2018 Australian Open: Roger Federer plays down favourite tag

By @saihoops on
Roger Federer
Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 29/1/17 Switzerland's Roger Federer kisses the trophy after winning his Men's singles final match against Spain's Rafael Nadal. Reuters / Thomas Peter

World No. 2 Roger Federer is the overwhelming favourite to win the 2018 Australian Open. He is also expected to add the Grand Slam title No. 20 to his illustrious list of accomplishments. However, the Swiss Master has tempered his title hopes by declaring that he is not 100 percent ahead of his return to Melbourne Park.

A year ago, Federer returned from a lengthy injury layoff only to defeat archrival Rafael Nadal in a classic five-set final at the Rod Laver Arena. The event kicked off one of the best years of Federer's career as the 36-year-old star added the Wimbledon and a few ATP 1000 championships to his list of titles. 

With Novak Djokovic returning from a career-threatening elbow injury, and with former World No. 1 Andy Murray pulling out due to a hip injury, Federer and Nadal are once again favoured to meet in the final. However, Federer has shot down the high expectations and is taking a cautious approach. 

“This year I hope to win the first few rounds and get rolling hopefully, whereas last year I was just hoping to win. It (2017) was more of a ‘let’s see what happens’ kind of tournament, maybe similar to what Novak (Djokovic) or Stan (Wawrinka) or others are going through this year. It’s like, let’s just see what happens. I’m not at 100 per cent, but you never know in a week’s time what’s going to be happening. If you’re in the draw, you give yourself a chance. That’s what happened for me last year. All ended up way better than I thought it would, as you know," Federer said on the eve of the 2018 Australian Open.

2018 Australian Open: Federer to face Bedene on Tuesday

Federer will kick-start his campaign against Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene in the first round on Tuesday. Nadal, meanwhile, will face Dominican veteran Víctor Estrella Burgos in the first round on Monday.

“Yeah, (last year) it was the tournament of the year for me, no doubt about it. All the five-setters, as well. Having no expectations was so nice after all these years always having expectations, like now this year again. With age, I feel like I play down my chances just because I don’t think a 36-year-old should be a favourite of a tournament, it should not be the case. That’s why I see things more relaxed, you know, at a later stage of my career.”

The 2018 Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the new season, gets underway Monday, Jan. 15. World No. 1 Rafael Nadal will play the event despite a pre-tournament injury scare that ruled the Spaniard out of the Paris Masters, Nitto ATP Finals and the Brisbane International. Will tennis fans be treated to another Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal final? Barring upsets, there is a very strong possibility.