x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal play down Australian Open chances

Swiss and Spaniard are both cautious ahead of Melbourne tournament.

Roger Federer, left, and Rafael Nadal celebrate a point during a charity tennis event in Melbourne yesterday. The event is being held to raise money for the flood disaster that has caused 26 deaths in Australia.
Roger Federer, left, and Rafael Nadal celebrate a point during a charity tennis event in Melbourne yesterday. The event is being held to raise money for the flood disaster that has caused 26 deaths in Australia.

It is a good job Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer usually let their rackets do the talking as they both sounded unconvincing while playing down their chances in the build up to the Australian Open.

Nadal, the world No 1 who has not lost in a grand slam event since he was beaten by Andy Murray in the quarter-finals in Melbourne 12 months ago, claimed that Federer, the reigning champion, was the favourite to lift the title.

The Spaniard, who is the current French Open, Wimbledon and US Open champion, will become the first man to hold all four majors at the same time since Rod Laver in 1969 if he wins in the title for a second time.

He said: "I certainly feel less of a favourite than him [Federer] and not more of a favourite than [Novak] Djokovic, Murray, [Robin] Soderling, these kind of players.

"I feel if I play at my best level I have a chance to be in the second week but every match will be difficult so I have to be ready for everything."

But Federer, the world No 2 and the winner of 16 major titles, was not having any of that, and the man who has won the competition four times previously, said: "I think it's unbelievable what Rafa's been able to do. He should be the favourite. He's holding the three slams. I hold this one still."

Realistically, the winner is likely to come from the world's top two as, between them, they have won 21 of the last 24 grand slams played in the men's game.

Nadal's preparations have been hampered by illness, and he is wary of his fitness for his opening-round match against Maros Daniel, the Brazilian, which is scheduled to be played tomorrow.

"I am feeling better but I am not perfect yet," he said. "When I was in Doha, I was a bit more tired than usual and sweating more than ever in practice.

"The truth is I am better than I was a few days ago so that's very positive."

Federer begins his defence of his title against Lukas Lacko, the Slovakian, today at the Rod Laver Arena.

If Federer fails to retain his crown in Melbourne it will be the first time since July 2003 that he will not have held of any of the four majors.

Acknowledging this statistic, he said: "That means I've done something quite extraordinary for many seasons. The season's not over after Australia. Maybe you're not holding a slam, but you still have three more chances to win a grand slam.

"At the end of the day it's not only about grand slams, like what people make out. I do not just purely gear up for the slams, you know. It's not how I work, otherwise I wouldn't play Qatar, Stockholm, Basle [Switzerland], Halle [Germany], you name it, I would be saving myself all over the place, but I'm not.

"We'll see how it goes. I'd love to win. If I don't win, look, someone else was better, and that's OK."

* Compiled by Graham Caygill with agencies