‘A 36-year-old shouldn’t be favourite for a tournament’

Roger Federer has cheekily played down his chances of winning a record 20th grand slam at this year’s n Open, saying he doesn’t think a 36-year-old should be favourite to win such a tournament.

Speaking two days before he opens his campaign for a sixth n Open title against world No.51 Aljaz Bedene (Slovenia) on Tuesday, Federer said it was only natural for him to be less optimistic late in his career.

“With age, I feel like I play down my chances just because I don’t think a 36-year-old should be a favourite of a tournament. It should not be the case,” Federer said on Sunday.

“That’s why I see things more relaxed, you know, at a later stage of my career.”

Federer won 2017’s dream n Open final against old Spanish nemesis Rafael Nadal after six months out of the game through injury, but he ominously described this year’s preparation into the first grand slam of the year as “perfect”.

“It’s totally different,” he said. “This year I hope to win the first few rounds and get rolling hopefully, whereas last year I was just hoping to win.

“It was more of a ‘let’s see what happens’ kind of tournament, maybe similar to what Novak [Djokovic] or Stan [Wawrinka] or others are going through this year.”

Federer went on to win Wimbledon and three ATP World Tour Masters events in 2017, propelling himself back to the world No.2 ranking after he dropped to No.16 at the end of 2016.

His lean run into his superb 2017 could be why he is playing down his chances of success in 2018. Federer knows that Djokovic (elbow) and Wawrinka (knee), like he himself in 2017, could still be dangerous this time around despite their ailments.

World No.1 and n Open top seed Nadal is also under an injury cloud with a troublesome knee.

Before he played in the Kooyong Classic last week Nadal hadn’t hit a tennis ball in a competitive fixture since he lost to David Goffin at the World Tour Finals in London in November.

“It’s like, let’s just see what happens. I’m not at 100 per cent [Federer thought in 2017], but you never know in a week’s time what’s going to be happening,” Federer said.

“If you’re in the draw, you give yourself a chance. That’s what happened for me last year. All ended up way better than I thought it would.

“It was the tournament of the year for me, no doubt about it.”