The man is an international treasure
Roger Federer signed off on his Australian Open preparations with a thrilling title win at the Hopman Cup on Saturday night.
Roger Federer has nominated Novak Djokovic as the man to beat at the Australian Open, but the Swiss maestro looms as a major threat himself following his near-perfect Hopman Cup campaign.
Federer won all four of his singles games in straight sets at the mixed-teams event, helping propel Switzerland to a second straight title.
The 37-year-old is now aiming to snare a third straight Australian Open crown, but Djokovic looms as his major obstacle.
Djokovic regained his mojo last year, winning the US Open and Wimbledon on the way to reclaiming the No.1 world ranking.
The 31-year-old’s Australian Open preparations suffered a slight blip on Saturday when he lost 3-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 to Roberto Bautista Agut in the Qatar Open semi-finals.
But he is a hot favourite to win a sixth Australian Open title, which would take his career grand slam tally to 15.
Federer still leads the way with 20 majors, but knows he faces a massive challenge to get past Djokovic at the Australian Open.
“No doubt about it. I think he’s the favourite,” Federer said.
“Regardless of what happened in Doha, the guy had a super strong last five, six months of the year.
“He struggled early, but with his class and once he gets his groove back, he’s very tough to beat.
“People always doubt, always wonder if he’s ever really going to come back. But he knows how to hit a tennis ball. It’s all in the body.
“It’s the same with Rafa – we know when he’s 100 per cent how tough he is to beat.
“The moment these guys show up 100 per cent, they’re always going to be the favourites.”
Federer’s career looked to be on the wane when his 2016 campaign was ruined by a knee injury.
But the world No.3 surprised even himself by his strong return, adding two more Australian Open crowns and a Wimbledon title to his bulging trophy cabinet.
“Winning back-to-back Aussie Opens in the my mid 30s, it was one of the favourite things I’d look back on in my career,” Federer said.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen.”
Federer will fine-tune his preparations in Melbourne before the Australian Open begins.
Rafael Nadal’s fitness is under a cloud after he was forced to pull out of the Brisbane International with a thigh injury.