Roger Federer talks retirement.
Roger Federer talks retirement.Source: AFP

Andy Murray won’t be one of them, but Roger Federer believes improved diet, greater professionalism and a shrinking world will lead to more tennis stars playing deep into their thirties.

Federer will match Lleyton Hewitt’s record of 20-consecutive Australian Open appearances when he bids for an unprecedented seventh men’s singles crown in Melbourne.

The great Swiss is promising to return again next year, at age 38-and-and-a-half, if he mounts yet another successful title defence over the coming fortnight.

“It’s been a very emotional place for me to play here and I can’t believe it’s been 20 years plus juniors plus qualifying so it’s been more than that actually,” he said ahead of his first-round clash on Monday with Denis Istomin.

Barty blasts through to final

Barty blasts through to final

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MATT EBDEN

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First round opponent: Jan-Lennard Struff (Ger)

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Matty has very high expectations of himself. He’d be expecting to win this one and I expect him to win as well. Sometimes he gets himself a little bit tied up in matches. Hopefully that doesn’t happen and he moves through to the second round.

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Verdict: He’s had a really good 12 months and should be looking to continue that form here.

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BERNARD TOMIC

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First round opponent: 6-Marin Cilic (Cro)

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On paper it looks a stinker for Bernie. But, conversely, Marin wouldn’t be over the moon about this. I think the penny has dropped to a certain extent with Bernie. He needs to find a way to fight when it’s not going his way. The effort tap gets turned off when it all gets too much so I’d like to see some fight from Bernie.

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Verdict: Looking at this last six months and how he’s prepared for this I’ve got a feeling he might be OK and push Marin a long, long way.

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JORDAN THOMPSON

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First round opponent: Feliciano Lopez (Spa)

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It’s a tough draw against the veteran Spaniard who will try to keep the ball low. A middle of the day match where the court has more life will help Jordan.

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Verdict: He’s only won three Grand Slam matches in his life and none in 2018. That needs to change but I like his chances, even though he’ll be the underdog.

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JASON KUBLER

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First round opponent: Thomas Fabbiano (Ita)

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Kubler got a wildcard. He was just outside the cut off after a great 12 months. A few of these guys who don’t get the headlines and don’t get the notoriety in Australian tennis actually had a really productive 12 months — and Kubler fits that category.

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Verdict: I just want him to do well and I think he gets the draw to do it.

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JAMES DUCKWORTH

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First round opponent: 2-Rafael Nadal (Spa)

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He’s the unluckiest man in Australian tennis, James Duckworth, because he has had stinker draw after stinker draw after stinker draw and then he gets this one.

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Verdict: I don’t know how he gets past Rafa.

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ALEXEI POPYRIN

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First round opponent: Mischa Zverev (Ger)

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This is a very good test against a hardened veteran, who is at the tailend of his career.

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Verdict: Alexei gets his chance here if Mischa is just hanging on and enjoying the experience. But if he rocks up and plays his best serve and volley tennis then Alexei is going to find it very, very difficult.

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MARC POLMANS

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First round opponent: Denis Kudla (Ned)

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Another guy behind the scenes working his absolute backside off. Kudla is a seasoned professional and a class above Polmans — just — at this stage of their respective careers.

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Verdict: A home crowd and lots of support could help Marc cause an upset.

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ALEX BOLT

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First round opponent: Jack Sock (US)

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If Jack Sock is healthy this is a really tough proposition as he’s got one of the best forehands on the tour and a big game on his day. But it might not be his day because he’s had a hip worry.

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Verdict: He’s up against it, no question. But he’ll be put on a noisy court and I’ve seen Jack get frustrated in those circumstances before. Maybe it will unsettle him and play a part.

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THANASI KOKKINAKIS (Qualifier)

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First round opponent: TBC

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It’s quite amazing Thanasi hasn’t won a Grand Slam match since 2015 when he beat Bernard Tomic in an epic at the French Open. Since then he has not been sighted in a meaningful way at a Grand Slam. Here’s his opportunity.

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Verdict: If he’s fit — mentally and physically — he will give it a good shake, as he always does.

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DEMON WINS ALL-AUSSIE QUARTERFINAL TO ADVANCE IN SYDNEY

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THE SERENA SITUATION: IS IT THE CHAMPION AGAINST THE REST?

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THE PROS AND CONS BEHIND THE CONTROVERSIAL NEW RULE AT AUS OPEN

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WOMEN’S DRAW

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15- ASH BARTY

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First round opponent: Luksika Kunkhum (Tha)

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Ash is our best local hope of making the quarter-finals at the Australian Open — men’s or women’s. She had a remarkable 2018 and after beating Simona Halep in Sydney she knows she can beat the big guns. Ash also beat Angelique Kerber late last year.

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Verdict: She’ll get off to a winning start here. Fingers crossed we’re still talking about her late in the second week.

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DARIA GAVRILOVA

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First round opponent: Tamara Zidanksek (Slo)

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I’m a little bit disappointed Dasha hasn’t been able to take that next step. She’s been in the 20s and 30s for a while now. But she loves playing at the Australian Open and will want to impress.

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Verdict: She’s against an opponent she should beat. But we know on occasions she’s beaten herself. We’ll have to wait and see what we get.

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AJLA TOMLJANOVIC

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First round opponent: Johanna Konta (Gbr)

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This is a tough draw. Now that Ajla’s injury woes are behind her she’s actually playing some good tennis, but Jo Konta is a good player and loves these conditions.

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Verdict: On her day, Ajla has a big and powerful game and can trouble any opponent. I’d still favour Jo, but only just.

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SAM STOSUR

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First round opponent: Dayana Yastremska (Ukr)

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Sam has always had issues performing at the Australian Open, but I really admire that she’s still playing and still enjoying playing. For me, anything after the 2011 US Open victory in her career is a bonus.

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Verdict: We can’t be too disappointed if she rocks up and has a loss when she’s meant to win.

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PRISCILLA HORN

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First round opponent: Qualifier

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It’s a big moment and a big opportunity for the 20-year-old, who’s ranked in the 160s and has never won a Grand Slam match.

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Verdict: Probably could’t get a better opportunity than a qualifier first up.

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KIM BIRRELL

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First round opponent: Qualifier

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She would be feeling good after beating Daria Kasatkina — that’s a huge result in beating the world No. 10.

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Verdict: There’s every reason to suggest she can win her first Grand Slam match.

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DESTANEE AIAVA

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First round opponent: 17- Madison Keys (US)

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I feel sorry for the ball because it is going to be hit very, very hard. Destanee is only 18 and still developing, but her potential is definitely there, as Simona Halep found out in the first round last year.

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Verdict: It’s hard not to like her game, but unfortunately it’s hard not to like her draw. It’s a really difficult one first up.

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ELLEN PEREZ

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First round opponent: Wang Yafan (Chn)

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This will be Ellen’s first Australian Open, but she has some experience on her side, after going through the US College system. Hopefully the occasion doesn’t affect her too much.

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Verdict: She’s against an opponent who’s really more of a doubles specialist, even though she ranked No. 64 in the world. It’s a big opportunity.

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ZOE HIVES

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First round opponent: Bethanie Mattek-Sands (US)

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I don’t know a hell of a lot about Zoe, but I do know Tennis Australia doesn’t dish out wildcards for the sake of it these days. Her opponent hasn’t played a Grand Slam match in singles since her knee exploded at Wimbledon in 2017.

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Verdict: The American is a very talented player when fit. Zoe will be in a bit of trouble is Mattek-Sands is back to her best.

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