Federer exudes confidence on eve of Australian Open

Rafael Nadal swiped his top ranking and his Wimbledon crown, Andy Murray stole his thunder when a number of bookmakers installed him as favourite for the Australian Open, but Roger Federer is still the man to beat when the first Grand Slam of the year kicks off on Monday.

The Swiss, who taught Murray a lesson in the final of the US Open in September 2008, is gunning for a record-equalling 14th Grand Slam singles crown in Australia and is exuding a confidence sufficient to chill the field.

“It comes down to playing well here, being fit and ready to go,” the Swiss smiled on Sunday.

“I feel the way I was hoping to feel just before the Australian Open. So I’m excited.”

Last year Federer’s preparations were destroyed by glandular fever and no match practice—this year things could hardly be more different after winning the Kooyong Classic warm-up this week.

“I was quite concerned going into last year’s Australian Open just because I didn’t have any matches whatsoever. I mean, I played a few points, you know, a few sets here and there, but very careful.

“So this time around I know exactly where my game is.
That should help in the tough matches.”

Best performance
Seeded second this year behind Nadal, Federer opens his campaign against Italy’s Andreas Seppi on Monday night.

Nadal starts against Belgium’s Christophe Rochus and insists a lack of match practice and two months off recuperating from tendinitis in his knee should not affect his attempts to win his first Australian title.

“I am practising well but I don’t have a lot of matches to know exactly how I am. But I am okay. I will try my best to be ready for Tuesday. Just try my best every match and expect [to] find my best performance,” he told reporters.

Murray is the player on everyone’s lips after a white-hot start to the season—in 2009 he has already beaten Nadal, Federer and Andy Roddick—and he faces Romania’s Andrei Pavel as he begins his bid for a first Grand Slam crown.

“I don’t have a problem whether I’m a favourite or not,” he said. “You know, I think when you do become a contender for a Slam, obviously the seeding and stuff helps with your draws and whatnot. It gives you—it gives me anyway—that little bit of extra confidence.”

Defending champion Novak Djokovic is seeded third and faces Italian qualifier Andre Stoppini on the opening day.

Women’s top seed Jelena Jankovic goes seeking her first Grand Slam title with a match against Austria’s Yvonne Meusburger.

“I’m only 23-years-old. My time will come,” the Serb told reporters. “This is one of my goals, to win a Grand Slam. This is something that I want, and I’ve been trying to get stronger and bring my tennis game on the next level.

“You know, I don’t really have to prove anything to anybody except to myself.”

The Williams sisters take to the courts on Tuesday, second seed Serena playing China’s Yuan Meng and Venus, seeded sixth, against Angelique Kerber.—Reuters

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