'I'm not favourite in Dubai' - Federer

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The Fed is happy to be the underdog.

Coming off a sensational Australian Open title victory in Melbourne last month, Federer is high on confidence but admits there are question marks surrounding his readiness for back-to-back matches on consecutive days.

The last time the 35-year-old played an ATP tournament was in Halle last June after which he reached the Wimbledon semi-finals then took a six-month break to recover from knee and back injuries.

He started off the year by winning his 18th grand slam Down Under, where he had off days between each of his seven matches.

In Dubai however, it’s back to best-of-three matches on back-to-back days and Federer is uncertain how his body will react should he make it deep in the tournament.

“A little bit unknown. I hope we’re going to get into this problem, that I will have to play every day, that means I’m winning matches,” said the world No9, who opens his Dubai campaign against Frenchman Benoit Paire.

“It’s going to take me some time, until probably April, to feel my best because then I would’ve played best-of-five matches in Australia, back-to-back matches in Dubai, maybe some in Indian Wells and Miami, and then after Miami I would really know where I’m at.

“So I still feel like maybe it’s still some work in progress for me. Just getting to understand how the body is going to react, how much load the body can take. It’s definitely a little bit the unknown.

“But look, I know that the first round is tough, I don’t see myself as the favourite here at this tournament. Even though I have a great track record but it all starts from zero here.

“Yes I got some confidence in Australia but I did have a big break so I didn’t like right away go play again. The break is too big for me to come in and just play like I did in Australia. The conditions are a bit different here, it’s still fast. When it’s fast, margins are small, so I have to take it one a time.”

Federer spent four and a half seasons searching for that record-extending 18th grand slam triumph and when he did it, it was in spectacular fashion, with a five-set victory over his greatest rival, Rafael Nadal.

The Swiss does not see the period between his last two slam successes as a frustrating period, and feels he had stretches of high quality tennis during that time.

Now that he got No18, does he allow himself to target a higher number – perhaps 20?

“I don’t know, let me enjoy this one. I know the French is going to be hard just because I would have to put in so much work on the clay court season to really be perfectly ready for the French and then even then there is no guarantee. I have to ask myself the question: How much am I going to put into the French Open?” said Federer.

“I think Wimbledon and the US Open I’ll always have chances as long as I’m playing and I’m healthy. I think the court suits me well there, speed and everything, it comes very natural.

“But yeah, dare to dream, sure, why not? But again, I take it one at time. This one has been so amazing and I’m still riding the wave. But then clearly the goal will be eventually Wimbledon where I know this is where I’m going to have my best chance and where I hope to be at 100 per cent.”

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