Australian Open 2019: Can Roger Federer get a hat-trick of wins?
The calendar year could not possibly have begun on a better note for a certain 37-year-old Swiss gentleman. As the clock hands slide impatiently and the lights begin to glimmer around the hallowed grounds of Rod Laver Arena, counting the days before Roger Federer glides onto its blue hard court turf and make some magic again, several questions float in the air around him.
The pair of Federer and Belinda Bencic defended their title at the Hopman Cup this week, a feat only achieved by Switzerland so far. With just under a week to go for the Australian Open, a laudable performance at the Hopman Cup has armed Federer with all the right weapons to head into the mid-January extravaganza that is the year's first Grand Slam tournament with a halo of positivity encircling him.
The 2019 Australian Open will not be just another Grand Slam outing for the Swiss Maestro. The victory here in 2017 produced a Federer who isn't afraid of unleashing his backhand anymore, and can even use it as powerful weapon now. This version of Federer also knew how to attack and rush to volley at any given chance, while also unfurling beautiful drop-shots and smoothly sliced winners.
The tennis pundits who had been pretty but petty obituaries to Federer's jaw-dropping career post 2013 made sure to sit up and marvel at this newfound dominance that left them a little stupefied. 2017 proved to be a crucial turning point for the balletic Swiss, who also won his eighth Wimbledon title the same year.
If there is one thing that Federer is no stranger at, it has to be making records. Here is someone who, at the pinnacle of his career, had won the US Open and Wimbledon a record consecutive 5 years in a row.
While Federer was the undisputed winner in those years, with the passing of time a host of new, promising players have broken out on the tennis circuit, each incredibly ambitious with keen eyes set on ending his dominance. However, the arrival of the new generation of tennis stars has surprisingly not changed much on the scene for the Big 4 - Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer still keep taking turns winning at the Grand Slams.
If there were any disruptions recorded, they were only minor. But order was inevitably reestablished in a world still dominated by Federer and Nadal and Djokovic.
There is plenty at stake for Federer at this year's Australian Open. Knowing the hunger he still possesses, we can predict that he has the right kind of ammunition to realize a hat-trick of wins and also enter the record books for being the first man to win the coveted title a record 7 times, while also obviously getting a unparalleled 21st Grand Slam in his name.
Having suffered disappointment at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018, where he was shown the door in the quarterfinals and the 4th Round respectively, Federer has been eyeing 2019 as another comeback year. With a whopping 99 career title wins, the cherry on the cake would taste the sweetest for the Swiss if he manages to make the Australian Open coincide with his century of titles.
The victory at the Hopman Cup was indicative of his good form, but the road ahead won't be a cakewalk. The World No. 3 has to tackle the obstacles hurled by the likes of a healthier Rafael Nadal, a hungry-to-win Alexander Zverev, an imposing Kevin Anderson and an invincible Novak Djokovic, who is also going to put his best foot forward and try and win a 7th Australian Open title too.
The solace for Federer lies in the fact that even at the age of 37, he is in impeccable form and looks ready to play the big matches. The win at Hopman Cup will only instill a sense of confidence right before the Australian Open starts, and the onus is on him to defend his title for a third year in succession.
For someone who has been victorious on 20 occasions in various Grand Slams, the 21st is at his fingertips. After semifinal finishes in Paris Masters and the Nitto ATP Tour Finals at the end of 2018, Federer is determined to make the most of his 2019 outing.
Australia has always been a favorite of the Swiss Maestro, and his current form will only help him realize the dream of a hat-trick run in Melbourne. A victory here would prove to be monumental for the World No. 3, who will become the first man to have won 7 Australian Open titles in the Open Era.
As each day passes, we edge a little closer to envisioning the dream of a 21st Grand Slam to merge with reality. Only a Roger Federer imbued with magic in his racquet can really sew the strings of both the worlds together and paint a beautiful picture.