Federer the favourite for Australian Open
Swiss master tipped to retain Australian Open title
Roger Federer is the "clear favourite" to retain his Australian Open title over an injury-plagued field when the first Grand Slam of the season starts in Melbourne next Monday, said tennis analysts.
Federer's bid for a record 20th Grand Slam title will be aided by the absences of Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori, as well as lingering injuries to top players such as Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka.
But more so than the competition, it is the 36-year-old Federer's dominant play at this month's Hopman Cup, where he won all four of his singles matches and led Switzerland to the title, that gives him the edge.
"He looks younger than ever," said ESPN tennis analyst and former professional Patrick McEnroe.
"He's moving as beautifully as ever. He's hitting the ball brilliantly. Wins four or five matches at the Hopman Cup against high-level competition. To me, he's the clear favourite."
Bookmakers are tipping the world No. 2 and tournament's second seed to win the title at A$2.75 (S$2.88).
World No. 1 and tournament top seed Nadal, who lost to Federer at last year's Australian Open final, trails him at A$5.50.
Nadal, who pulled out of his first ATP Tour event of the year but appeared at an exhibition match, starts his Australian campaign against the 83rd-ranked Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic.
The 31-year-old Spaniard is on course to meet Croatia's Marin Cilic in the last eight.
Federer will open his title defence against Slovenia's 51st-ranked Aljaz Bedene and has a potential quarter-final with David Goffin.
"(Federer) could always get picked off early," McEnroe said.
"But based on what I've seen so far... I don't think there's anybody else that you could say is a favourite other than Roger at the moment."
ESPN analyst and former world No. 1 Chris Evert said Federer's experience and smooth style of play, which has left him relatively injury-free, set him apart from the field.
"This is a guy who is so relaxed... I think that affects him mentally as well as physically," she said.
"Mentally and emotionally, having kids, having a family, he gets away from the game. He knows how to compartmentalise really well.
"He lets the losses roll off his back, there's no tension there. I think he has a real joy for the game," she said. "That's what makes Federer, Federer." - REUTERS
Australian Open seedings
1. Rafael Nadal (Spain)
2. Roger Federer (Switzerland)
3. Grigor Dimitrov (Bulgaria)
4. Alexander Zverev (Germany)
5. Dominic Thiem (Austria)
6. Marin Cilic (Croatia)
7. David Goffin (Belgium)
8. Jack Sock (US)
9. Stan Wawrinka (Switzerland)
10. Pablo Carreno Busta (Spain)
11. Kevin Anderson (South Africa)
12. Juan Martin del Potro (Argentina)
13. Sam Querrey (US)
14. Novak Djokovic (Serbia)
15. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France)
1. Simona Halep (Romania)
2. Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)
3. Garbine Muguruza (Spain)
4. Elina Svitolina (Ukraine)
5. Venus Williams (US)
6. Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic)
7. Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia)
8. Caroline Garcia (France)
9. Johanna Konta (Britain)
10. CoCo Vandeweghe (US)
11. Kristina Mladenovic (France)
12. Julia Goerges (Germany)
13. Sloane Stephens (US)
14. Anastasija Sevastova (Latvia)
15. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Russia)