Federer gets down to business
SWISS superstar Roger Federer flew into Melbourne today and headed straight to Rod Laver Arena to acclimatise for his Australian Open defence.
The world No.1 - a winner of three grand slam titles last year, including his second Australian Open crown - practised with his girlfriend, former professional Mirka Vavrinec.
His trademark sweetly-timed groundstrokes looked as crisp as ever during the relaxed 30-minute session.
It was a surprisingly early arrival in Melbourne by Federer, with most of the world's top players competing in events elsewhere in the nation, or around the world.
Federer bypassed the lucrative Doha ATP event, which he won for the past two years, to be here well in advance of the Open, which begins on January 15.
He has already spent 10 days practising with his Australian coach Tony Roche in Dubai in mid-December as he sets his sights on a 10th grand slam title.
His preparation will take another step when he competes in the Kooyong Classic round-robin event here next week.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley was among those watching Federer's practice session today.
"It's great to have Roger here early and obviously he's excited to be back in Melbourne," Tiley said.
"I just had a conversation with him and he loves Melbourne, loves this event and he's very excited about being here again."
Tiley said the tournament was expected to have the strongest field in its history, although women's world No.16 Russian Anastasia Myskina today withdrew with a foot injury.
Tiley said the final wildcard recipients were yet to be decided, with Mark Philippoussis' knee injury opening the door to another Australian.
"We'll make an assessment of the players' performances this week," Tiley said.
"We've got events going on in Adelaide right now and Sydney coming up as well as Hobart coming up and the Gold Coast this week.
"We'll make an assessment nearer the time and hopefully make an announcement in the next several days about the remaining wildcards."