The 20-time Major champion Roger Federer is making the final preparations ahead of his 21st Australian Open campaign, facing the American Steve Johnson in the first round. Unlike his main rivals Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev, Roger took a different path and skipped the inaugural ATP Cup, staying at home in Dubai and shaping up his game ahead of the first big event of the season.
Fighting for the seventh title in Melbourne, 16 years after the first one, Roger admits he is in a tricky situation at the moment, facing the opponent who claimed a Challenger title on Saturday while testing his game only on the practice court so far.
Still, the Swiss hopes to make the best possible start and get into the winning rhythm ahead of tougher opponents, while taking one match at a time. Unlike Roger, his main rivals already had some serious challenges in Australia and it will be interesting to see had he made a mistake by skipping the ATP Cup or not.
Federer claimed two titles in Melbourne in the past three years, conquering the opening Major of the season in 2017 and 2018 before hitting the exit door to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round a year ago, wasting all 12 break chances in a tight loss.
"I'm playing Steve Johnson, by the way, for those who care," Federer joked. "I don't know; I figured that's why I'm in Australia, but that's okay. Look, it's precisely the tricky situation right now, playing somebody who has just played a lot this week and who is ready to go.
He's match-ready and I'm not. I got to make sure I get out of the gates quickly. The practice has been going well; I had plenty of time to pace myself and do all the things I had to do to get ready. I hope it's enough.
I know it's a super long road to victory; that's why I got to take it one match at a time. My expectations are quite low."