Surprising even himself with his insane level at almost 38, Roger Federer isn’t looking beyond the first round as he pursues an unprecedented seventh Australian Open men’s singles crown.
Champion the past two years, Federer is taking nothing for granted – while still aiming high – as he also chases a magical 100th career title in a record-equalling 20th consecutive Open campaign starting on Monday.
“Look, 99’s already an incredible number. I could live happily ever after with 99 too,” the Swiss marvel said at Thursday night’s draw.
“But if you’re so close and knowing that I’m going to be playing this season, I’ll give it a go.
“If it were to happen trying to defend the title in Australia, sure I would take it. I would gladly take it. Reaching one hundred would be something truly special.
“I’m surprised I’m still at this top level, that I’m still able to stay in the top 10.”
The 20-times major winner shares the all-time record of six Australian Open titles with long-time rival and resurgent world No.1 Novak Djokovic and Swiss-based Aussie great Roy Emerson, who famously taught Federer how to milk cows.
“You might think this is a joke but it’s not at all. He was a farmer back in the day,” Federer said.
“I won Wimbledon back in ’03 and then I went to a home tournament in Gstaad, where he always had his summer camps and it’s called after him, the stadium there, nowadays and to welcome me, I got a cow as a present.
“And he milked the cow with me, or he showed me how to do it. That was the first time I did it, so that was awkward but a great experience.
“Just knowing Roy, what a great guy he is, and being in that company as well with Novak, who has achieved so, so much and will achieve much more as well in the future, it’s great sitting there with them right now.
“So it’s cool – and me and Novak, we’re going for more, so we’ll see what happens.”
But Federer is treading warily ahead of a dangerous first-round clash with Denis Istomin, the Uzbeki who ousted Djokvic in the third round two years ago.
“The moment you find out the draw and who you play, actually that’s when you shift your focus to the first round – and only to the first round and not to winning a seventh,” said the third-seed titleholder.
“You try to really simplify it rather than thinking too far ahead. But of course, in some way, I hope to defend my title because I can’t believe I won the last two.
“In a way, it has to be the goal.
“But I’m really trying not to put too much pressure on myself.”