Tennis superstar Roger Federer arrived in Australia on Saturday with a refreshed outlook for 2014, injury-free and with a new coach in the form of his childhood hero, Swedish tennis star Stefan Edberg.
Federer is in Australia for the Brisbane International and Australian Open tournaments. He said on arrival that his confidence was up and his body feeling energised as he prepares for the 2014 season with former world number one Stefan Edberg in his coaching team.
A four-time Grand Slam champion, including the Australian Open in 1985 and 1987, Edberg will work with head coach Severin Luthi for 10 weeks from the start of the Australian Open Grand Slam tournament, which begins on January 13 in Melbourne.
Federer will use the Brisbane event as his only warm-up tournament ahead of the Australian Open. It is the first time he has played in the Brisbane International.
Federer has had a rare off-season free of niggling injuries and said he is looking forward to challenging the world's best.
"Every time I had training [in the past] I had setbacks, little aches and pains, especially in the back from time to time … which cost me confidence," Federer said. "These last few months have been important for me, feeling that movement is not an issue any more.
"It's the first time in a year that I could practice three, four weeks in a row without any setbacks … I was able to do more than I thought, which is very encouraging," said Federer. "I didn't play any exhibitions, which allowed me to train extremely hard and for a longer period of time."
Federer, the winner of a record 17 Grand Slams, finished the 2013 season ranked number six. It was the first year since 2002 in which he failed to reach a major tournament final.
The 32-year-old former world number one slipped in the world rankings following a mid-season back injury and a series of disappointing results, particularly in the Grand Slams.
After losing to Andy Murray in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, Federer was beaten by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros. He then suffered a shock second round loss to world number 116 Sergiy Stakhovsky at Wimbledon, before bowing out in the fourth round of the US Open to Spaniard Tommy Robredo.
He won just one title in 2013.
Federer warned against writing him off, saying that the recent appointment of Edberg to his coaching staff is an indication that he still has the desire to compete at the top level.
"Critics are part of the tennis game, and they will be the last ones to put me out of the game," Federer said. "I still have a lot to do. Considering everything, I finished the season sixth, which was unbelievable.
"I always had a good perspective for things and it's why, as crazy as it sounds, I enjoyed the year considering the setbacks I had – I wanted to find a way out of it."
Edberg had been hitting with Federer over the winter as the Swiss gears up for what could be a make-or-break season. Federer split with longtime coach Paul Annacone in October.
"My goals are pretty simple for Brisbane and Melbourne – you want to do as well as you can and get into the groove again, because the off-season was a bit longer this time around," he said.
"After that I will look at my goals regarding rankings and tournament wins, but they are pretty much going to be the same. I want to be part of the best, and hopefully beat the best players in the game."
Federer revealed on Christmas Eve that he and his wife Mirka are expecting a baby in 2014 to join their twin girls, Charlene and Myla, who were born in 2009.
"We are just going to go with it. I am not going to reveal any dates or anything," he said.
Federer's main challenges in Brisbane will come from Japanese star Kei Nishikori, the world number 17, and Frenchman Gilles Simon, ranked two places lower at 19.
The top three seeds, along with fourth ranked South African Kevin Anderson, have a bye into the second round.
Brisbane fans will be hoping former world number one Australian Lleyton Hewitt can draw on his huge local support to force his way deep into the draw.
Defending champion and world number one Serena Williams heads a strong women's field in Brisbane – a WTA event – which features world number two Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova at number four, Jelena Jankovic ranked eighth, Angelique Kerber at nine and Caroline Wozniacki at number 10. – Sapa-AP