Over 30 Stars Still Dominate Men\'s Game At Australian Open

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal each have a chance to make a bit of history at the Australian Open.(Photo: Martin Richard, Presse Sports via USA TODAY Sports)

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MELBOURNE — In sports, the emphasis is often on the younger, but in a continuing tennis trend from last year the focus of the Australian Open men’s competition remains firmly planted on three over-30 former champions.

Key to the prognostication efforts wondering as to who is the favorite to win this year’s title are defending champion Roger Federer, at 36 the senior citizen of the threesome, and world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, five year’s Federer’s junior.

Federer and Nadal enter this year’s tournament as the only two men capable of leaving Melbourne as the top-ranked player in the world. Nadal only has to reach the quarterfinals to maintain No. 1 status, while Federer can overtake the Spaniard if he wins the title and Nadal loses before the quarters.

A relevant alternate in the prediction game is 30-year-old Novak Djokovic, already a six-time Australian Open champion. Djokovic, however, will be making his first appearance since Wimbledon after sitting out the second-half of last season nursing a right elbow injury.

While all are a fine examples of why not to write-off the more experienced athlete too soon, even Federer questioned his privileged billing at the Australian Open on Sunday.

"With age, I feel like I play down my chances just because I don’t think a 36-year-old should be a favorite of a tournament. It should not be the case," said Federer, who will play Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia in the first round. "That’s why I see things more relaxed at a later stage of my career."

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Last year, Federer arrived in Australia after being benched with a knee injury the previous six months, and with little expectations. After winning the Australian Open — which he refers to as "the tournament of the year for me, no doubt about it" — and Wimbledon last season, he’s in the hunt to become the only man to win a 20th career Grand Slam singles trophy if he successfully defends his title this fortnight.

"If you’re in the draw, you give yourself a chance," said Federer, who has won five Australian titles. "That’s what happened for me last year. It’s just great to be back."

Nadal, like Federer, also came into the 2017 Australian underplayed due to a a left wrist injury that marred the second-half of his previous season. He led Federer by a service break in the fifth-set of the final before he surrendered the first major of the year to the Swiss.

In the end, Nadal put forth a brilliant 2017 campaign. He became the first man to win the same Grand Slam title on 10 occasions at the French Open, picked up his 16th Grand Slam trophy at the U.S. Open, and returned to the top ranking to become the oldest year-end No. 1 in the 45-year history of the ATP rankings.

"It’s better to start No. 1 than No. 20," said Nadal with a smile. "I’m being honest. That’s the real thing."

"(But) everyone starts (the new year) from zero," he added. "I start from zero again. I just hope to be healthy and competitive again."

If Nadal, who plays his opening match against Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic, can win a second career Australian Open title this year — he won his first in 2009 — he would become the only man in the Open Era to win at least twice at each of the four majors.

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Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have delivered the best rivarly in tennis in the last decade. Nadal leads 23-10. Here, the duo chat during a groundbreaking ceremony at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in March 2013.
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have delivered the best rivarly in tennis in the last decade. Nadal leads 23-10. Here, the duo chat during a groundbreaking ceremony at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in March 2013.  Matthew Stockman, Getty ImagesFullscreenTheir rivarly already was amazing before the 2008 Wimbledon final, but that match in the fading light, won by Nadal, took it to new heights. Not sure? Just read "Strokes of Genius" by Jon Wertheim of "Sports Illustrated."
Their rivarly already was amazing before the 2008 Wimbledon final, but that match in the fading light, won by Nadal, took it to new heights. Not sure? Just read "Strokes of Genius" by Jon Wertheim of "Sports Illustrated."  Julian Finney, Getty ImagesFullscreenNadal consoles Federer during the trophy presentation after winning the 2009 Australian Open.
Nadal consoles Federer during the trophy presentation after winning the 2009 Australian Open.  Scott Barbour, Getty ImagesFullscreenThe loss in the 2009 Australian Open hurt for Federer, but he would bounce back and win Roland Garros and Wimbledon that season.
The loss in the 2009 Australian Open hurt for Federer, but he would bounce back and win Roland Garros and Wimbledon that season.  Andrew Brownbill, APFullscreenFederer and Nadal before the 2011 Australian Open.
Federer and Nadal before the 2011 Australian Open.  Julian Finney, Getty ImagesFullscreenNadal at the 2006 French Open.
Nadal at the 2006 French Open.  Michel Euler, APFullscreenFederer and Nadal before the 2010 U.S. Open.
Federer and Nadal before the 2010 U.S. Open.  Craig Ruttle, APFullscreenFans hold up oversized photos of the heads of Federer and Nadal outside Arthur Ashe Stadium during the 2011 U.S. Open. A place they have never played.
Fans hold up oversized photos of the heads of Federer and Nadal outside Arthur Ashe Stadium during the 2011 U.S. Open. A place they have never played.  Charlie Riedel, APFullscreenNadal and Federer in Top Spin 4, from 2K Games.
Nadal and Federer in Top Spin 4, from 2K Games.  APFullscreenNadal defeats Federer 6-3, 6-3 in Key Biscayne in 2004, their first meeting.
Nadal defeats Federer 6-3, 6-3 in Key Biscayne in 2004, their first meeting.  Wilfredo Lee, APFullscreenFederer defeats Nadal 2-6, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-1 in Key Biscayne, Fla., in 2005.
Federer defeats Nadal 2-6, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-1 in Key Biscayne, Fla., in 2005.  Steve Mitchell, APFullscreenFederer and Nadal at Monte Carlo in 2006. Nadal won 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-6 (5).
Federer and Nadal at Monte Carlo in 2006. Nadal won 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-6 (5).  Michael Steele, Getty ImagesFullscreenFederer loses to  Nadal in Rome in 2006, 6-7 (0), 7-6 (5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (5).
Federer loses to Nadal in Rome in 2006, 6-7 (0), 7-6 (5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (5).  Andrew Medichini, APFullscreenNadal , 2006, Roland Garros, a 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 win.
Nadal , 2006, Roland Garros, a 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 win.  Francois Mori, APFullscreenFederer at the 2006 Wimbledon.
Federer at the 2006 Wimbledon.  Kirsty Wigglesworth, APFullscreenNadal goes low to return a shot in the 2006 Wimbledon final.
Nadal goes low to return a shot in the 2006 Wimbledon final.  Daniel Berehulak, Getty ImagesFullscreenChampion Federer, runner-up Nadal at Wimbledon 2006. Federer won 6-0, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3.
Champion Federer, runner-up Nadal at Wimbledon 2006. Federer won 6-0, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3.  Anja Niedringhaus, APFullscreenNadal defeats  Federer 6-4, 6-4  in the final of the 2007 Monte Carlo Masters.
Nadal defeats Federer 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the 2007 Monte Carlo Masters.  Lionel Cironneau, APFullscreenNadal on the clay and Federer on the grass in 'The Battle of the Surfaces' at The Palma Arena Mallorca, Spain, on May 2, 2007.
Nadal on the clay and Federer on the grass in 'The Battle of the Surfaces' at The Palma Arena Mallorca, Spain, on May 2, 2007.  Clive Brunskill, Getty ImagesFullscreenFederer celebrates after defeating Nadal at the ATP Masters in Hamburg in May 2007.
Federer celebrates after defeating Nadal at the ATP Masters in Hamburg in May 2007.  Roland Magunia, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreenNadal gets Federer again at Roland Garros, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, in 2007.
Nadal gets Federer again at Roland Garros, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, in 2007.  Lionel Cironneau, APFullscreenFederer and Nadal after the 2007 Wimbledon final, won by Federer.
Federer and Nadal after the 2007 Wimbledon final, won by Federer.  Anja Niedringhaus, APFullscreenNadal and Federer at the U.S. Open Arthur Ashe Kids' Day in 2007.
Nadal and Federer at the U.S. Open Arthur Ashe Kids' Day in 2007.  Jason DeCrow, APFullscreenNadal and Federer at the 2007 U.S. Open Arthur Ashe Kids' Day.
Nadal and Federer at the 2007 U.S. Open Arthur Ashe Kids' Day.  Jason DeCrow, APFullscreenNadal beats Federer 7-5, 7-5 in the final in Monte Carlo in 2008.
Nadal beats Federer 7-5, 7-5 in the final in Monte Carlo in 2008.  Claude Paris, APFullscreenNadal defeats Federer 7-5, 6-7, 6-3 in the Hamburg final in 2008.
Nadal defeats Federer 7-5, 6-7, 6-3 in the Hamburg final in 2008.  Fabian Bimmer, APFullscreenNadal and Federer leave the court after Nadal's 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 win in the 2008 Roland Garros final.
Nadal and Federer leave the court after Nadal's 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 win in the 2008 Roland Garros final.  Jacques Memarthon, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreenNadal at the 2008 French Open, another win vs. Federer.
Nadal at the 2008 French Open, another win vs. Federer.  Christophe Ena, APFullscreenFrustration for Federer at the 2008 French Open vs. Nadal.
Frustration for Federer at the 2008 French Open vs. Nadal.  Laurent Baheaux, APFullscreenNadal bites the trophy after defeating Federer in the 2008 Wimbledon final, one of the classic matches in modern tennis. Nadal won 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7.
Nadal bites the trophy after defeating Federer in the 2008 Wimbledon final, one of the classic matches in modern tennis. Nadal won 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7.  Adrian Dennis, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreenAt the end of the epic, Federer and Nadal, Wimbledon 2008.
At the end of the epic, Federer and Nadal, Wimbledon 2008.  Ryan Pierse, Getty ImagesFullscreenGround crew members cover the court because of oncoming rain during the epic 2008 Wimbledon final.
Ground crew members cover the court because of oncoming rain during the epic 2008 Wimbledon final.  Carl Desouza, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreenNadal in the 2008 Wimbledon final.
Nadal in the 2008 Wimbledon final.  Adrian Dennis, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreenFederer and Nadal at Arthur Ashe Kids' Day in 2008.
Federer and Nadal at Arthur Ashe Kids' Day in 2008.  Peter Kramer, APFullscreenNadal and Federer play y tennis on top of a Dhow, a sailing vessel, in Doha Bay to launch the 2009 ATP World Tour during previews for the Exxon Mobil Qatar Open on Jan. 4, 2009.
Nadal and Federer play y tennis on top of a Dhow, a sailing vessel, in Doha Bay to launch the 2009 ATP World Tour during previews for the Exxon Mobil Qatar Open on Jan. 4, 2009.  Getty ImagesFullscreenNadal and Federer chat during a charity exhibition to raise money for Haiti at the Australian Open in 2010.
Nadal and Federer chat during a charity exhibition to raise money for Haiti at the Australian Open in 2010.  Shuji Kajiyama, APFullscreenTwo of the great rivalries of the most recent eras, Nadal-Federer and Andre Agassi-Pete Sampras, during the Hit for Haiti, a charity event during the BNP Paribas Open on March 12, 2010.
Two of the great rivalries of the most recent eras, Nadal-Federer and Andre Agassi-Pete Sampras, during the Hit for Haiti, a charity event during the BNP Paribas Open on March 12, 2010.  Kevork Djansezian, Getty ImagesFullscreenNadal beats Federer 6-4, 7-6 in Madrid in 2010.
Nadal beats Federer 6-4, 7-6 in Madrid in 2010.  Angel Navarrete, APFullscreenFederer and Nadal with Kim Clijsters of Belgium at Arthur Ashe Kids Day at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in 2010. The U.S. Open is one place the two have not faced off.
Federer and Nadal with Kim Clijsters of Belgium at Arthur Ashe Kids Day at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in 2010. The U.S. Open is one place the two have not faced off.  Timothy A. Clary, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreenNadal lines up a backhand during his victory against Federer in the 2011 French open final.
Nadal lines up a backhand during his victory against Federer in the 2011 French open final.  Thomas Coex, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreenFederer raps a forehand during his loss in the 2011 French Open final.
Federer raps a forehand during his loss in the 2011 French Open final.  Michel Spingler, APFullscreenNadal with his traditional trophy moment after defeating Federer 6-1, 6-3 in the Rome final, May 19, 2013.
Nadal with his traditional trophy moment after defeating Federer 6-1, 6-3 in the Rome final, May 19, 2013.  AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreenRoger Federer loses control of his racket trying to make a stab at a Rafael Nadal passing shot in the Rome final in May 2013.
Roger Federer loses control of his racket trying to make a stab at a Rafael Nadal passing shot in the Rome final in May 2013.  AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreenNadal celebrates a close win, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open in August 2013.
Nadal celebrates a close win, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open in August 2013.  Al Behrman, APFullscreenNadal comes out on top 7-5, 6-3 in the semifinals of the ATP World Tour Finals in London in November 2013.
Nadal comes out on top 7-5, 6-3 in the semifinals of the ATP World Tour Finals in London in November 2013.  Carl Court, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreenRafael Nadal greets Roger Federer at the net after a 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-3 victory in the 2014 Australian Open semifinals.
Rafael Nadal greets Roger Federer at the net after a 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-3 victory in the 2014 Australian Open semifinals.  Andrew Brownbill, APFullscreen

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    • div">>Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have delivered the best rivarly in tennis in the last decade. Nadal leads 23-10. Here, the duo chat during a groundbreaking ceremony at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in March 2013.1 of 46
    • div">>Their rivarly already was amazing before the 2008 Wimbledon final, but that match in the fading light, won by Nadal, took it to new heights. Not sure? Just read "Strokes of Genius" by Jon Wertheim of "Sports Illustrated."2 of 46
    • div">>Nadal consoles Federer during the trophy presentation after winning the 2009 Australian Open.3 of 46
    • div">>The loss in the 2009 Australian Open hurt for Federer, but he would bounce back and win Roland Garros and Wimbledon that season.4 of 46
    • div">>Federer and Nadal before the 2011 Australian Open.5 of 46
    • div">>Nadal at the 2006 French Open.6 of 46
    • div">>Federer and Nadal before the 2010 U.S. Open.7 of 46
    • div">>Fans hold up oversized photos of the heads of Federer and Nadal outside Arthur Ashe Stadium during the 2011 U.S. Open. A place they have never played.8 of 46
    • div">>Nadal and Federer in Top Spin 4, from 2K Games.9 of 46
    • div">>Nadal defeats Federer 6-3, 6-3 in Key Biscayne in 2004, their first meeting.10 of 46
    • div">>Federer defeats Nadal 2-6, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-1 in Key Biscayne, Fla., in 2005.11 of 46
    • div">>Federer and Nadal at Monte Carlo in 2006. Nadal won 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-6 (5).12 of 46
    • div">>Federer loses to  Nadal in Rome in 2006, 6-7 (0), 7-6 (5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (5).13 of 46
    • div">>Nadal , 2006, Roland Garros, a 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 win.14 of 46
    • div">>Federer at the 2006 Wimbledon.15 of 46
    • div">>Nadal goes low to return a shot in the 2006 Wimbledon final.16 of 46
    • div">>Champion Federer, runner-up Nadal at Wimbledon 2006. Federer won 6-0, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3.17 of 46
    • div">>Nadal defeats  Federer 6-4, 6-4  in the final of the 2007 Monte Carlo Masters.18 of 46
    • div">>Nadal on the clay and Federer on the grass in 'The Battle of the Surfaces' at The Palma Arena Mallorca, Spain, on May 2, 2007.19 of 46
    • div">>Federer celebrates after defeating Nadal at the ATP Masters in Hamburg in May 2007.20 of 46
    • div">>Nadal gets Federer again at Roland Garros, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, in 2007.21 of 46
    • div">>Federer and Nadal after the 2007 Wimbledon final, won by Federer.22 of 46
    • div">>Nadal and Federer at the U.S. Open Arthur Ashe Kids' Day in 2007.23 of 46
    • div">>Nadal and Federer at the 2007 U.S. Open Arthur Ashe Kids' Day.24 of 46
    • div">>Nadal beats Federer 7-5, 7-5 in the final in Monte Carlo in 2008.25 of 46
    • div">>Nadal defeats Federer 7-5, 6-7, 6-3 in the Hamburg final in 2008.26 of 46
    • div">>Nadal and Federer leave the court after Nadal's 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 win in the 2008 Roland Garros final.27 of 46
    • div">>Nadal at the 2008 French Open, another win vs. Federer.28 of 46
    • div">>Frustration for Federer at the 2008 French Open vs. Nadal.29 of 46
    • div">>Nadal bites the trophy after defeating Federer in the 2008 Wimbledon final, one of the classic matches in modern tennis. Nadal won 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7.30 of 46
    • div">>At the end of the epic, Federer and Nadal, Wimbledon 2008.31 of 46
    • div">>Ground crew members cover the court because of oncoming rain during the epic 2008 Wimbledon final.32 of 46
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    • div">>Roger Federer loses control of his racket trying to make a stab at a Rafael Nadal passing shot in the Rome final in May 2013.43 of 46
    • div">>Nadal celebrates a close win, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open in August 2013.44 of 46
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    On Saturday, the 14th-seeded Djokovic appeared happy to be making his return to the court, but provided sketchy-to-no information as to what the actual elbow injury was diagnosed as, whether the problem is completely behind him, and whether further medical action might eventually be needed.

    What is known is that along with his two coaches — Radek Stepanek on a daily basis, and Andre Agassi as the on-occasion guru — Djokovic has condensed his service motion in deference to the elbow problem.

    The possibility of Djokovic picking up a record seventh Australian Open title and overall 12th major trophy is hanging in the balance here. But the good news is he was cleared for action by his medical team.

    "It was a strange feeling for me, obviously, not to be able to compete for six months," said Djokovic, who starts his Australian campaign against American Donald Young. "The fire, passion and love for the sport still burns inside.

    "I do feel young inside, you know. Even though by some people’s opinion when you cross 30, you’re not young anymore. ... Roger and Rafa’s age is just a number, especially in Roger’s case."

    Stan Wawrinka, 32, who won the first of his three Grand Slam titles at the Australian Open in 2014, is also returning to the tour following knee surgery and having not played since Wimbledon.

    The ninth-seeded Wawrinka wasn’t sure he’d be ready to play, but took a chance in flying to Melbourne to practice and see how he felt. For now, he’s planning on facing Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania in the first round, but isn’t predicting past that match.

    "I know I’m not at the level I want to be this year because it’s a long process to get there," he said. "But I’m happy with the way the knee is handling."

    Hunger to compete and win, and a positive outlook are given necessities to becoming — and continuing to be — competitive champions. As the not yet over-the-hill Djokovic succinctly put it on Saturday, "Everything is possible really."

     

    Source : https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/tennis/2018/01/14/over-30-stars-federer-nadal-djokovic-wawrinka-australian-open/1032340001/

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    Over 30 Stars Still Dominate Men\'s Game At Australian Open

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    Over 30 Stars Still Dominate Men\'s Game At Australian Open

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    Over 30 Stars Still Dominate Men\'s Game At Australian Open

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    Over 30 Stars Still Dominate Men\'s Game At Australian Open

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    Over 30 Stars Still Dominate Men\'s Game At Australian Open