SHANGHAI - Roger Federer said Wednesday that he draws huge motivation from the fervent support he receives in China despite his slip from the pinnacle of the men's game.
The Swiss has formed a special bond with fans in Shanghai after regular visits to the city over more than a decade, and the fact that he is no longer world number one barely seems to register.
"It was crazy in the practice today. I mean, I expected some people to be there, but not sort of hanging over the fence and holding up the banner 'I believe in you'," said Federer, who won his opening match at the Shanghai Masters on Wednesday.
"It was great energy, I must say. It gives me unbelievable motivation, inspires me to train hard, work hard, push further, you know, for that particular day, but also wanting to come back again next year, and again and again."
Federer, who is now ranked seventh in the world after a poor season by his own imperious standards, said time spent in China and his success around the world had helped him connect with the fans.
"The last few years have been an absolute blast on tour, and I hope it continues this way," he said.
The Swiss, 32, also spoke about his first few months on Twitter after holding an impromptu question and answer session on the social networking site the previous day.
He fielded questions on everything from his travel wish list to his favourite TV shows and shoe size.
"It's definitely something I wanted to see how it developed, for other players, for the world really. Were people really actually excited about it, didn't care, didn't like it? I just wanted to wait and see," he said.
"Just a different type of way to connect to the fans, have a good time with it... So far it's been a lot of fun. I hope the fans also enjoy that they can connect with me," he added.