Former world number one tennis star and the current number three Roger Federer is aiming for the third title in four years at the Australian Open. The 38-year-old tennis player is looking forward to extending his Grand Slam tally but as he has not played competitive tennis since November he is keeping a check on expectations.
The Swiss player who won his last Grand Slam in 2018 at the Australian Open voluntarily did not play the ATP Cup for spending more time with his family. His pre-tournament news conference was filled with questions about the Australian bushfires and the role of the tennis stars regarding the issue.
Federer plays world number 81 Johnson
"And I'm playing Steve Johnson, by the way, for those who care," a smiling Federer told reporters. "I don't know, I figured that's why I'm in Australia, but that's okay."
His opening-round opponent on Monday — American world number 81 Johnson — won a challenger tournament in nearby Bendigo and reached the quarter-finals in the Canberra challenger last week. When finally asked about his opening match, Federer said with a smile: "I'm not in the mood now.
"Look, it's exactly the tricky situation right now, playing somebody who has just played a lot this week. He's ready to go. He's match-ready and I'm not." Federer's last match was a defeat in the ATP Finals in November by Stefanos Tsitsipas, who also beat him at Melbourne Park in the fourth round last year.
Brayden Schnur labelled Federer and Rafa Nadal 'selfish'
"I got to really make sure I get out of the gates quick," Federer said. "Practice has been going well. 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."
Canadian world number 103 Brayden Schnur labelled Federer and Rafa Nadal "selfish" for not taking a vocal stand for the lower-profile players who faced a difficult time this week during qualifiers due to the bushfire smoke.
"I don't think I can do more than what I did," Federer said. "I'm on the council. I've been on the tour for so long. I came through the lower ranks, the juniors. "At the end of the day we all care for one another. We cross paths in the locker room. I understand some frustration always because this tour, this calendar, this schedule, whatever it may be, is never perfect.
"Some guys are always going to complain. But at the end of the day this is also something new with the smoke. Everybody's got to figure it out."