Roger Federer will begin his quest for a fifth Australian Open title when he takes the Rod Laver Arena court on Monday night. Federer, who last triumphed Down Under in 2o10, is looking for his first Grand Slam title since Wimbledon in 2012.
Despite the relative drought, there are plenty of reasons for Federer and his fans to be encouraged. The 34-year-old Swiss has reached the final at each of the last two majors, losing to Novak Djokovic in four sets at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open during the summer of 2015.
Federer remained in fine form throughout the fall, even upsetting Djokovic in round-robin competition at the World Tour Finals. The 17-time slam champion made his way into the title match with an undefeated record before Djokovic exacted revenge. Following an offseason of little more than one month, Federer returned to Brisbane two weeks ago as the defending champion. He made yet another appearance in the final but lost to Milos Raonic.
Up first for Federer in Melbourne is Nikoloz Basilashvili, whom the world No. 3 has never faced. Basilashvili is a 23-year-old from Georgia who started to make a name for himself last season by enjoying a surprise run to the Wimbledon third round as a qualifier. He upset Feliciano Lopez in five sets in the process. Basilashvili comes in at No. 117 in the world, but he was No. 104 at the time of the Australian Open entry deadline and was eventually one of the last men to get in the field without having to go through qualifying.
Having not yet played a match this year, Basilashvili heads into the Happy Slam as a bit of a question mark. But there should no questioning what will transpire on the court in this one. Federer is likely to showcase way too much game for an inexperienced opponent who has not won an ATP-level match by anything except retirement since Wimbledon.
Prediction: Federer in straight sets