The greatest tennis play of all time has become an afterthought in the Australian Open, but don't count out Roger Federer. He's still dangerous and has a renewed focus that should prolong his career for years to come.
Patrick Johnston of Reuters writes that Federer is looking at tennis differently after a rough end to last year. Instead of looking at individual tournaments or events, Federer is trying to prolong his career with a focus on the long term.
To do that, Federer will be going into the Australian Open without having played a warm-up event. No player has won the Australian Open without participating in a warm-up tournament since Andre Agassi did it in 1995.
Federer has a good chance to buck that trend, though. The aging star will be as fresh as ever, which will be a focus throughout the season.
The criticism of Federer has been intense since his loss to Novak Djokovic at the ATP Tour Finals in November. Djokovic and Andy Murray are too good, the critics say, for an aging Federer to be competitive.
The critics were not along in considering Federer older and slower than ever. Federer himself recognized the inevitable decline of his body, and the focus on rest was his response. Regarding his focus, Johnston quotes Federer as saying:
Longevity is the word here that I am looking for and that is what I am striving for this year in 2013 to hopefully keep on playing for many years.
That's the beauty of a sport like tennis. With four events taking such precedence, aging stars like Federer can focus their year around those events.
If there is any reason to pick Federer in the Australian Open, it's this. He's refreshed and completely focused. With a refreshed body and his typical technical perfection, Federer should not be counted out. Federer himself says it best:
If I'm second favourite, fourth favourite or eighth or whatever it might be it doesn't change much for me. I know if I'm playing well I can win tournaments.
Expect Federer to play well, giving Murray and Djokovic a serious run for the trophy.