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Roger Federer cautious on his world No 1 aspirations as he continues to manage his weary post-Australia body

Twelve months ago Roger Federer said after winning the Australian Open that his team would “party like rock stars”. The 36-year-old Swiss was looking slightly the worse for wear here on Monday morning after successfully defending his title the previous evening, but put his appearance down simply to weariness.

“Honestly I’m just tired,” Federer said, having celebrated only briefly the previous evening following his victory over Marin Cilic. After winning his 20th Grand Slam title Federer did not leave Melbourne Park until 3am because of his post-match commitments, including a succession of media interviews, before joining friends and family in a bar.

“I only had a few hours’ sleep,” he said. “It was a nice relaxing evening last night. We really enjoyed ourselves, being together, away from the spotlight for a change, just with friends and family.”

He added: “I think we were all a little bit tired last night, but the celebration continues once I get back to Switzerland. I’ve got more friends and family there. I’m just really excited that I’ve got nothing going on in the next couple of weeks. It’s all quiet so I can just really take time to celebrate No 20. It’s super-special. We’ll try to make the most of it.”

Nevertheless, it might not be long before Federer is back on the road. Victory here, combined with Rafael Nadal’s quarter-final exit, has left the world No 2 just 155 points behind his great rival and he admitted that he is considering entering next month’s Dubai Open, which could provide his best chance of replacing the Spaniard at the top of the rankings.

Federer has yet to confirm his schedule for the rest of the year, but given that he is likely to skip the entire clay-court season once again in order to focus on his Wimbledon preparations, his best chance of reclaiming the No 1 position could come next month.

The Swiss has maximum points to defend in Indian Wells and Miami in March, which means that Dubai might be his only opportunity to increase his rankings points tally before the start of the grass-court season.

Nadal is due to play in next month’s Acapulco tournament in the same week as Dubai.  The world No 1 will be defending 300 points as last year’s runner-up, while Federer would have only 45 points to defend in Dubai. Nadal would therefore have to out-perform Federer that week to retain his No 1 position.

Although Nadal has entered Acapulco, he is recovering from the hip injury which forced him to retire during his quarter-final here last week against Marin Cilic. If he does not reappear until Indian Wells, Federer will automatically overtake him.

Federer, who last topped the world rankings six years ago, has not entered Dubai yet, but would be almost certain to receive a wild card if he requested one.


Federer was up until 3am doing post-match media commitments (REUTERS)

The Swiss has a warm-weather base in Dubai and admitted that he had been in talks with the tournament about playing there next month. He told organisers that he wanted to delay a decision until after the Australian Open.

“I also have to decide about the clay-court season, so all these things are inter-linked,” Federer said. “It’s possible I’ll play [in Dubai] but it’s also possible that maybe I just don’t play anything. It depends on how the next week or so goes. Then I’ll make a decision.”

Federer failed to say during his emotional on-court victory speech here that he looked forward to returning next year, which prompted some speculation that this might be his final season.

“I couldn’t really remember what I was saying at the end,” Federer said this morning after meeting Victoria’s State Governor, Linda Dessau, at Government House.  “All I wanted to say was a big thank you. There are a lot of people to thank in a moment like this. But of course I hope to come back next year.”

Federer, who admitted that he felt very tired, had said before the tournament that there was no way that a 36-year-old should be considered the favourite to win the title. He admitted today that before it began he had been unsure about whether he would be able to win the title again.


Federer does not think he can catch Margaret Court’s 24 Grand Slams (AFP/Getty Images)

“Like last year, I just felt that something was going to come in my way, that one guy would catch fire and I would not be able to stop him,” Federer said.

He joked: “Next year when I do come back I might actually believe I can win it – but then I probably won’t win it, so it’s better to stay really relaxed about my chances, especially in my later years on the tour. I think it’s served me well, that I stay more relaxed throughout.”

Having won his 20th Grand Slam singles title, Federer is four ahead of Nadal, his closest male rival, but four adrift of Margaret Court’s all-time record.

Did he think it might be possible for him to match Court’s tally?

“I don’t think so,” Federer said. “I didn’t think 20 was ever possible to be honest. I think it’s too far. It’s not something I’m looking at. I’ve never thought about it to be honest. Those numbers are surreal. They’re amazing. I’d be very happy if it stays at 20.”

Federer said his victory here this year felt “more surreal” than his triumph 12 months ago. “I can’t believe I was able to defend my title after all these years and do it again,” he said. “It’s very special. Maybe this one is going to take longer to sink in but this is how it feels right now.”

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