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Veteran tennis player Tony Roche discusses Djokovic, Federer's future at tournament in Kolkata

Roger Federer's former coach also coached Ivan Lendl, under whose tutelage Andy Murray has shot to World No. 1.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 08:  Australian tennis legends Tony Roche (L) and Rod Laver pose with Roger Federer (C) of Switzerland during the Roger Federer Charity Match at Melbourne Park on January 8, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
Tennis legends: Roche (L) with Roger Federer and Rod Laver 

Australian Grand Slam winner Tony Roche is a regular fixture at the Premjit Lall Invitational Tennis Tournament in Kolkata, India, and the 71-year-old, who has worked with Roger Federer in the past, spoke out about the Swiss icon’s return to the sport following his hiatus for most of the 2016 season. 

The 34-year-old has dealt with a series of old injuries that have curtailed his season, but put in consecutively strong performances to progress to the semi-finals of Wimbledon, where he lost to eventual runner-up Milos Raonic in a nail-biting five-setter. 

With Federer due to return to professional tennis at the team tournament, the Hopman Cup in Australia in January 2017, many have pipped the Swiss to return stronger than ever and with even greater future successes. 

And Roche is one of his advocates. The Swiss’ former coach reiterates, “Once Roger is fit, I definitely think he can win one or two more Grand Slams,” he said in an interview with The Telegraph in Kolkata last week.

"I think Roger can continue for another two-three years and be a major force in the game if he remains injury free... No reason why he can't be successful," the Australian Open winner said. 

He continued with high praise for current No. 1 Andy Murray, who broke the 8,000 point lead held by former No. 1 Novak Djokovic to take the top-rank and keep it with a win at the ATP World Tour Finals last month. 

“Murray, considering how he is playing at the moment, has taken the game to a new level altogether. He has dominated the second half of the year, while Novak dominated the first half,” Roche continued. 

“Beware of Novak Djokovic”

Djokovic was primed for even further successes and had a mammoth start to the 2016 season, winning the Australian Open, a series of tournaments and the French Open soon after – his first at that venue, breaking what had been labelled the Djokvoic ‘jinx’. 

But since then, the Serb has struggled for wins, at tournaments and against players he would normally have had no trouble beating. After losing the World no. 1 title to Murray as he crashed out of the ATP World Tour Finals, Djokovic saw Murray rightfully usurp a long-held crown.

Given the significant number of points Djokovic is defending in the 2017 season, it is safe to say that Murray will continue to hold the top rank well into the clay-court season. But Roche warned the Serb’s rivals not to take him lightly despite his slump in form.

Defending Djokovic, Roche went on, "To talk of Novak, it's very hard to maintain such intensity. He dominated the first half of the year, but it's never easy to sustain it. "Mentally, it drains you out sometimes. So, staying at the top for over a long period of time is really difficult.”

"But don't forget, Novak plays very well in Australia. His record is fantastic."

Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl

The Scot has been undisputably the most consistent player on the ATP World Tour in the 2016 season, and Roche attributed a significant part of that to Murray’s longterm coach, Czech ace Ivan Lendl. Incidentally, Roche coached former No. 1 Lendl in his heyday.

"I think Murray has the edge at the moment because he has Lendl in his corner. And as you know, when Lendl first worked with Murray, he helped the guy to get his first Grand Slam and the Olympic gold medal. So obviously, Lendl has made a huge difference to Murray.”

"So, the beginning of 2017 is going to be very interesting." Roche said, reiterating that the season was going to be a big one.

 "Look, Murray is the in-form player, while Novak will have to fight to get his form back. You have also got Federer and (Rafael) Nadal coming back from injuries.

"(Stanislas) Wawrinka is always dangerous, particularly in Grand Slams. The youngsters like (Nick) Kyrgios and (Alexander) Zverev and even (Milos) Raonic can do well next year. But everything depends on if these players can avoid getting injured."

What India can do for tennis

"The focus should be now on getting good development programmes because you have done it before. And if you have done well before, you can do well again.

"I think it also comes down to finance, obviously. You got to have a good base while kids must also go overseas to get good exposure. So, hopefully that's what people should be focusing on here," he said, pointing 

"The main reason I am here now is to honour Premjit. He was a very good friend of mine and with Jaidip and Krish (Ramanathan Krishnan), I think that was the golden year of Indian tennis... Would be good if India can go back to those days."

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