Australian Open 2020: Analyzing Roger Federer's chances of winning a seventh title in Melbourne
It is January again, which means everyone is heading Down Under to start the Grand Slam season. 20-time Grand Slam Champion and 6-time Australian Open winner Roger Federer will make a return to the Rod Laver Arena for the 21st time, in his quest of a record-equalling seventh Australian Open title.
Things look grim in Australia with the country being ravaged by bushfires, and the tennis fraternity is coming together in solidarity for the cause.
Federer, 38 years old now, decided to sit out the inaugural edition of the ATP Cup which is being played over three Australian cities. In order to attune himself the hardcourt turf in Melbourne, the Swiss maestro has already hit the practice courts.
Having had to suffer a crushing fourth-round exit at the 2019 edition of the tournament against Stefanos Tsitsipas, Federer will not want to leave any room for mistakes this time around.
Although age keeps knocking on Federer's doors, the World No. 3 has managed to retain a calm presence in the sport. Egged on simply by the love for the game and gifted with his enviable racquet skills, Federer remains one of the top contenders for the first Grand Slam of the season.
The Australian Open is the Slam that saw the rebirth of the Swiss Maestro, where he retraced his vintage days of glory and came back even stronger and sharper. The 2017 edition of the Championships witnessed history as Federer made an astonishing comeback after a 6-month injury break and 5-year Grand Slam drought to take home his 18th Grand Slam title.
The final match he played wasn't an ordinary one either. Federer took down his arch-rival Rafael Nadal in a gripping five-setter 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, which was enough to announce the comeback of the King of Grass.
Since then Federer has won two more Grand Slams, with the last one coming in 2018 - once again at Australia. The first Major of the year has always been lucky for Federer, and after a Slam-less 2019, the 38-year-old will be eyeing another comeback this year at the Rod Laver Arena.
Last year saw Federer maintain pretty consistent form across all surfaces, with a brave semi-final appearance against the King of Clay at the French Open and an unforgettable finale against Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon. While the semi-final defeat at Roland Garros was largely on expected lines, the Wimbledon loss turned out to be heartbreaking for the eight-time champion as he had two match points in the fifth set.
Looking back, 2019 was a year of near-misses for Federer - even though the 20-time Grand Slam champion had gotten off to a great start by winning the Hopman Cup. Federer recorded his 100th title win at the Dubai Tennis Championships against his Melbourne conqueror Tsitsipas, and the record books were kept busy throughout the season with the Swiss achieving one milestone after the other.
Federer showcased some sturdy play even at the year-ending ATP Tour Finals, beating Djokovic in the round-robin clash with a performance for the ages.
It has been a quiet December in the Federer camp, with the Swiss legend doing everything in his power to prepare for the 2020 season while staying at his Dubai abode.
The fag end of 2019 gave strong indications of the incoming change in the tennis pecking order, with young players like Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev threatening to break the stronghold of the Big 3. With the constant and rapid advances made by the younger crop of players, the competition will be stiffer this year from the get-go.
However, there is no denying that Federer still possesses the expertise to excel. He still has the ability to stun his opponents with his mind-boggling winners, cheeky drop shots and characteristic aces, which keep cementing his position as the GOAT.
History lies within reach of Federer's grasp once again, as he will enter the Australian Open looking for a seventh title there. Sure, Nadal and Djokovic will have the advantage of getting a headstart into the season as they are playing in the ATP Cup, and look sharp ahead of the first Major of the year. But Federer, being 38, is choosing the wise path to let his body rest and be in good shape for Melbourne.
Although the competition will definitely be more tense this time, the Swiss Maestro still stands a potent chance of winning a 21st Grand Slam on his 21st appearance at the Australian Open.Modified 10 Jan 2020, 23:13 IST