Friday, December 30, 2016

Roger Federer back in Australia at Hopman Cup in Perth

Just as tennis has missed Roger Federer during his six-month lay off, it’s clear that the Swiss star has missed the game too.

Barely in Perth for 24 hours, Federer has already completed several practice sessions at Perth Arena – one of them before more than 6000 enraptured fans – and hit with Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett and local juniors at Cottesloe Beach.

It points to the positive intentions Federer holds in his return to Perth, as he teams with Belinda Bencic for Switzerland at Mastercard Hopman Cup.

“It’s about just getting into the rhythm, getting into the groove. Not getting injured is obviously most important but then I think I can actually play really good tennis towards the end of the week,” said Federer.

“At the beginning it’s going to be let’s see how it’s all going to go, but then again I’ve surprised myself in the first matches of the year as well … what I can tell you is that I will be what I can tell you is that I’m going to give it 100 per cent and try my very best every time I step on court.

He relishes the opportunity to compete alongside Bencic, who at 19 years old is the same as Federer when he teamed with Martina Hingis to claim the Hopman Cup for Switzerland in 2001.

“She’s very talented, she’s hard working.” he said of Bencic. “I don’t know her that well yet so after this week all that’s going to change because we’re going to be spending time on court and also away from the court doing promotions, and also probably spending New Years together.

“I’m just going to try to help her with her game, give my advice if I can and then let’s just have a good time and you know, cheer each other on.”

Also cheering Switzerland on will be the many fans who’ve warmly welcomed the team to Perth.

“It’s been a wonderful welcome,” said Federer, who was delighted to experience the iconic Cottesloe Beach. “People seem super excited, personally, me and my family have been looking forward to this trip for weeks now.

“Definitely I feel the love. People are so nice to us. I don’t get this kind of welcome every week so this is really nice and I definitely enjoy local places of the city and of the whole of Western Australia. It’s beautiful. I hope of course that I can see a bit more this week.”

Those fans will be thrilled to know that despite the injury that limited his 2016 season, retirement is far from the 35-year-old’s thinking.

“I mean, only when I get asked do I think of things like this, you know,” said the 17-time Grand Slam champion.

“But honestly I don’t see it like this that this could be my last Australian trip, you know, even though it might very well be.

“I’m really positive and I took these six months off so I would be playing for hopefully another two to three years, not just another six months or so. My insight is for the long term.”

In the shorter term, Federer is focusing on his debut at Mastercard Hopman Cup 2017, when Switzerland take on Great Britain in Monday’s night session. Typically positive, he notes that it will be a fresh start for both players when he meets world No.66 Dan Evans in the new season.

“I think he’s coming off five or six weeks off, which is a long time in tennis terms. So it’s the start of the year for everybody, for me it’s maybe a bit of a longer stretch (that) I’m coming back from but it’s just good playing in front of people again,” he said.

“I’ve been playing you know so many times in front of nobody so it felt great yesterday playing in so many thousands of people.”

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