Federer primed for open
By Jackie Epstein
January 07, 2007 12:00
Tony Roche says Roger Federer is primed to defend his Australian Open crown / The Sunday Telegraph
ROGER Federer's coach Tony Roche says the world no.1 is primed for an Australian Open assault after starting preparations early at Melbourne Park this year.
The Swiss master usually plays in Doha before hitting town but he chose to bypass the tournament in favour of more practice time at Rod Laver Arena.
Yesterday he looked fresh after two sessions and will spend more time on court today ahead of the AAMI Classic which begins on Wednesday at Kooyong.
"This year he got here earlier and I think it's a good thing,'' Roche said yesterday.
"It could be a very hot Open and the weather over in Doha has been very cold and windy apparently, so the conditions haven't been very good.
"Roger had a long year last year. Every week he's in the finals and didn't finish until a week after the Masters. I wasn't too concerned that he didn't play a tournament. He's got Kooyong coming up to get his matches in, whereas last year he had the injury and he probably needed to play Doha. I'm not concerned, I think it's good that he's here actually.''
Roche said Federer was two sets away from completing a perfect year in 2006 and is intent on defending his title.
The main dangers would include the usual suspects but also some talented up and comers.
"Obviously (Andy) Roddick and (Rafael) Nadal are tough,'' Roche said.
"I don't know if Lleyton's fit, (Marat) Safin could have a good year this year. A few of the young ones are there and it'll be interesting to see who breaks through with (Novak) Djokovic, (Andy) Murray and (Richard) Gasquet.
"They're the young guns coming along and you've got seven tough matches so you've got to be in shape ready to go to play five sets in the heat. That's what we're trying to get ready for.''
Roche said Federer could get better and was working hard to fine-tune his game.
"You're always looking to improve because you know the other guys are working twice as hard to bridge the gap,'' he said.
"You've got to stay one step in front of those guys. We're just overall fine-tuning his game and making sure he's ready once Monday starts.
"He's relaxed and there's so much pressure on the guy but he's able to handle it really well.''