Roger Federer Is the Defending Australian Open Champion, but Not the Favorite

PERTH, Australia — Amélie Mauresmo gained her two Grand Slam singles titles in 2006 and retired three years later. She had no concept that Roger Federer, the man who gained Grand Slam singles titles on those self same weekends as her in 2006, would nonetheless be on high of his sport greater than a decade later.

“I don’t know how he does it,” Mauresmo mentioned. “What it puts on your body is huge. The training, the matches, the travel, the jet lag, anything.”

Mauresmo and Federer gained the Australian Open and Wimbledon singles titles in 2006. Two years older than Federer, Mauresmo, 39, retired from the sport in 2009, at 30, and is at the Australian Open as coach of the French participant Lucas Pouille.

Federer is at the Australian Open as the two-time defending champion. His bid for a 21st Grand Slam singles championship begins Monday in Melbourne.

“Winning back-to-back Australian Opens like this, in my mid-30s, it’s one of my favorite things I will look back on in my career,” he mentioned. “I didn’t think it was going to happen, and I had such a great time here in Australia the last couple of years and always enjoyed playing here.”

Federer acknowledges his age readily, quipping at the Hopman Cup not too long ago that his 20-year-old opponent, Stefanos Tsitsipas, “could be my son.” And he marvels at his personal means to run up the rating in the file books — 99 titles and counting — at an age when many would rely him out.

But after an auspicious begin to final season, when he gained his first 17 matches, Federer appeared to path off. After successful the title in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in February and briefly reclaiming the No. 1 rating, Federer went with out one other event championship till October. After skipping the clay-court season for the second yr in a row, he misplaced in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon after holding a match level towards Kevin Anderson, and in the fourth spherical of the United States Open to John Millman.

Federer performed down the doomsday discuss that accompanied his stagnation in the second half of the yr.

“I wasn’t too disappointed,” he mentioned. “I was more surprised to hear that there was sort of concern, or people were saying, ‘What a bad second half to the year.’ ”

Federer conceded disappointing finishes at the Grand Slam occasions but thought he in any other case performed properly, together with a loss in a third-set tiebreaker to Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the Paris Masters in November.

He mentioned what he wanted to do higher this yr “is really play well when it really comes down to the crunch.”

Federer mentioned he trusted his personal evaluations of his play in addition to enter from his coaches, Ivan Ljubicic and Severin Lüthi.

“I can analyze — with my age, very well — my own matches and my own feelings,” he mentioned. “I’ve two nice coaches, two of the finest in the recreation, who give me their truthful evaluation, and I’ve a health coach who tells me if I’m shifting good or not. They’re all open and sincere in the direction of me. I don’t need any sugarcoating; I would like it actual, and straight. That’s it. I do know, all the time, the place I’m at.

“It’s very clear in my workforce the place I stand. And from that standpoint, I’m glad the place I’m proper now. I’m in a terrific place.”

Mauresmo longs to study extra about what Federer does in his off-seasons.

“I hope one day he will explain to everyone everything,” she mentioned. “The little details, everything that he’s put together to be able to play this well at his age, to move this well.”

Federer shouldn’t be precisely clandestine about his routines. He prefers, for instance, to do his low season motion drills on a tennis court docket, fairly than indoors as many gamers do, to raised simulate the footing and friction of match circumstances.

“I do a bit of weights, too,” he mentioned, grinning and gesturing towards his lithe body. “I know we don’t see it, but I do.”

Federer began his season auspiciously, successful all eight units he performed at the Hopman Cup final week, by no means dropping serve in any of the matches.

But he considers the top-ranked Djokovic the clear favourite at the Australian Open. Djokovic, a six-time champion in Melbourne, has gained the final two Grand Slam tournaments.

“We know who the usual are,” mentioned Federer, who’s seeded third, “and I’m part of that bunch.”

The longevity of that oligarchy, which additionally contains Rafael Nadal, has blocked a number of youthful gamers from breaking via on tennis’s greatest phases. No participant at present youthful than 30 has gained even a set in a Grand Slam closing.

“We’re all tired of you guys already, but what can we do?” fourth-ranked Alexander Zverev, 21, mentioned throughout the trophy ceremony of the Hopman Cup on Saturday, when he misplaced to Federer in singles and blended doubles.

“Especially you,” he added, turning round and Federer, who laughed. “I mean, you’re 30-whatever! Why? Just, why? Let us have one.”

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