Nadal the deserving favourite at Melbourne Park: Federer

Nadal`s possession of three grand slams makes him favourite to win Oz Open, feels Federer.

Melbourne: Rafa Nadal`s possession of three grand slams makes him the deserving favourite to win the Australian Open, arch-rival and defending champion Roger Federer said on Saturday.

Federer defeated Nadal in three sets at the World Tour Finals in London to deny him the perfect signoff to a brilliant season, but the Spanish world number one`s French, Wimbledon and US Open crowns left the Swiss in little doubt.

"He should be favourite, he`s holding three slams. I hold this one still, but, just!" the 29-year-old told reporters.

"Of course I won the World Tour Finals and I`ve been playing really well in the hard courts right now but he`s been the one that`s been dominating the slams really, and hardly (had) any tough matches really in the last three slams.”

"That clearly makes him the favourite, I think. I don`t have any problems not being the favourite."

Federer defeated Andy Murray in straight sets in last year`s final to notch his 16th grand slam and quash doubts about his motivation amid his new duties as a husband and father of twin baby girls.

But after being sensationally dumped out of the quarter-finals of both the French Open and Wimbledon, pundits starting questioning whether his aura of invincibility was fading.

Federer answered them in part with a strong finish to the season and carries solid form into the year`s first grand slam after winning the Qatar Open.

Fine Record

Although facing the possibility of losing at Melbourne Park, the first time he would not hold a grand slam since 2003, Federer was unfazed and said life wasn`t all about the majors.

"It is what it is. It`s not easy to win slams. That means I`ve done something quite extraordinary for many seasons," he said.

"The season`s not over after that. Maybe you`re not holding a slam, but you still have three more chances to win a grand slam.”

"At the end of the day it`s not only about grand slams, like what people make it out... The World Tour Finals is equally important; other tournaments are very important. I don`t just purely gear up for the slams."

Appearing relaxed in a yellow pastel polo shirt, Federer said his arch-nemesis Nadal, who he trails 14-8 in a rivalry that his lit up the men`s circuit, would be ready to play despite struggling to shake off a flu.

Nadal defeated Federer in a classic five-set final for the title in 2009, a match that left him in tears of agony, but the Swiss reminded reporters of his own impeccable record in Australia.

"I always had great times here. Never had a bad tournament here in Australia," said Federer, who will bid for a record fifth title at Melbourne Park.

"Obviously the great memories from being here and playing some epic matches also, let`s say, in Davis Cup with Lleyton (Hewitt), the finals here with Rafa, or the semis with (Marat) Safin that I lost here.”

"I`ve had some amazing matches here. This is also where I got to world number one in 2004. It`s been an amazing tournament for me really."

Bureau Report