Having not missed the main draw of a major since the US Open in 1999, the former world No.1 and winner of 16 majors was not about to break his run of 48 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments now.
“Today was my first practice where I could play again at a hundred per cent. Yesterday I felt good, too. No pain. But at least, you know, I was out there playing full on, but still just a little worried or scared, let’s put it that way,” he said of the back spasm that forced him to withdraw from the Doha semifinals where he was due to face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
“Today all that’s gone, so I feel like I’m back to normal. That’s a good feeling to have coming into the Australian Open.”
Monday will mark the beginning of the Fed Express’s 13th Melbourne campaign. And like many in the media, Federer believes that this year’s tournament could be won by a number of players.
“I still feel like the top four guys are going to play well again. The question is just whom. There you have what you say, you’re not sure what’s going to happen next.”
And while Federer was happy to talk up the chances of the game’s top four, he was quick to point out that he, the No.3 seed and one of those “top four guys”, remains a threat.
“I feel good about my own chances. But then again, that doesn’t mean much because the others are really playing well at the moment.”
A strong finish to the 2011 season and a productive off-season has Federer in a good place coming into 2012. A six-week break following Switzerland’s Davis Cup tie against Australia in September rejuvenated the former No.1 and it showed as he raced to the 2011 finish line.
“I think it’s only helpful that I finished so strong. I had so many great finishes to the year. I remember every time it has helped me to have a good mindset on vacation, during the build-up, then at the beginning of the year. Very often did I take this momentum into the following year.
“I feel my game is really right where it needs to be, even though now the last few days have been pretty much of a waiting game, seeing how it goes,” he said.
Federer’s last Grand Slam tournament win came in Melbourne, in 2010 when he extinguished Andy Murray’s flame in straight sets.
But since then, the Swiss Maestro has suffered a Grand Slam title drought. Last year was the first calendar year that Federer hasn’t won a major since 2002, the year before he won the first of his 16 Grand Slam tournaments. A statistic that Federer doesn’t seem at all worried about.
After all, if anyone knows how to win in Melbourne it’s Federer. The four-time champion has won more matches here than anyone else, 59 at last count.
Win number 60 should be chalked up some time on Monday when Federer takes on a qualifier. And should his good run continue and he make it to the second week, his preparation and experience will stand him in good stead.
“I have a good mindset and physically feel really fit because the build-up has been a good one.
“It’s going to get much more physical, which I don’t mind, and be more mental, which I also don’t mind.”
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