Melbourne, January 14: Roger Federer distanced himself from favouritism for the Australian Open, highlighting his advancing age as the defending champion talked up the chances of world number one Rafael Nadal and six-time winner Novak Djokovic.
Evergreen Swiss second seed Federer, 36, returns to Melbourne Park in his quest for a record-equalling sixth Australian Open title and 20th grand slam.
Federer – enjoying a relaxed a stress-free preparation for the year's opening slam which gets underway on Monday (January 15) – is the early favourite to reign supreme on Rod Laver as Nadal and Djokovic battle to be fully fit in Melbourne.
However, the former world number one insisted he is far from favourite to take out the 106th Australian Open.
"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," Federer told reporters on Sunday.
"At the end of the day, it's all just talk beforehand. The draws are always tough, you know, I must admit. Never look at a draw and think. That was lucky, that was a bad draw. It's always tough because everybody can play.
"My focus needs to be early because I have my own problems, you know, to get through my section of the draw, my game. That's my focus, not the other players really further down the line.
"It's nice that one year later I am second in the world and seeded highly. Okay, I have even more points to defend this year rather than last year. Last year I was looking at slipping outside the top 30. This year that's not going to happen.
"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."
Federer added: "This year I hope to win the first few rounds and get rolling hopefully, whereas last year I was just hoping to win. It was more of a 'let's see what happens' kind of tournament, maybe similar to what Novak or Stan or others are going through this year. It's like, let's just see what happens.
"I'm not at 100 per cent, but you never know in a week's time what's going to be happening. If you're in the draw, you give yourself a chance. That's what happened for me last year. All ended up way better than I thought it would, as you know.
"It was the tournament of the year for me, no doubt about it. All the five-setters, as well. 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 of a tournament, it should not be the case. That's why I see things more relaxed, you know, at a later stage of my career."