Federer's last grand slam victory, coincidentally, was at the Australian Open in 2010. He was the first seed back then and defeated Britain's Andy Murray in the finals, 6–3, 6–4, 7–6 (11).
If there is a perfect time and tournament for Fed-Ex to win his 17th grand slam, it is now, at the 2012 Australian Open.
No other player closed the 2011 season better than Federer. The Swiss Express was hitting all cylinders on his way to winning the Swiss Indoors Basel, ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Paris and the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
He had carried that momentum into this year at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open where he had reached the semifinals, but had to withdraw due to a back injury. However, it has been reported that after practicing at Melbourne, Federer stated his back is feeling better.
Nonetheless, Federer's chances to win at the Australian Open are very bright, and right now, he is the second betting choice at 7/2 behind Novak Djokovic (11/8), according to Ladbrooks.
Federer, who has won the Australian Open four times (2004, 2006, 2007, 2010), will be playing it for the 13th time. To win, he must excel at the following:
Federer first and foremost has to believe he can and will win the tournament. He has to visualize himself going all the way and winning it, no matter who the opponent is.
One thing that Federer had going for him during his run as the world's top player was his mental edge over his opponents. That is not the case anymore. He is not the dominant player he once was, but he has to believe he is.
Tennis is mostly a mental game, and a lot of matches are won at that level. There is no denying Federer has the desire and hunger to win another slam; all sports greats want to stay on top of their sport forever. It's that desire to win that propels them to excel at their sport.
Confidence is the key to mental toughness, and Federer must show his opponents—especially the top seeds—once again that he has it. He has a 20-match winning streak (taking away his WD), and during those matches, he has shown he still has what it takes to win it all.
And he certainly does. Nobody had been at the top more than Federer. But if he is to win here again, everything from him—his body language, his play and his actions—must spell confidence.
When Federer is at his best, his service is at his best. It was one evident key to his title win here in 2010. The key through his dominance era and his most recent winning streak has been his service efficiency.
Federer has won 81.1 percent of his first service points during this period. Of course, you could argue that to win that many first serve points, you must get your first serves in play. Well, not to worry; he has won 66.3 percent of them.
That means he is winning about 75 percent of his service points.
The only point of a tennis match that is 100 percent under your control is your serve since you always start the point. If you are winning three out of four services you make, you will be in control of the match and putting the pressure on your opponent's serve.
Yes, you still have to break your opponent's serve, but when you are serving well, your confidence—see previous point—surges and chances are your opponent's lowers. Break chances arise and you make the best of them.
Federer has always been a good returner, and his all-around game has always been top class. He must control the match through holding serve, thus putting the pressure on his opponent to do the same.
Federer is 30 years old, and in this day and age in tennis, that means players should be enjoying retirement and preparing for the ATP Champions Tour—if you qualify—or the Outback Champions Series.
With that in mind, it's in Federer's best interest that he paces himself during his matches and avoids the extra sets as much as possible, especially in the early going. He must be fully energized for the latter parts of the draw.
As the rounds progress, so will the quality of the opponents and the intensity of his matches. The draw is not published until Friday, but his early opponents should be on the less difficult side of the playing quality spectrum.
With age, you get more court and match savvy, and for an experienced champion like Federer, he must use that to his advantage. He needs to put away all the easy points and not let his opponents into the matches.
This is easier said than done, but if someone knows about pressing the pedal to the metal in the matches and overwhelm them when needed, it's Federer. He must deliver the wins in Fed-Ex fashion.
Like stated in the previous point, Federer is not getting younger anytime soon. When he withdrew from the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, it was just the second time he had done so in his career.
He has managed to stay healthy for the most part of his career, and maybe the most important key to a win here will be his health status. If he is to win here, not only his back must be healthy, but anything else that might be bothering him.
Before Qatar, Federer was showing great form and excellent play. If Federer is all-systems-go, then he will be able to do the thing that he knows how to do best, and that is win.
No More Djokes
There might be the inevitable, and that is a clash against the world's No. 1 player, Novak Djokovic. All paths to the title, for everyone, lead—unless he losses earlier—through the Djokester's path.
Federer has to suffer from memory loss and erase the 2011 US Open's memories. Forget the two match points there and the ones the year before that. He has struggled accepting Nole's comeback, and if he is to beat him, he has to delete that chunk of memory and make a new one.
If there is anyone that plays Djokovic better, name him. Federer knows it, and he must do it once again if the are to face each other. But he must accept that he was defeated both times at the US Open by better play when it counted.
He must deliver when he has to, and all the previous points I made will need to be present if he is to get past Djokovic. Accept the losses; they were no joke, a twist of fate or just mere luck.
Federer can still win this tournament even when most discount him as a factor. If he is able to manage all the points stated before, we will see him raising the trophy once again.
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