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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, January 9, 2018

 
Roger Federer

Reigning Australian Open champion Roger Federer has reached the Melbourne semis or better in 13 of the last 14 years and is ready for launch next week.

Photo credit: MasterCard Hopman Cup Facebook

Australian anniversaries hold special spots in Roger Federer’s heart.

On the final day of the 2000 Sydney Olympics Games, Federer and future wife Mirka shared their first kiss.

Watch: Wawrinka Sees Comeback Light

Contesting his 100th career Australian Open match last January, Federer delivered a fiery comeback to capture his 18th career Grand Slam championship.

In a rematch of iconic rivals that matched the massive hype, Federer fought back from 1-3 down in the decider digging down to reel off five straight games for a rousing 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 triumph over Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final.

The reigning champion returned to Melbourne Park to practice today fresh of leading Switzerland to the Hopman Cup and looking fully ready for launch.



Federer has made his mark in Melbourne contesting the semifinals or better in 13 of the last 14 years. He’s lifted the title trophy five times and tagged the tournament for eternity branding it the “Happy Slam” based on the mirthful mood of Melbourne fans and staffers.

The prospect of Federer capturing his 20th Grand Slam in this 30th anniversary of the tournament’s move to Melbourne Park isn’t day-dream delirium.

The withdrawals of five-time finalist Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori, who pushed Federer to five sets on Rod Laver Arena last year, combined with the comebacks of several contenders who have battled injuries—world No. 1 Nadal (knee), six-time champion Novak Djokovic (elbow), 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka (two knee surgeries) —solidify Federer’s status as the favorite in Oz.

Oddschecker has installed Federer is a firm 3 to 1 favorite to successfully defend Melbourne for the first time since 2007 when he swept then world No. 9 Fernando Gonzalez in the final scoring his 14th consecutive Oz Open victory and completing an impressive title run without permitting a set.

Fans and gamblers in Australia, where sports betting is legal, are also favoring Federer—more money has been bet on the 36-year-old Swiss than any other player.

Nadal, who has not played since losing to David Goffin at the Nitto ATP Finals in November, is listed as the second favorite (9/2) followed by Djokovic (11/2), who has not played a Tour-level match since retiring from the Wimbledon quarterfinals last July.

“The player who is eliciting the most bets to win the Australian Open men’s title is Roger Federer, with 21 percent of all bets,” Oddschecker spokesman Callum Wilson told Tennis Now today. “For the women’s [title], Venus Williams is proving most popular with 13 percent of all betting on Venus after her sister, Serena, dropped out. Venus is 25 to 1 to win the tournament.”

Consider Federer has beaten the top-ranked Nadal five times in a row, has reached the finals in six of his last nine hard-court tournaments and the typically faster Melbourne Park track rewards his all-court aggression and you can understand why people are putting their money on the Swiss to repeat.

During the last 14 years, Federer’s lone Melbourne loss to a player outside the Top 3 came in 2015 when he fell to then world No. 46 Andreas Seppi.


 

The champ is here. Welcome to Melbourne Park, @rogerfederer 🐐

A post shared by Australian Open (@australianopen) on



While Federer is widely regarded as one of the most graceful players in the history of the game, Andy Roddick, who fell to Federer in both the 2007 and 2009 semifinals, says a primary reason for the Swiss’ longevity is between the ears: He's remarkably relaxed.

"It's nuts, but I think looking back 10 years ago if you were gonna say who's gonna have the most longevity as long as they're happy playing, we all probably would have pointed to Roger," Roddick said. "Not only because his game is less taxing on the body because he's such a natural and he has different options, he can choose to shorten points if he wants to."

Stress management sets Federer apart from many elite players—a skill he will need to exert if he’s to defend a Grand Slam title for the first time since he won his fifth straight US Open championship a decade ago.

"But physicality aside, I'll tell anybody the part where I was the most jealous of Roger was how laid back he'd be before matches," Roddick said. "I was a mess. I was nervous. I was tense. I was tough to be around, and moody and that takes a toll on you as well as the physical stuff. How he's able to kind of compartmentalize, 'Okay, I'm relaxed up until I'm playing and then I'm focused.' And Pete [Sampras] kind of had the same thing. That's probably the part I'm most envious of and I think that's why he's still competing at the highest level."

 

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