TENNIS: Australian tennis legend Rod Laver believes Swiss master Roger Federer is the man to beat at the upcoming Australian Open but hasn't run the rule through the in-form Aussie Nick Kyrgios.
Injury clouds hovering over a number of high-profile stars has left the gate wide open in the Men's Singles draw at the tournament, which runs from January 15-28.
With this in mind, the man they call the 'Rockhampton Rocket' is backing five-time Australian Open champion Federer to repeat his heroics from last year.
"It's a unique time to have some of the players (injured), like (Andy) Murray who certainly isn't going to be playing because he's got a hip problem,” Laver said in Gladstone yesterday.
"(Novak) Djokovic is supporting a tennis elbow that may be alright or may collapse on him, (Rafael) Nadal has a knee problem and the only one who is fit is Roger Federer.”
Laver believes the luck of the draw, which was held last night, will determine Federer's fate.
"It depends on the draw - (Stan) Wawrinka is a great player, (Alexander) Zverev from Germany is a great player, (Grigor) Dimitrov - they're all great,” he said.
"If Roger isn't in that draw at the early rounds don't worry about from the quarter final, semi and final - they're the three that Roger generally is coming to play his best tennis.
"At 36 his tennis career isn't over because he proved last year to win Wimbledon and the Australian (Open) here. "It was pretty amazing that he can do that and now he's in a position to be favourite because everybody is injured or not playing their best tennis.
"I think he has a chance to win it again I really do.”
Meanwhile, the 11-time Grand Slam winner said he's looking forward to watching Kyrgios take the type of form that won him the Brisbane International into the Australian Open.
"The match I saw down in Brisbane was exceptionally strong. Mentally he was strong - he was able to push aside all the things that can bother him,” Laver said.
"I saw some great tennis from him and his serving ability is uncanny - I think he's got the best serve in the world.
"It's just a matter of putting it altogether and that's not easy to do when you're a young person and you've got a lot of things going on in your head.
"That attitude has got to be taken out of his game program and just go out there and play the matches as they come.”