Roger Federer of Switzerland hits a volley with a giant racquet during the Kids Day exhibition match ahead of the Australian Open in Melbourne yesterday. The Australian Open runs from January 13 to 26.
MELBOURNE: Roger Federer yesterday warned he was still a force to be reckoned with as he heads into the Australian Open armed with a new, bigger racquet and with Stefan Edberg in his corner.
The 17-time Grand Slam-winner, now 32, said world number one Rafael Nadal and defending champion Novak Djokovic should be wary of the other top 10 players at the season’s first major.
“Well, I think it’s normal that they are considered, you know, the one and two favourites for the tournament,” said Federer, emphasising the word ‘considered’. “Of course, we do believe we can knock them off, yes,” he added, referring to the other members of the world top 10.
Federer has more Grand Slam titles than any other player but only one, Wimbledon 2012, in the last four years. He is currently ranked at world number six.
But Federer is hoping a switch from a 90-inch to a 98-inch racquet, and the arrival of boyhood hero Edberg, will pay dividends.
“I mean, look, my life on tour is pretty much settled. It’s always solid routines. He’ll just fit in nicely into that,” Federer said of the six-time Grand Slam title-winner. “I’m just really excited that he’s taken up the offer because I didn’t think he was going to do it because he’s got a life. He doesn’t need this.
“For me, clearly it’s very exciting to have him as part of the team. I’m looking forward to every week I’ll spend with him on the tour this year.”
He added: “That’s kind of what’s very exciting, just hanging out with him. That was the idea, as well.
“If it didn’t work out, he would say, ‘I’m not ready for this’, at least I would have had a few nice dinners with him and able to spend time with a childhood hero, which would have been plenty to fuel my motivation.”
Federer won the Australian Open in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, and has not failed to reach the semi-finals since 2003.
He will be competing in a record 57th consecutive Grand Slam tournament, beating the mark of 56 set by South Africa’s Wayne Ferreira.
The Swiss great begins his tournament against Australian hope James Duckworth, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic all lurking as potential opponents.
“I definitely have less pressure this year, less to lose,” he said. “I’m not the defending champion or any of that.
“So I should be able to play more freely, and other guys are supposed to make their move or defend again, all these things.
“Things are maybe a little bit more comfortable this year around. But at the same time maybe the draw becomes tougher in the process. But I’m happy I’m back here, I’m very proud of my Grand Slam streak (57 straight Slams). I hope I can keep playing for a long time.”
However, he said he had little time for analysing the draw and whom he may or may not have to face.
“A draw is a draw. You guys debate it, I play in it. That’s basically it,” he told reporters.
“At the end of the day it all comes down to how well I play, to see how big my chances are to go really far and win the tournament.
“But I’m very focused right now on getting through the first week and making sure I get things underway nicely.” AGENCIES