Coming back this year, Federer is in a very different position. He was ousted from the Australian Open in the fourth round by Tsitsipas and then when he got to Dubai, he struggled in the first couple of rounds against Philipp Kohlschreiber and then Fernando Verdasco. And yet, as only Federer can, he managed to flip the switch in his confidence and belief to power through the next three rounds and on to the trophy presentation without dropping a set. As for the boost to his confidence as he finally claimed that 100th title, that could prove to be priceless as he chases more silverware in the desert.
A big problem named Djokovic
The big problem for Federer comes in the form of a certain Mr Djokovic of Serbia. The way the world No.1 brushed aside Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final was as ruthless as it was swift. Even Djokovic was impressed with his evening’s work, describing it as a near perfect match. And it set him apart from the other greats of his generation – by winning his seventh Melbourne trophy (in itself a record), Djokovic is the only man in history to have won three consecutive Grand Slam titles three times in his career. And with his sights set on the record books, he seems all but unstoppable.
Meanwhile, Nadal is lurking in the shadows, waiting to make his move. His run to the Australian Open final was mightily impressive. He looked physically better and better with every round and he was playing an aggressive game.
That he ran into an inspired Djokovic in the final was simply his bad luck and as he left Melbourne Park, he vowed to work even harder to make himself better. Having not played for four months thanks to a string of injury problems, he knew there was plenty of room for improvement.
Nick Kyrgios beat Nadal in Acapulco, that is true, but no one could touch the mercurial Australian that week. Yes, Nadal was playing so far behind the baseline that he had almost set up camp in the car park but that was because Kyrgios was not allowing him to move so much as inch further forward. Even Djokovic would have struggled to control Kyrgios that day.