Australian Open

Two decades since turning pro, Roger Federer is the favourite for Australian Open again

It shouldn’t astonish anyone if the 36-year-old takes his Grand Slam count to 20 in Melbourne.

This was us – well, most of us – predicting Roger Federer’s chances of winning the title ahead of last year’s Australian Open:-

“A 35-year-old dad coming back with an operated knee after an extended break. Tough, very tough.”

“Possible meetings with Berdych, Nishikori, Murray and Stan Wawrinka. Hmm… maybe not.”

“Wait, he’d have to beat Djokovic in the final? We’ll just enjoy him till he lasts. #ThankYouRoger.”

We’d accepted that 2012 Wimbledon would be the Swiss’ last Grand Slam success.

The oddsmakers, too, understandably didn’t favour this ageing, struggling Federer much. Djokovic’s odds were +150. Same as Murray’s. Wawrinka’s was +1100, Federer’s +1600.

Then he did what he did. Against his arch-nemesis, in five dramatic sets, down 1-3 in the last, he resurrected his chances in the final (and in hindsight, his career) to win his 18th Grand Slam. He worked a miracle in Melbourne.

Roger Federer overcame Rafael Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in a roller-coaster of a final in last year's Australian Open.
Roger Federer overcame Rafael Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in a roller-coaster of a final in last year's Australian Open.

“I thought I was gonna maybe win a few rounds. Depending on the draw, maybe get to fourth round or quarters,” he said after his semi-final win last year.

It wasn’t statutory modesty, it was an honest self-assessment by an ageing genius. Federer believed his comeback wouldn’t be an instant success.

Sure, he gave himself the best chance – a Grand Slam was skipped, Masters tournaments were sidestepped, a few thousand ATP points were sacrificed so he could be well-rested, make full recovery and have enough time to train. But training and tournaments, Federer knew, are two different dimensions.

Yes, Murray and Djokovic exited early. But there was Wawrinka and Nadal left to conquer. So, after the final, he cried, as he did in 2009 after losing to Nadal: then, the tears were of grief; now, his eyes welled up because of an accomplishment that’s beyond belief.

The difference 2017 made

At 35, he knew the body can’t keep taking orders, sometimes he’s got to listen to it too. Which is why, despite an unbelievable start to 2017, he handpicked when and where he wanted to play.

At 36, he understands this better. So, the light workout of Hopman Cup this year for him is enough before Australian Open’s heavy drill.

His game, he tweaked. The backhand, once a weakness, was now a weapon. Against opponents running with younger legs, he tried killing points than to fish for mistakes.

Mentally, too, he seems to be at ease like he was last time. Before he, sans hubris, knew he was the best. Now, he’s delighted to know he’s still among the best. Defeats used to taste too bitter, victories are a bonus now.

At this year’s draw ceremony in Melbourne, he recounted the fairy tale saying, “I was probably going to lose at some stage, the quarter-finals or the semi-finals at best because I would just run into a red-hot Djokovic, Murray or Nadal and my game wasn’t going to be good enough. But it was!”

Now, with Andy Murray out, Novak Djokovic coming in with little preparation and Nadal, too, returning from injury Federer will also start the year’s first Slam as the fittest among the ‘Big Four’. It shouldn’t astonish anyone if the Swiss can take his Grand Slam count to 20.

Finely clad in a black tux, Federer welcomed 2018 with a glass of wine in hand and fireworks exploding in the skies of Perth.

Throughout that week, the fireworks from his racquet helped Switzerland lift their third Hopman Cup. In singles and mixed doubles with Belinda Bencic, he was unbeaten in the tournament. Among those he bested in singles was Alexander Zverev, the most promising youngster of last year, and his potential semi-final opponent at the Australian Open opponent.

There are hurdles, including Zverev, that he has to cross to defend his Norman Brookes Challenge Cup.

“I don’t like usually going to draws because they freak me out,” he joked at the draw. “I don’t want to know who I play other than just seeing the sheet at the end and knowing who my first-round opponent is.”

Aljaz Bedene of Slovania, Federer’s first-round opponent, shouldn’t freak him out even if he hasn’t played him before. But many of his potential opponents in the subsequent rounds have bested him before. The list includes: Milos Raonic, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Zverev, Tomas Berdych among others.

And, if he conquers all these challenges, waiting for him at the other end in the final might be Rafael Nadal, thirsting to avenge last year’s defeat.

But bookmakers and tennis experts back the Swiss to win the title for the sixth time at the Rod Laver arena.

“He could always get picked off early, then it becomes a little more wide open,” said Patrick McEnroe. “But based on what I’ve seen so far, sort of what we saw not just last year but even the tail end of last year, I don’t think there’s anybody else that you could say is a favourite other than Roger at the moment.”

Favourite to win a Grand Slam at 36: Federer himself thinks this is unbelievable. “In my vision, I never had this, that I was going to be playing tennis with four kids,” he said. “That was not part of my dream.”

“My dream was hopefully holding up a trophy of some kind, my home-town tournament in Basel or a Wimbledon trophy or being world No.1 of the ATP.”

But on Monday, 20 years since he turned professional, this father of four will resume his fairytale at Melbourne Park.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

The ordeal of choosing the right data pack for your connectivity needs

"Your data has been activated." <10 seconds later> "You have crossed your data limit."

The internet is an amazing space where you can watch a donkey playing football while simultaneously looking up whether the mole on your elbow is a symptom of a terminal diseases. It’s as busy as it’s big with at least 2.96 billion pages in the indexed web and over 40,000 Google search queries processed every second. If you have access to this vast expanse of information through your mobile, then you’re probably on something known as a data plan.

However, data plans or data packs are a lot like prescription pills. You need to go through a barrage of perplexing words to understand what they really do. Not to mention the call from the telecom company rattling on at 400 words per minute about a life-changing data pack which is as undecipherable as reading a doctor’s handwriting on the prescription. On top of it all, most data packs expect you to solve complex algorithms on permutations to figure out which one is the right one.


Even the most sophisticated and evolved beings of the digital era would agree that choosing a data pack is a lot like getting stuck on a seesaw, struggling to find the right balance between getting the most out of your data and not paying for more than you need. Running out of data is frustrating, but losing the data that you paid for but couldn’t use during a busy month is outright infuriating. Shouldn’t your unused data be rolled over to the next month?

You peruse the advice available online on how to go about choosing the right data pack, most of which talks about understanding your own data usage. Armed with wisdom, you escape to your mind palace, Sherlock style, and review your access to Wifi zones, the size of the websites you regularly visit, the number of emails you send and receive, even the number of cat videos you watch. You somehow manage to figure out your daily usage which you multiply by 30 and there it is. All you need to do now is find the appropriate data pack.

Promptly ignoring the above calculations, you fall for unlimited data plans with an “all you can eat” buffet style data offering. You immediately text a code to the telecom company to activate this portal to unlimited video calls, selfies, instastories, snapchats – sky is the limit. You tell all your friends and colleagues about the genius new plan you have and how you’ve been watching funny sloth videos on YouTube all day, well, because you CAN!


Alas, after a day of reign, you realise that your phone has run out of data. Anyone who has suffered the terms and conditions of unlimited data packs knows the importance of reading the fine print before committing yourself to one. Some plans place limits on video quality to 480p on mobile phones, some limit the speed after reaching a mark mentioned in the fine print. Is it too much to ask for a plan that lets us binge on our favourite shows on Amazon Prime, unconditionally?

You find yourself stuck in an endless loop of estimating your data usage, figuring out how you crossed your data limit and arguing with customer care about your sky-high phone bill. Exasperated, you somehow muster up the strength to do it all over again and decide to browse for more data packs. Regrettably, the website wont load on your mobile because of expired data.


Getting the right data plan shouldn’t be this complicated a decision. Instead of getting confused by the numerous offers, focus on your usage and guide yourself out of the maze by having a clear idea of what you want. And if all you want is to enjoy unlimited calls with friends and uninterrupted Snapchat, then you know exactly what to look for in a plan.


The Airtel Postpaid at Rs. 499 comes closest to a plan that is up front with its offerings, making it easy to choose exactly what you need. One of the best-selling Airtel Postpaid plans, the Rs. 499 pack offers 40 GB 3G/4G data that you can carry forward to the next bill cycle if unused. The pack also offers a one year subscription to Amazon Prime on the Airtel TV app.

So, next time, don’t let your frustration get the better of you. Click here to find a plan that’s right for you.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Airtel and not by the Scroll editorial team.