Federer is confident he'll be fit
January 9, 2008
ROGER Federer's health is improving after a brief hospital stay, and he may today return to the practice court after three days away. But if the world No. 1 wins a third Australian Open having played neither a tour nor exhibition event in the previous fortnight, he will be the first man to do so since Boris Becker in 1996.
After choosing not to play in the first week of the season, Federer withdrew on Monday from his regular lead-up event, the AAMI Classic, having been nobbled by a stomach virus soon after his arrival in Australia on Friday. He is likely to play a specially scheduled match at Kooyong either tomorrow or Friday, just as Becker played a one-off against Pete Sampras before winning the title at Melbourne Park two weeks later.
"I got something in my stomach, and just didn't feel good, and it hasn't really left me," Federer said yesterday. "I'm just trying to rest up; the doctor told me to take it easy a little bit. "
Asked if he was concerned about its potential impact on his chances for a third consecutive Australian Open title, Federer said: "Honestly, no, otherwise I would have left already, but I still hang around, and I definitely think it's going to turn for the good."
Lleyton Hewitt agreed, citing Federer's similar inactivity in the fortnight between the French Open and a triumphant Wimbledon last year. "He's a good enough player that he's probably going to get through the first few rounds and that's probably all he's going to need to get his eye in," Hewitt said.
And yet the last man to beat him at Melbourne Park, 2005 champion Marat Safin, was among those dubious about Federer's lack of preparation. The Swiss last played on November 18, at the Masters Cup in Shanghai.
"I think everyone needs a couple of matches before a grand slam, so I don't think it's a great idea to come straight away to a grand slam and try to perform well, because I have been in a couple (after) a few weeks without any matches. It's tough," Safin said.
Federer confirmed he had taken himself to Epworth Hospital, but tests on Monday failed to disclose the nature of the affliction that left him with gastro-like symptons and limited his practice sessions on the new Melbourne Park Plexicushion to Friday and Saturday.
His agent, Tony Godsick, told The Age from the US that Federer was "bed-ridden for some time".