Federer still the man to beat at Melbourne Park

Published 12/01/2018 in Sports

Federer still the man to beat at Melbourne Park
Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, January 11, 2018. Switzerland’s Roger Federer holds the Men’s singles trophy as he participates in the official draw ceremony ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament. REUTERS/David Gray

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – It might be argued that 36-year-old fathers of four have no business winning grand slam titles but try telling that to Roger Federer as the evergreen Swiss bids to claim a record-equalling sixth Australian Open crown in two weeks’ time.

Federer will saddle up for a 19th time in the main draw at Melbourne Park, looking to frustrate ‘Generation Next’ once again and defend the title he won last year during a stunning comeback from knee surgery.

No such queries hang over his fitness this year and if bookmakers are to be believed the other 127 men in the draw will be fighting for the scraps from Federer’s plate.

On immediate form, few could argue.

Federer, seeded second, arrives for a first round match against mid-ranked Slovenian Aljaz Bedene after cruising through an undefeated run at the Hopman Cup.

His major rivals, meanwhile, are either carrying injuries or returning from them, or in the case of ‘Big Four’ cohort Andy Murray, ruled out because of them.

A magical 20th slam might seem a formality for a player who did it all in last year’s tournament with the shortest of run-ups, but on closer inspection, Federer’s path through the draw is far from straightforward.

Penpix of top men’s contenders at the Australian Open

  • Factbox: Australian Open men’s singles champions
  • Most bookmakers see third seed Grigor Dimitrov as the best chance among them to make a breakthrough in Melbourne, but still rate the Bulgarian lower than Djokovic, who brings a major query over his serving elbow, is seeded 14th and has barely swung a racquet in six months.

    While Melbourne Park maestro Djokovic will bid for a record seventh Australian Open title, those fans hoping for a shake-up of the establishment may look to 20-year-old Alexander Zverev after his stellar 2017.

    Like 22-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios, fourth seed Zverev possesses a majestic game capable of toppling the very best but also has a propensity to crumble on the biggest stages.

    Grand slam success is seen as a matter of when, not if, for Zverev but the ageless Federer stands ready to thwart another youth-led insurrection.

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