I'm not 100 percent: Federer plays down Australian Open title hopes


But the 2016 Australian Open champion is one of many candidates for the title.

Nadal will make his return to action for the first time since pulling out of the ATP Finals in London back in November of previous year when he takes on Victor Estrella Burgos in his opening match on Monday (15 January).

Rafael Nadal in particular could play himself into that role but he has not contested a match since November because of knee troubles while the fitness of six-time champion Novak Djokovic is even more uncertain after six months out with an elbow injury.

They're all in the same half of the draw as defending champion Roger Federer, who a year ago returned from an extended injury time out to beat Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final.

Nadal, who won the French and U.S. Open titles previous year, has also had a limited preparation restricted to couple of exhibition matches last week as he recovers from a sore knee.

"That's why I see things more relaxed, you know, at a later stage of my career".

"He won a couple Grand Slams".

All four singles finalists were 30 or older here past year in what became a tournament for the ages, and three of them are back. The 30-year-old Djokovic, whose practice session on Saturday was watched keenly by coaches Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek, said he was pleased with his new service motion which appeared to be a little locked-in. This enables us the option of the plethora of candidates (including Djokovic) in quarter three, as well as Federer in quarter four, and bettors who aren't put off by backing odds-on shots can consider this possibility. "I feel like I spend less energy, but I'm more efficient".

"It's totally different", he said.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic talks with coach Andre Agassi left during a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne Australia Saturday Jan. 13 2018
I'm not 100 percent: Federer plays down Australian Open title hopes

"Every day is getting better".

Djokovic also admits his injury has not fully healed, however.

Federer hinted Rafael Nadal or Djokovic should head the Open markets despite injury worries for both rivals. He's a terrific player and has improved a lot. But right now it's at the level where I can compete'.

After speculation regarding the appearances of a number of the bigger names in the field, Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori are two of the higher profile late withdrawals in the men's event. No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina, 23, has found two quarterfinals, while No. 6 seed Karolina Pliskova, 25, has made the quarterfinal or better in four of the last five Grand Slams, a feat in a sport deep in talent and rife with wild inconsistencies.

"Last year, there were periods where I was really good and really bad ... I just don't think, given his schedule, he wouldn't have him out here unless he thought he had a good chance of winning it". "Not trying to sound cocky or anything, but I've always said that I've always been working hard physically, I'm always trying to improve the performance at the Grand Slams".

"When I was number one in the world, winning all these tournaments, that was a lot of fun, too".

Tennis fans should strap themselves in for another two-week rollercoaster ride, with Australian Open boss Craig Tiley declaring anything's possible when the Melbourne Park major gets under way on Monday.

He said: "I feel for me there's pressure wherever I go". I really hope to be ready. I wouldn't say that.

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