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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Roger Federer doubts he is playing his 'best ever' tennis but is convinced that at 33, he is playing smarter and taking better care of himself as he looks to win a fifth Australian Open title.
The Swiss was virtually untouchable from 2004-10 when he won 15 of his record 17 grand slam titles, but those moments have tapered off and he has been overtaken as the world's most dominant player by first Rafa Nadal and now Novak Djokovic.
With many suggesting time was ticking down on his career, Federer confounded the notion that 'Generation Next' was set to usurp the triumvirate last year with a Wimbledon final appearance and semi-final defeats at Melbourne Park and Flushing Meadows.
He also won five titles and more singles matches than any other player on the ATP Tour and joined up with Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka to secure Switzerland's first Davis Cup title.
Federer then began 2015 by winning his 1,000th ATP tour level match on his way to the Brisbane title and the third seed was feeling more confident than last season when he entered the year's first grand slam with doubts over a back injury.
"There were many changes that took place in the six months leading into the Australian Open (last year), whereas this time around I've played so well," he told reporters on Saturday.
"Was able to win Brisbane last week. Makes me feel more secure this year coming into the Aussie Open."
Federer added that he had continued to improve his game from year to year and was also more mentally secure.
"I would hope that over the years I've always improved," he said. "I think I'm serving more consistent and stronger than I ever have. I think my backhand is working better than it has in the past as well.
"I had to adjust my game a little bit over the years. I feel I'm playing very well.
"If it's the best ever, I'm not quite sure. But I'm definitely very pleased how things have gone now the last six months."
Federer acknowledged he was entering the twilight of his career and with two sets of twins running around the family home as well, he had tempered his training to ensure he was working more efficiently.
"Quality is more important than quantity. Whereas when you're younger you got to put in the hours, you got to put in the work," he said.
"Doesn't matter if you're tired, all these things, you just got to get through it, get match tough, go through the grind.
"Eventually you have experience, you know what you need to get ready for a tournament."
Editing by John O'Brien