris Becker, Jimmy Connors, Stefan Edberg and John McEnroe all never won the French Open.

In preparation for Paris, Federer plans to play three European clay events – Monte Carlo, Rome and Hamburg.

"It's going to be a very interesting summer for me. The French Open is obviously a huge goal," he said.

"If I could win that I could win four grand slam titles in a row and then the following month I play Wimbledon to equal Björn Borg's five [Wimbledon titles in a row]. That's why I took time off after Miami to get absolutely ready."

swissinfo, Simon Bradley in Basel

In brief

Federer has won around 70 awards, including the Swiss Sportman of the Year three times.

Federer has yet to equal Pete Sampras's record of 14 grand slam titles - he has ten - the Swiss has many other records under his belt.

This includes the highest number of ranking points at the end of the year – 8,370 in 2006 – and the most prize money in one season $8,343,885 (SFr10,135,000), also in 2006.

Earlier this year Federer beat the record for the longest unbroken reign as world number one, overtaking Jimmy Connors' 30-year-old milestone of 160 weeks. Federer has been in pole position since February 2, 2004.

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