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‘Champion of his era’ Federer is still the best–Laver

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FILE – In this July 6, 2017, file photo, Switzerland’s Roger Federer kisses the trophy after defeating Croatia’s Marin Cilic to win the men’s singles final match on day thirteen at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)
Tennis great Rod Laver Tuesday said Roger Federer will always be “the champion of his era” and expects him to win more tournaments even though Rafael Nadal is just three matches away from overtaking his 20 Grand Slam title haul.
The 39-year-old Swiss has been out of action for a year and shelved plans to compete in the Australian Open as he continues his recovery from two knee operations, targeting a comeback at Doha next month.
He won the last of his 20 Slams at Melbourne Park in 2018 and Nadal will go one better if he lifts the title on Sunday.
The Spaniard, 34, faces Stefanos Tsitsipas on Wednesday for a place in the final four of this year’s Australian Open.
World number one Novak Djokovic, 33, is also in the last eight and takes on Alexander Zverev Tuesday as he chases an 18th Grand Slam crown.
Laver praised Nadal and Djokovic but said Federer was still in his eyes the best.
“For me, I think Roger is the champion of his era,” he told Fox Sports from his home in California, with the 82-year-old unable to travel to the Australian Open, where the center court is named after him, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think he’s certainly … you know, you look at his record and there’s a lot to say he’s the best of all time.
“But give some of the other guys a little bit more time, maybe they’ll come up and … be as good as Roger.
“Djokovic is certainly is on his way because he won a huge amount of tournaments and his consistency is amazing.”
Laver, the only player to win all four majors in the same season twice, and Federer have long shared reverence for each other.
The Laver Cup, pitting Europe against the Rest of the World, was established in 2017, driven by Federer to honor his hero’s legacy.
Laver said he had spoken with the Swiss star about how much longer he had left in the game.
“Roger, when I chatted to him the past year or so, he thought he’d play his best until he’s 40 and I think he’s pretty much on it,” Laver said, with Federer’s milestone birthday coming in August.
“Unfortunately, you know, his knee has been giving him some trouble. So he had an operation on the knee that will set him in good position.
“I wouldn’t think too much about him winning the French,” he added. “But I think Wimbledon is certainly going to be there and the US Open. I think he can win more tournaments.
“He loves to play, loves to compete. He loves the environment he’s in.”

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Who can stop Djokovic? Controversial king eyes 9th Aussie crown

Sander Totuli และ Roman Mathieu ชนะการแข่งขัน WCOAP

FILE – Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates after defeating Switzerland’s Roger Federer in their semifinal match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Novak Djokovic has not endeared himself to fans over the past year, but the Australian Open’s undisputed king will take some stopping as he targets a record-extending ninth title at Melbourne Park.
Djokovic claimed his 17th Grand Slam crown in last year’s gripping final, when he came back from 2-1 down to edge Austria’s Dominic Thiem in five sets.
The Serbian’s eighth victory in 16 visits reinforced his dominance in Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena, where he claimed his first Grand Slam title in 2008 and has won seven of the last 10 editions.
Rafael Nadal and Thiem look to be his biggest rivals at this year’s tournament, with six-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer sidelined as he recovers from double knee surgery.
The Australian Open was the highlight of a mesmerizing early 2020 season for Djokovic, who won his first four tournaments of the year.
However, off-court, things soon unraveled for the elastic-limbed world number one.
After tennis went into lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, Djokovic launched the ill-fated Adria Tour in June, with no social distancing and players pictured dancing shirtless at a packed nightclub.
Djokovic and his wife Jelena were among a number of people to subsequently test positive for the virus, with Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki also falling ill.
Line judge row
Worse was to come when tennis resumed and Djokovic defaulted out of the US Open in sensational fashion, when he angrily swiped away a ball that accidentally hit a female line judge in the throat.
His hopes of becoming the first man in half a century to win all four Slams twice then ended in a straight-sets defeat to Nadal in the French Open final.
Djokovic also drew negative comment in August for launching the Professional Tennis Players Association, a breakaway group outside the men’s tour, as tennis attempted to get back on its feet.
And he found himself labeled a “tool” by Australia’s Nick Kyrgios after requesting better conditions for players during Australia’s mandatory quarantine, including private houses with tennis courts.
Despite the off-court turbulence, Djokovic enjoys strong support in Melbourne — which has a sizeable Serbian population — and said Rod Laver Arena brings back “beautiful memories”.
“It does feel like a home for me in Australia, in Melbourne, particularly in Rod Laver,” he said.
“That is by far my most successful tennis court in my career. Had some profound memories in the last 15 years, and you know, won my first Grand Slam back in 2008.
“Had probably the most exciting matches played on this court, and definitely the longest match ever that I played was in the finals, almost six hours with Rafa (Nadal) in 2012.”
Nadal will undoubtedly figure prominently in the tournament but it is now 12 years since he won his lone title in Melbourne, despite four more trips to the final.
The Spaniard also has fitness concerns after he pulled out of the ATP Cup during warm-up week with a sore back.
Thiem came agonizingly close to victory last year and, buoyed by his first Grand Slam title at the US Open, will be confident against anyone in the draw — including Djokovic, against whom he has won five of their last seven meetings.
Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are also among the top contenders at a tournament where form is difficult to judge, with playing opportunities hard to come by during the pandemic.

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