Roger Federer’s former coach Tony Roche has backed the former world number one to return to winning ways when he makes his injury comeback in 2017.
The Swiss maestro cut short his 2016 season owing to a knee injury and has not played since his semi-final loss to Milos Raonic at Wimbledon in July. He was expected to make his comeback with the Indian Aces franchise during the annual International Premier Tennis League, but lack of funds meant his return was pushed to the New Year.
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Federer has dropped to 16 in the ATP rankings and is likely to have a tough draw at the season’s first Grand Slam in Australia in January. Roche, however, has backed him to win at least two more majors before the 35-year-old calls time on his career.
“Once Roger is fit, I do believe he can win a Grand Slam or two. But yes, (Andy) Murray, considering how he is playing at the moment, has taken the game to a new level altogether. He has dominated the second half of the year, while Novak (Djokovic) dominated the first half,” Roche told Indian publication The Telegraph.
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The 13-time doubles Grand Slam winner also praised Andy Murray after the Scot attained the world number one ranking with a blistering second half of the season when he won four straight titles. Roche believes his ongoing battle with Novak Djokovic for the top spot and the return of Rafael Nadal and Federer will make for an interesting start to the 2017 season.
The ITF hall of fame inductee has credited Ivan Lendl, who is Murray’s current coach, whom Roche has coached in the past for the Scot’s successes in recent years. He believes that the current world number one has a slight edge over Djokovic at the moment, but warned against writing off the Serb at the Australian Open, where he has triumphed five times in the last six years.
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“So, the beginning of 2017 is going to be very interesting. Look, Murray is the in-form player, while Novak will have to fight to get his form back. You have also got Federer and (Rafael) Nadal coming back from injuries.
“To talk of Novak, it’s very hard to maintain such intensity. He dominated the first half of the year, but it’s never easy to sustain it. Mentally, it drains you out sometimes. So, staying at the top for over a long period of time is really difficult.
“I think Murray has the edge at the moment because he has Lendl in his corner. And as you know, when Lendl first worked with Murray, he helped the guy to get his first Grand Slam and the Olympic gold medal. So obviously, Lendl has made a huge difference to Murray. But don’t forget, Novak plays very well in Australia. His record is fantastic,” the former French Open winner explained.
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