The No. 17 seed opens up against a qualifier and is guaranteed to play another qualifier in the second round should he advance. Having not played a competitive match since Wimbledon, Federer said he can’t afford to take any of his opponents lightly.
“It would be good to know who I play. Once it's out, it's a good thing because then you can start actually mentally preparing for the Australian Open,” said Federer. “Is it a lefty, a righty? It's a big deal. Is he a big server, a grinder? A bit of an unknown here the first round. Having not been playing, that's the part of the draw I care about most.”
Should he advance past his difficult section of the draw that includes No. 10 seed Tomas Berdych and fifth seed Kei Nishikori, Federer could square off against top seed Andy Murray in the quarter-finals. The Swiss maestro leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 14-11 and has won their past five matches. But Federer acknowledged the Brit would be a much different opponent after reaching No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings at the end of last season.
“It definitely feels different because everyone comes up to you and says you’re the best. You start walking around a bit differently. Just feel more confident overall in your shots. Usually when you win, it solves everything,” said Federer of becoming No. 1. “Then you come to a point where you have to remind yourself how hard you had to work to actually get there. It's going to require that plus more to stay there. But I feel like because Andy is not 18 years old, he knows all about that.
“I'm super happy for him. He deserves it,” added Federer. “He's been in there for a long time. He's had some tough losses, some great wins over the years. He never quite strung it together so that it would pay off, but this time it did. It's great for him and great for the sport.”
Federer is eager to get used to that winning feeling again, but has already enjoyed being back around the familiar atmosphere of tennis tournaments. Although he relished the time at home with his wife and their four children, returning to competition was always at the forefront of his mind.
“You do miss the matches. You miss the feeling of winning, walking onto a stadium, seeing the guys. It's like an extended family to some extent,” said Federer. “You walk around and you see faces you haven't seen in a while. It's just nice to see everybody again.
“I have a lot of friends on the tour because I'm the returning guest everywhere I go for 20 years,” he added. “It feels good to see those familiar faces every single year. It's something I couldn't quite enjoy the last six months. That's probably what I missed the most.”