Tennis

Federer’s Australian Open ambush fears

All-time great Roger Federer says his Hopman Cup run has given him enough confidence to challenge for an unprecedented 21st grand slam at the Australian Open.

But the legendary Swiss, now 37, has hinted at the slightest slice of anxiety at the talent lurking outside the 32 seeds at Melbourne Park on the eve of the tournament draw.

That includes Australian hopefuls Nick Kyrgios, Bernard Tomic and John Millman, who each earned a name check from Federer on Wednesday.

On Thursday night, the Open field will discover their first-up opponents and their pathway to potential glory with the unveiling of the tournament bracket.

As the third seed, Federer would normally feel protected from facing a top player until the third round, though this year there’s plenty of big names without a seed.

Outside of the top 32 lurk injury-affected stars Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray as well as Jo-Wifried Tsonga and homegrown hopefuls.

For that reason, Federer said he wouldn’t be looking too far past the first name out of the hat.

“If you play Stan first round or Nick first round or Tsonga first round that changes things a little bit instead of playing a qualifier. From that standpoint we’re eager to find out the draw,” he said.

“All we look at, regardless of who you are, is the first or maybe the maximum second round.

“After that you don’t really mind who’s in your section because you have got to beat them all if you want to win here.”

Federer beat world No. 4 Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Cameron Norrie, and Frances Tiafoe in a confidence-boosting and imposing showing in Western Australia.

“The most important thing for me moving into this year is to be ready in the mind when the big moments come around,” he said

“The body, there’s no guarantee. With the mind, I know it can be ready.

“Yes, the dangerous floaters are always the talk of the town.

“But at the same time it’s important to go confidently into the event, know that you can beat them all from the get-go and I think I showed that at the Hopman Cup.”

Federer, well-known for his close eye on the rest of the tour, said teenager Alex de Minaur — on track to be the 27th seed — was his pick of the local contenders.

“Especially here on Australia on this type of court, Alex, this is his best chance to do something special,” he said.

“He had a tough draw last year, I think it was (Thomas) Berdych in the first round.

“We’ll see something from Alex now. He’s already doing something in Sydney … we’ll see plenty more in the years to come.

“John Millman who I think is great, who has come and trained with me in Switzerland and who beat me at the US Open, I love watching him play as well.

“You have a lot of players in the draw that can make a surprise or go really deep for that matter.

“We know what Bernie and Nick can do but I think maybe the eyes are going to be on Alex.”

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