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Australian Open door opens for Federer as rivals battle injuries

The Australian Open is shaping as a battle between the walking wounded, and that spells very good news for world number two Roger Federer.

Key points:

  • Roger Federer seeking to defend Australian Open title he won in 2017
  • World number one Rafael Nadal battling knee complaint, Novak Djokovic has elbow knock
  • Australian Open commences January 15

Rafael Nadal (knee), Andy Murray (hip), Novak Djokovic (elbow), Milos Raonic (wrist), Kei Nishikori (wrist), and Stan Wawrinka (knee) are all under injury clouds approaching the first major of the year.

It remains to be seen which of the injured stars will even make it to the Australian Open.

Federer has avoided the carnage so far, with the 36-year-old opening his Hopman Cup campaign with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Japan's Yuichi Sugita on Saturday night.

Although rusty at times, Federer was happy with his first hit-out of the season, and said his body was feeling great.

With a host of his main rivals battling injuries, Federer's chances of defending his Australian Open crown are increasing by the day.

However, Federer isn't getting carried away just yet.

"Look, they pulled out [of warm-up tournaments] maybe because they're not quite ready yet, or maybe because they need a couple more weeks," Federer said.

"We'll only really know in a week or 10 days' time who is really actually going to pull out. That's when you can really talk about it.

"Because so far maybe it's precautionary. Maybe it's really that they're not feeling well.

"I hope they all get back. But something tells me that two guys out of the five, six probably won't make it. Because it seems too many guys are actually fighting something."

Federer said even if a bunch of top contenders were forced to pull out, it would still be a difficult task to win the Australian Open.

Roger Federer plays a sublime backhand.

"Maybe it's going to open the door for me, and others too," Federer said.

"But that's just all talk right now.

"At my age I've got to be really focused about my own game, my own body, my own problems that I will have.

"It's still going to be be seven matches over five sets. That's not easy to do.

"Regardless of who's going to be playing, and who is not, to win the Australian Open doesn't come around easily."

Switzerland beat Japan in its opening Hopman Cup tie, and will face Russia's pairing of Karen Khachanov and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Tuesday night.

AAP

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