Wawrinka prepares for Aussie Open in India

Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka kickstarts preparations for the year's first Grand Slam with his now customary stop-over in Chennai, India to play in the ATP Chennai Open starting on Monday.

Wawrinka prepares for Aussie Open in India
Wawrinka in action in Melbourne last year. Photo: AFP

The Swiss world number four makes his seventh appearance in the southern Indian city, this time as the defending champion of the $450,000 tournament at the Nungambakkam tennis stadium.

Wawrinka's victory in Chennai last year sparked an incredible run when he defeated Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and then upset top seed Rafael Nadal in the final to clinch his first Grand Slam title.
The 29-year-old ended the year by leading Switzerland to their maiden Davis Cup crown, having beaten French number one Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on the opening day before partnering Roger Federer to victory in the doubles.
"I like Chennai very much," Wawrinka was quoted as saying in a news release by the organizers.

"The atmosphere is always great and the fans are amazing, that's why I keep coming back.
"The tournament was a great start to an amazing year in 2014 and I hope that it will be the same in the new year."
Wawrinka, who will defend his Australian Open title in Melbourne from January 19th, said he had not set specific goals for 2015 other than staying fit and playing a consistent game on all surfaces.
"I want to play well and win titles at all levels," he said.
In Chennai, Wawrinka faces a strong challenge from a predominantly Spanish field that includes world number 14 Feliciano Lopez, number 15 Roberto Bautista-Agut, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Marcel Granollers.
Other leading contenders are Belgium's David Goffin, Luxembourg's Gilles Muller, Taiwanese veteran Yen-Hsun Lu and 2014 runners-up Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France.

The big-serving Lopez made a huge impression in 2014 when he reached the fourth round at Wimbledon where he lost to Wawrinka.

Lopez also made the third round of the US Open for a fifth straight year and beat Nadal at the Shanghai Masters.

Bautista-Agut won the ATP's most improved player of the year award by rising from number 59 to 15 in the rankings in 2014.

He also scalped world number five Juan Martin del Potro in the second round of the Australian Open.
Goffin, 24, was voted the ATP's comeback player of 2014 after returning from a wrist injury to gallop from 110 to world number 22 by the end of the year, in which he won his first two titles.
The top four seeds — Wawrinka, Lopez, Bautista-Agut and Goffin — have received a bye in the first round of the 32-man field.

The champion will pocket $73,400 and 250 ranking points.
India's number one Somdev Devvarman, ranked 139th in the world, will spearhead the local challenge after being handed a wild card by the organizers.

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Is this the end of the road for Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer?

Roger Federer is talking optimistically about returning to his "highest level" after knee surgery, but does tennis have to start adjusting to a future without the Swiss star?

Is this the end of the road for Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer?
Is it the end of the line for Roger? Photo: Martin BUREAU / AFP

The 20-time Grand Slam winner announced on Wednesday that he would be sidelined until 2021 after his second operation in a matter of months.

Federer remains upbeat, tweeting: “I plan to take the necessary time to be 100 percent ready to play at my highest level.”

In some ways 2020 is a good season to miss after the coronavirus ravaged the tennis schedule. Writing Federer off in the past has proved dangerous.

He returned from a six-month injury lay-off to claim the Australian Open in 2017, winning his eighth Wimbledon crown later that year.

But he will be 40 in 2021 and is now heading into uncharted territory.

Despite his groaning trophy cabinet, there are two factors that will motivate Federer to keep going — the risk of losing his grip on the men's Grand Slam title record and a missing Olympics singles gold medal.

Rafael Nadal has 19 majors, just one shy of Federer's mark and Djokovic has 17.

Spain's Nadal will be fancied to draw level with Federer at the French Open, rescheduled for September, while few would bet against Djokovic winning in New York weeks earlier.

In April, Federer said he was “devastated” when Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II. Last year he fell agonisingly short at the All England Club, failing to convert two championship points on his own serve against Djokovic.

The Wimbledon grass probably remains his best chance of adding to his Grand Slam collection — he has not won the US Open since 2008 and his only title at Roland Garros came in 2009.

Even though Federer has slipped from the very pinnacle of the game, he is still a major threat to Nadal and Djokovic.

'Golden' ambitions

Last year, the world number four had a 53-10 win-loss record and he reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open in January in his only tournament this year.

Federer, who is still six ATP titles short of Jimmy Connors' all-time record of 109, has one glaring omission from his CV — the Olympic title.

The Swiss won doubles gold in Beijing in 2008 with compatriot Stan Wawrinka but lost in the singles final to Andy Murray in London four years later.

The postponed Tokyo Games will almost certainly be Federer's last opportunity to complete a career “golden” Grand Slam — he will turn 40 on the day of the closing ceremony next year.

Tennis will feel the loss of the elegant Federer keenly when he walks off the court for the last time.

Djokovic and Nadal have been the dominant forces in recent years but the Swiss remains the biggest draw and last month topped Forbes' list of the world's highest-earning athletes.

His last appearance on court was in front of nearly 52,000 fans — touted by organisers as a world record for tennis — at a charity match against Nadal in Cape Town in February.

Federer is nearly always the crowd favourite wherever he plays and has proved a perfect ambassador for the sport since he won his first Grand Slam title in 2003.

He certainly expects to be back and competitive next year.

“I will be missing my fans and the tour dearly but I will look forward to seeing everyone back on tour at the start of the 2021 season,” he tweeted.

The avalanche of support from his adoring fans showed they would miss him too, but they will have to get used to a time when he is gone for good.