Roger Federer has backed archrivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal as the favourites for the 2018 edition of the Australian Open. Nadal is currently the number one-ranked player in the world following an impressive 2017 campaign in which he won six titles, including the French Open and the US Open.
Meanwhile, Djokovic returns to action in Australia after a lengthy lay-off, having not played competitive tennis since his loss in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon in 2017. It was the first time in the Serb's career that he had picked up a serious injury and the absence meant he has dropped down to 12th in the world rankings.
Djokovic's situation is akin to that of Federer in 2017, when he also came back from a lengthy spell on the sidelines but rediscovered his form to defeat Nadal in the final of the Australian Open, en route to ending the year with 19 Grand Slams.
Djokovic has won six titles in Melbourne, making him the most successful player in the tournament, and should he manage to replicate what Federer did after coming back from injury, he could well be on his way to his seventh triumph Down Under.
Federer, who begins his title defence on Tuesday, 16 January, against Slovenian Aljaz Bedene, is looking to win the first few rounds and get into his stride so as to give him a viable chance to win the title again.
However, he does not hold any expectations from the tour despite coming into the tournament with a good pre-season under his belt.
"This year, I hope to win the first few rounds and get rolling hopefully, whereas last year, I was just hoping to win [a match]. It was more of a 'let's see what happens' kind of tournament, maybe similar to what Novak or Stan [Wawrinka] or others are going through this year," Federer said, as quoted by Sky Sports.
"If you're in the draw, you give yourself a chance. That's what happened for me last year. And it ended up way better than I thought it would. It was the tournament of the year for me, no doubt about it. Having no expectations was so nice after all these years always having expectations, like now this year again.
"With age, I feel like I play down my chances just because I don't think a 36-year-old should be a favourite at a tournament. I feel like maybe somebody like a Rafa, with the year that he's had, and Novak, with the six titles he's had here, even if it's unknown how he's feeling, they could very well be the favourites too.
"It's just great to be back, I'm so, so happy. The Australian Open, it's time again. I can't believe it's been a year, but it's okay. I'll make the most of it."