PERTH – Roger Federer did not know what to expect when he touched down in Australia in 2017.
The then 17-times grand slam champion was 35 and coming back from a first surgery-enforced absence to the sport he dominated for more than a decade from his maiden Wimbledon title in 2003.
The six months off, however, appeared to be positively cathartic as he provided arguably the major talking point of the circuit by reviving a career that pundits thought could be over.
He beat Rafa Nadal in an epic final to win his fifth Australian Open and then clinched his eighth on the grass courts of southwest London to finish the year with seven titles and the world number two ranking.
However, Federer, who begins his 2018 campaign at the combined teams Hopman Cup tournament in Perth, recognises that while expectations this year might be a little higher, he was trying to ensure they did not get out of control.
“Expectations are higher but at the same time I try to remind myself just don’t think its normal and realistic to aim for the same things I did this year in 2017,” he said. “I’ve got to try and keep it cool. Try my best and see what happens but the preparation has been good so far. We’ll see how things go.”
Federer previously used the Kooyong Invitational to warm up for the Australian Open but returned to the Hopman Cup last year to team up with compatriot Belinda Bencic, where the pair finished second in their group.
“Obviously looking ahead to Melbourne, I really hope that Hopman Cup’s going to give me everything I need here,” Federer said of starting the season in Perth, where he and his 20-year-old partner will face Japan, Russia and the US in group play.
“It worked out perfectly this year, (winning) at the Australian Open. Of course, that’s a good omen.”
World number one Rafa Nadal’s preparations for next month’s Australian Open have suffered a blow after he was a late withdrawal from the Brisbane International tournament yesterday.
The 31-year-old Spaniard has not played since he withdrew from the season-ending World Tour Finals in London in November with a knee injury. He had already withdrawn from a tournament in Abu Dhabi.
“I am sorry to announce I won’t be coming to Brisbane this year,” Nadal said on his Twitter account. “My intention was to play but I am still not ready after last year’s long season and the late start of my preparation.”
Nadal, who also cancelled a training block last week, returned from injury last year to reach the final of the Australian Open and win the titles at the French and US Opens.
He played in Brisbane last year as part of his preparations for Melbourne Park and made the quarter-finals before losing to Canada’s Milos Raonic.
“I had a great time there (in 2017) and it was a great start to the month I spent in Australia,” Nadal added. “I will be seeing my Aussie fans when I land on the 4th in Melbourne and start there my preparation for the Australian Open.”