MELBOURNE // The world No 2 Roger Federer will join the former Australian Open champion Marat Safin and the 2006 finalist Marcos Baghdatis in the eight-man Kooyong invitational tournament the week before January's first Grand Slam of 2009. Federer missed this year's Kooyong event this year with a stomach virus, and lost in the semi-finals at the Australian Open to Novak Djokovic. Federer went on to lose his No 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal after the Spaniard beat him in the French Open and Wimbledon finals.
Safin won the Australian Open in 2005. The others confirmed to play at Kooyong - the former home of the Australian Open before it moved to Melbourne Park - from Jan 14-17, are the Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka, the American James Blake, the Beijing Games silver medalist Fernando Gonzalez of Chile and Latvian Ernests Gulbis. The eighth player will be named later, the tournament director Colin Stubs said.
The tournament attracts top players by offering guaranteed matches in the round-robin format ahead of the Australian Open rather than the risk of elimination in other lead-up tournaments. Stubs said yesterday that he believes Nadal plans to rest the week before the Australian Open, which runs from Jan 19-Feb 1. "At the moment Nadal is probably going to do that although he's got a fairly good reason, he's got some bad knee problems and he doesn't want to extend himself physically a week before a Grand Slam, which is fair enough," Stubs said.