Sampras thinks Federer lacks a bit of confidence at the moment

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Roger Federer goes into the Western & Southern Open facing some uncertainty over his future at the very top of the game. 2013 has seen him more vulnerable than ever but Pete Sampras suggested recently that the 17-times slam winner’s problems are mainly confidence based. “He just needs to win some tough matches,” he said. “Once he does that, he will be fine.”

After the shock exit to Sergiy Stakhovsky, Federer decided on a change of equipment and began to use a racquet with 98 square inch head, an increase of 8 inches. There was little early improvement with Daniel Brands and Federico Delbonis becoming giant killers in Gstaad and Hamburg respectively.

A recurring back issue has hindered Federer’s game for a while now but believes that he is a fit again and mentally ready to defend his title in Cincinnati this week. At No.5 in the rankings and No.7 in the race, a good tournament is vital to remain in the hunt for the World Tour Finals in London.

Federer has excelled at this event in the past and his five titles are a record at one of the oldest events on the calendar. If he is to defend his title, he will need to step it up against the best. He has a poor 1-5 record against Top 10 players this year, the only win coming against Jo Wilfried Tsonga way back in January.

Federer kicked off his defence with a straight sets win over Philipp Kohlschreiber and is poised to meet Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals.

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