Published: Sun, January 14, 2018
Sport | By Wilson Duncan

Roger Federer says he should not be favourite at 36

Roger Federer says he should not be favourite at 36

Yet making a case for any other man in the draw is nearly impossible.

With five-time finalist Andy Murray recovering from hip surgery in Melbourne and six-time champion Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka - the only other man to claim the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup in the past decade - also under fitness clouds, Federer and Nadal are the only men under single-figure odds with the bookmakers.

This year's Australian Open has to be considered a wide-open Open, and Williams' experience, and suitable game style for the hard courts here, could possibly deliver an eighth overall Grand Slam title, and her first since Wimbledon 2008.

Despite being a year older, Federer has higher expectations this year and says his build-up has been "perfect".

"This year I hope to win the first few rounds and get rolling hopefully, whereas last year I was just hoping to win (a match)".

Wawrinka, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have 31 Grand Slam titles between them but have not played an official match in the lead-in to the event, with Wawrinka and Djokovic not having hit a ball in anger since Wimbledon. "But right now it's at the level where I can compete, and every day is getting better", he said.

"I kind of want to keep it even-keeled throughout the whole year rather than being such a rollercoaster ride. Having no expectations was so nice after all these years always having expectations".

"I mean, Roger and Rafa's year last year has shown age is just a number, especially in Roger's case", Djokovic said Saturday in his pre-tournament news conference.

However, the final hurdle has always been the greatest in an era led by the aforementioned trio and non more so for the Bulgarian, who has won just two of his 24 meetings with Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. Former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who won the 2017 year-end title, as well as Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, Muguruza, reigning French Open Jelena Ostapenko, and Pliskova could all leave Melbourne Park at the top of the rankings. I can't believe it's been a year, but it's OK. I haven't been spending too much time around the courts.

On Jan. 6 in Brisbane, Australia, Dimitrov lost a three-set semifinal to Nick Kyrgios, the charismatic, enigmatic Australian whose plight in Melbourne will lure many eyes.

Danger lurks at nearly every corner, with former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic and a resurgent Juan Martin Del Potro, the man who beat Federer for the 2009 U.S. Open title, looming as threats before the quarter-finals. I guess right now that's what I'm doing. Do I enjoy it more now? However, at the age of 29, Del Potro returns to Melbourne Park for the first time in four years looking to salvage success from an injury-ravaged career. It's like a little boy in the candy store.

This is despite saying the lead-up to the opening major of the year had been "intense" with feverish interest from sponsors and media in one of the world's most marketable athletes. That was okay. Now it's different. "I've played a lot of them now".

"Ever since Radek made a decision to join the team, he was with me more or less the entire time, trying to spend as much quality time on the court as much as we can".

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