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MELBOURNE, Australia: Swiss great Roger Federer warned yesterday he was fresh and eager for more Grand Slam glory as he prepared for his 53rd straight major, defending his quiet start to the year.
The 31-year-old has been playing Grand Slam tennis since 1999 and shows no signs of slowing down, but has altered the way he prepares for the big events and skipped any warm-up tournaments ahead of next week’s Australian Open.
He said it is all part of his plan to keep competing at the elite level for as long as possible and overtake South African Wayne Ferreira’s record of 56 consecutive Slams.
“I purposely didn’t play a lead-up tournament so that I’d be fresh for the beginning, hopefully going deep into the tournament. That’s the goal obviously,” he said.
“I think it’s nice sometimes doing it slightly different than every year the same thing. Otherwise it feels like a deja vu and that’s not always a good thing.
“It’s been very relaxing, the last one-and-a-half months,” he added.
“Not many appearances, no press almost. Just focusing on getting ready mentally and physically really.”
Bidding for an 18th Grand Slam title and a fifth at Melbourne, Federer is enjoying the game now as much as he ever has -- even the endless gym work to stay fit enough to compete with the young guns of the tour.
It is not something he used to savour.
“Today I take much more pleasure out of doing the gym work than I ever have,” he said. “Today things for me make sense. I know why I’m doing them. I know they’re necessary.
“I have a lot of experience,” he added. “I’m ready to go and eager. That to me right now dominates. It’s important to be fresh going into a new season because the last couple years have been tough on tour.”
Federer has indicated he wants to compete at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, when he will be 35, an age when most tennis professionals have retired, with longevity a key motivation for him now.
As part of plans to extend his shelf life, he will play fewer tournaments in 2013, focusing on the majors.
“Longevity has always been something that’s been important to me,” he said.
“I’ve planned the season accordingly this year again, that I will not miss the majors because of injury.”
The Ferreira landmark is one he is focused on, with the South African a good friend and inspiration. He used to ball-boy for him when he was young and they played doubles together.
“I hope I can make it, I was thinking back how many times I’ve played already in the main draw of a Slam,” he said of the 56-Slam target.
“It’s been a lot. For many years I also came here for qualifying, back in ‘99, for the juniors ‘98. I go back 15, 16 years already I’ve been coming here every single year.
“I’m excited that I’ve played so many in a row and I hope I can keep the streak alive and see where it stops. We’ll see how it goes.”
Other than Ferreira, only Stefan Edberg has played more straight Grand Slams at 54.
Federer’s key threat to further Grand Slam glory in Melbourne are Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, but he also warned any of the current top 10 was capable of breaking through.
“Obviously with Rafa (Nadal) not in the draw, that might mean for some of the players they only have to beat one of us, of the top three, maybe none,” he said. AFP