Tennis

Coming up next: Federer v Father Time

Federer, 36, plans title defence in Melbourne next year

Australian Open champion Roger Federer is set to continue defying Father Time after announcing he will return to Melbourne for his title defence next year, the Swiss said yesterday.

The 36-year-old bagged his 20th Grand Slam title and sixth at Melbourne Park on Sunday with a 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Croatia's Marin Cilic, but initially forgot to say whether he planned to defend the title.

"Yeah, I'd love to come back. I know I forgot to say that after the match," a bleary-eyed Federer said yesterday.

"But I hope I come back again next year."

Federer equalled the record of six Australian Open men's titles, held by Novak Djokovic and Roy Emerson, and emulated Ken Rosewall's feat of claiming three Grand Slam titles after the age of 35.

This year seems more surreal, I can't believe I was able to defend my title after all these years. Roger Federer on his sixth Australian Open crown

His longevity has in part been put down to the careful management of his playing schedule.

Despite being fully fit, he skipped the entire clay-court season last year to concentrate on Wimbledon, a decision that paid off with his eighth title on the south-west London grass courts.

He reiterated yesterday that he would continue to manage his schedule tightly and, despite being within sight of the world's top ranking, a decision on whether his next tournament would be in Dubai late next month has yet to be made.

"We were in talks with them (Dubai organisers) but when the (Australian Open) tournament started, I just said, 'Look, if it's OK, I'd like to decide after the tournament'," Federer said.

"That's an ideal scenario for me. After the tournament, I'll know how I feel... did I come out injured or not?

"So now we know what the situation is.

INTERLINKED

"I also have to decide on the clay-court season, so all these things are kind of interlinked.

"But it's possible I'll play something, but it's also possible that maybe I just don't play anything (for a while)."

Federer said he would make the decision about his schedule after spending some time with family at home in Switzerland, where he hoped the fact he had won the Australian Open title again would finally sink in.

"This year seems more surreal, I can't believe I was able to defend my title after all these years, that I could do it again," he said.

"To reach number 20, number six here, it's just a lot trying to take it in.

"Last year was a lot more straightforward, just disbelief that I won and there I was waking up with the trophy.

"But, I don't know, this year feels more surreal.

"It's super special, one of the great moments in my career, and maybe this one is going to take longer to sink in." - REUTERS

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