"The fear is always there from the first rounds regardless of how you approach a tournament," said Federer, the winner of 17 grand slam titles and 79 trophies overall from 120 finals.
"A lot of things have happened in the last year for me, and I'm happy that most of it has been really positive."
Five Cincinnati titles counts for little, with Federer admitting he was not pleased with his level at the weekend when he lost in the Toronto final to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
But a tired Tsonga was bundled out of the Cincinnati tournament on Tuesday in his first match, losing 6-1, 6-4 to Mikhail Youzhny.
Federer hopes to prevent any chance of the same thing happening to him when he begins play in the second round against Canadian Vasek Pospisil.
"Because I've played last week, I'm just hoping to get through the first round just because I know how hard it is to transition with a day and a half of practice and then having to play a difficult best-of-three-set match," he said.
"If I do win that first round, I have higher hopes to going really deep into the tournament and even winning it," Federer said.
"But right now, the focus is getting through the first round," he said.
"Seeing what happened to Jo, that's not very good for me, either, when I see that happening."
The 33-year-old has played seven finals this season while winning titles in Dubai and Halle.
That is a marked improvement on his 2013, which was plagued by back pain and uncharacteristic poor form.
"It hasn't always been an easy decision to play or not to play," Federer said.
"I can't be chasing rankings and tournaments and Davis Cup and you name it," said the world number three.
"I really don't play for any of the longevity records, to be honest," he said.
"I play because I love to play — I still believe I can achieve a lot."