MELBOURNE: Veterans Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova head into the opening Grand Slam of 2015 next week as the form players, but there is a heady mix of youth and experience snapping at their heels.
Evergreen Swiss great Federer, 33, brought up a jaw-dropping 1,000th victory on Sunday by beating Canadian Milos Raonic to win the Brisbane International, laying down the Australian Open gauntlet to arch-rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
The world number two is now aiming for a 1,007th win, which would give him the title at Melbourne Park.
“Yeah, I do believe that,” Federer said when asked if he could claim a fifth Australian Open and his 18th Grand Slam.
“Then again, it’s just talk. At the end of the day, I’ve got to do the running, I’ve got to do the clutch play when it matters the most.”
In contrast to his flying start to 2015, world number one Djokovic’s preparations were cut short by giant Croatian Ivo Karlovic in the Qatar Open quarterfinals.