Queensland

Federer arrives in Brisbane and the living is easy: 'I'm in a good place'

Tennis superstar Roger Federer is in Brisbane and Australia just seems to relax that little bit extra.

Federer in Brisbane means it is New Year and the city's rapidly growing international tennis tournament - the Brisbane International – is ready to start on Sunday.

Roger Federer with representatives of the indigenous Mirrabooka tribe after a traditional Welcome to Country ceremony at ...
Roger Federer with representatives of the Nunukul Yuggerah indigenous dance group after a traditional welcome to country ceremony ahead of the Brisbane International on Saturday. Photo: Getty Images

And that also means the Australian Open – the first grand slam event for the year – is only weeks away.

Before heading out to the Queensland Tennis Centre at Tennyson for practice, the world's number 3 - regarded as the best tennis player since Rod Laver – arrived at Brisbane's South Bank Parklands in front of three-metre tall letters that spell out 'Brisbane'.

A new Brisbane CityCat – named the Ya-wa-gara, which means Breakfast Creek - painted to promote the Brisbane International – delivered the relaxed and lean tennis star from his hotel to South Bank by the Brisbane River.

With a broad smile he accepted indigenous boomerangs and spears as Brisbane's indigenous dance group, Nunukul Yuggera, welcomed him with two welcome dances and a fire-starting ceremony.

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The dancing grabbed the now 34-year-old Swiss tennis master's attention in his third trip to the Brisbane International.

"I haven't seen this dancing since the Sydney Olympics in 2000, I was just thinking while I was watching it," he said.

"It has been a long gap, but I really enjoyed it. I thought it was very traditional and I always welcome such performances. I think it is wonderful."

The Brisbane International in 2016 has lured eight of the world's top 20 men's players and nine of the top 20 women's players eager to acclimatise before the Australian open.

However Roger Federer – winner of 17 Grand slams - said he does not see the Brisbane International as a preparation series for the Australian Open.

"I know people always like to talk about it as a preparation tournament for bigger things, but I don't see it that way," he said.

"I only play so many tournaments throughout the season and every tournament I play is important to me.

"It was one of six tournaments I played last year and it was an important one because it got the year going.

"And playing Pat Rafter Arena in front of the crowds here in Australia, it is always very exciting for me and it's a tournament I want to win."

Federer won the Brisbane International's males singles in 2015 – in his 1000th match – before Queensland's former stars Roy Emerson and Rod Laver.

He was runner-up to friend and retiring Australian rival Lleyton Hewitt in 2014.

Former world number one Lleyton Hewitt (2002) has decided to retire after the 2016 Australian Open.

Federer was full of praise for his friend, who won the 2001 US Open and the 2002 Wimbledon crowns.

"He was an unbelievable teenager; he was so strong so early and I learned a lot from him; how tough and how feisty he was, how tough mentally and physically he was."

"And he is one of the reasons why I am the player I am today because (at the start) I took a completely different route.

"I went more the talent route - and thought it would take care of itself by itself – but eventually I worked hard as well like him."

"But also watching him was maybe even more fun, because I liked his work ethic and the spirit he bought to the match every single time."  

The relaxed Federer said he did not feel pressured to win one more grand slam title; he has 17 grand slam victories, but has not won one since Wimbledon in 2012. He had a back injury in 2013.

"I think there is an interesting years head of us, with a lot of youngsters wanting to make a move this year – Nishikori, Raonic and Dimitrov – wanting to make their move finally into the top four or five.

"And then for us, the top guys it is about hanging on where we are and maybe improving the rankings here and there.

"So it is going to a challenging year."

More than 100,000 people come to Brisbane each year to see the tennis played at Tennyson.

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