Federer, aged 37, who faces Denis Istomin in the final match of the opening day in Rod Laver Arena this morning, has had occasional fitness issues of his own, but careful scheduling – such as his decision to skip the last two clay-court seasons – has helped to ensure that he can continue to compete at the highest level.
“I’ve always believed I can play tennis when I don’t train so much,” Federer said here yesterday. “I think that’s been maybe one thing that for me, the confidence I have in my game, even if I don’t play so much, I still feel like I can come up to a good level. Maybe that takes away some pressure. Maybe also the way I play tennis, maybe it’s smoother than the other guys.”
Murray, who played Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut overnight, revealed last week that this tournament could be his last because of the hip injury he suffered at the 2017 French Open. Although he had surgery last January, he is still suffering with pain. Having hoped to make this summer’s Wimbledon his farewell tournament, he admitted that he might end his career here.
Murray has struggled since his extraordinary exertions at the end of 2016, when he won nine of the 13 tournaments he played from April onwards and won his last 24 matches of the season to secure his position at the top of the year-end world rankings.
His last match that year was in the penultimate week of November, yet he went ahead with his traditionally gruelling Miami training camp the following month and played in Doha in January before going down to a lacklustre defeat against Mischa Zverev here in the fourth round of the Australian Open.
In the following weeks Murray fell ill with flu and shingles, sustained an elbow injury and finally suffered the hip problem that will bring a premature end to his career.
Federer, meanwhile, admitted that luck might have played a part in his own longevity but added: “I think I really understand my body very well. I know when something hurts and I can play with it. I know when something hurts and I should not play with it.”
Asked if he thought age made a difference, Federer said: “I think what happens with age maybe the most is that certain things take longer to recover from.
“All of a sudden at maybe 30, 35, 40, depending on who you are, what problems you’ve had, you will just feel it for two weeks. You can still play, but now you’re playing with pain. It just takes longer to get rid of.”
Federer, who played Murray in an exhibition match in Glasgow in 2017 as his rival was attempting to recover from his hip problem, was asked about the Scot’s decision to retire.
“I think unfortunately his body took the decision,” he said. “I think it must have been a very long couple of years for him now. When I played with him in Glasgow, I know how not well he was. I couldn’t believe he actually played.”
Federer added: “I guess everybody can understand where he comes from. At some point when you feel like you’re never going to get back to 100pc and you’ve had the success that Andy has had, you can only understand the decision.
“I was disappointed and sad – and a little bit shocked – to know that now we’re going to lose him at some point – though we’re going to lose everybody at some point. It’s just now that it’s definite.
“Of course I hope that he can play a good Australian Open and he can keep playing beyond that, really finish the way he wants to at Wimbledon. That’s what I hope for him.
“Of course it hits us top guys hard because we know Andy very well. We like him. He doesn’t have any enemies, to be quite honest. He’s a good guy, Hall of Famer, legend. He won everything he wanted to win. Anybody would substitute their career with his.” (© Independent News Service)
Live Eurosport, from 5.0am