Federer plays down Australian Open title hopes
AN overwhelming favourite to land a 20th major, Roger Federer has moved to temper Australian Open expectations by declaring he is not 100 per cent ahead of his Melbourne Park return.
The second seed said his aspirations are different to last season, when he contrived a miracle win despite a supposedly horrendous draw.
"This year I hope to win the first few rounds and get rolling hopefully, whereas last year I was just hoping to win," the Swiss star said.
"It (2017) was more of a 'let's see what happens' kind of tournament, maybe similar to what Novak (Djokovic) or Stan (Wawrinka) or others are going through this year. It's like, let's just see what happens.
"I'm not at 100 per cent, but you never know in a week's time what's going to be happening.
"If you're in the draw, you give yourself a chance. That's what happened for me last year. All ended up way better than I thought it would, as you know.
"Yeah, it was the tournament of the year for me, no doubt about it. All the five-setters, as well.
"Having no expectations was so nice after all these years always having expectations, like now this year again.
"With age, I feel like I play down my chances just because I don't think a 36-year-old should be a favourite of a tournament, it should not be the case.
"That's why I see things more relaxed, you know, at a later stage of my career."
Federer hinted Rafael Nadal or Djokovic should head the Open markets despite injury worries for both rivals.
"I feel like maybe somebody like a Rafa, with the year that he's had, and Novak with the six titles he's had here, even if it's unknown how he's feeling, they could very well be the favourites, too," Federer said.
"At the end of the day, it's all just talk beforehand. The draws are always tough, I must admit.
"(I) never look at a draw and think, 'That was lucky, that was a bad draw. It's always tough because everybody can play.'
"My focus, yeah, needs to be early because I have my own problems to get through my section of the draw, my game.
"That's my focus, not the other players really further down the line."
Federer opens against Slovenian Aljaz Bedene and would face Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the third round.
Another Federer victory would shunt the grand slam record-holder onto equal footing for the most Australian titles with Djokovic and Queenslander Roy Emerson, who both have six.
Federer appeared typically relaxed - and well prepared - ahead of his 72nd major.
And he reappears at Melbourne Park in a totally different context to 2017.
"It's nice that one year later I am (No) two in the world and seeded highly," he said.
"OK, I have even more points to defend this year rather than last year. Last year I was looking at slipping outside the top 30. This year that's not going to happen.
"It's just great to be back. I'm so, so happy the Australian Open, it's time again. I can't believe it's been a year, but it's okay. I'll make the most of it.
"(There is) a lot going on with media, sponsors, practice. It was intense.
"I was able to practise as much as I've wanted to, which is good, which I didn't do at the US Open.
"There it was all about managing the energy and the body, hoping to be able to play. Whereas here, it's been constantly playing, practice how hopefully I can play during the Australian Open.
The Hopman Cup went very well. It was a great preparation last year. I think it's going to be helpful again for me this year because the court plays exactly the same in Perth and here in Melbourne.
"Yeah, practice is perfect. Nothing to complain about."