DUBAI (Reuters) - Roger Federer believes his early exit from the Australian Open has provided him with the silver lining of crucial extra practice time for the long season ahead — and he even celebrated the setback with a glass of champagne.
Federer, who returns to competitive action in the Dubai Championships on Monday in his first event since the shock third-round loss in Melbourne, typically found something to be cheerful about in the January failure.
That he could put such a positive spin on his defeat by Italian journeyman Andreas Seppi — Federer’s worst performance in Melbourne since 2001 — gives an indication of how the 17-time grand slam champion can maintain his motivation at 33.
“That night I celebrated with champagne with my team, thanking Seppi as I had got nine days extra off... some additional time for practice as well,” Federer told reporters in Dubai.
“After every loss, there is a new plan. I have just gone through this process now.”
The world number two will play Russian veteran Mikhail Youzhny in Dubai’s first round before Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic potentially await in the semi-final and final.
“It is going to be tough as I’ve had a long break, one of the longer ones I’ve had in many years but it was necessary as I played a lot of tennis in the last six to eight months,” said Federer.
The father-of-four said there was too big a gap in ranking points between him and world number one Djokovic to be thinking of reclaiming top spot soon.
“(I will) just enjoy myself on the tour, play as well as I possibly can and if he shows up across the net for me then I will try to beat him,” said Federer.
Of his relationship with his Dubai rivals, Murray and Djokovic, who is fresh from claiming a fifth Australian Open title, Federer added: “Novak, it’s always been the same, it’s been nice and casual.
“Same as Murray, I chatted with him today. From my side, I’m cool, but you’ve got to ask the other guys. It’s normal sometimes to get a bit edgy with some players. Over a 10 to 15 year career, that’s always going to happen.”
Reporting by Matt Smith; Editing by Ian Chadband