Federer rallies with Laver in rare Australian Open warm-up

Wed Jan 8, 2014 8:59am EST
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Roger Federer traded shots with his hero Rod Laver on Wednesday in the stadium that bears the Australian great's name before promising that his hunger for grand slam titles remains as strong as ever.

The 17-times grand slam champion beamed with pride after enjoying a few rallies with the 75-year-old, who was dressed in traditional whites and impressed a packed crowd with his movement ahead of Federer's exhibition match with French world number 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

"Hitting with Rod Laver for me clearly is an absolute dream come true," Federer told reporters after a crowd-pleasing 6-7(5) 6-3 7-5 win over Tsonga in the fund-raising event for his charity, the Roger Federer Foundation.

"It's in his arena as well, it's named after him and he deserves it so much.

"He told me that his wrist was hurting less on the forehand so he asked me to play there a bit more often.

"While I was playing my racket was feeling extremely heavy, that means I was very nervous which I really was because you don't want to miss a shot.

"I was happy we had some rallies. What an honor it was for me and I hope that the crowd enjoyed it and I'm very thankful that he was willing to do something like this because it's not normal in any way and that's why I really appreciate it."

The 32-year-old Federer has won four of his 17 major titles in Rod Laver Arena and famously burst into tears when receiving the second of his winner's trophies in 2006 from the Australian, the only man to complete two grand slams in calendar years.   Continued...

Switzerland's Roger Federer (R) talks with Australian tennis legend Rod Laver at Rod Laver Arena during a charity event in Melbourne January 8, 2014. REUTERS/David Gray