Roger Federer tweaking tested routine in search for edge
Roger Federer will set a record for longevity when he begins his Australian Open campaign on Tuesday but there are important new influences in the 32-year-old's life.
On the personal side, his wife Mirka is expecting their third child, while he has both a new coach and a new racquet.
Federer has made the switch to a larger-headed racquet, which he unsuccessfully trialled last summer but now appears much happier with.
And among his support camp at Melbourne Park will be six-time grand slam champion Stefan Edberg, who has agreed to work with Federer for 10 weeks this season.
Federer became the latest top player to recruit a 1980s great after the pair spent a week together at his training camp in Dubai last month.
The Swiss said: "He's arriving here in the next few days. We'll see how it goes really, for all of us to find out it's going to be, how he wants it to be, how I want it to be. We'll talk about it hopefully as the tournament goes along.
"If it doesn't, we'll go back to practice maybe, do something different, and you figure things out on the practice courts again. Clearly I hope he's coming here for matches.
"My life on tour is pretty much settled. It's always solid routines. He'll just fit in nicely into that. I'm just really excited that he's taken up the offer because I didn't think he was going to do it because he's got a life. He doesn't need this.
"For me, clearly it's very exciting to have him as part of the team. I'm looking forward to every week I'll spend with him on the tour this year."
Edberg, who won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open twice, was Federer's hero when he was a child.
He added: "That was the idea as well, if it didn't work out at least I would have had a few nice dinners with him and been able to spend time with a childhood hero, which would have been plenty to fuel my motivation and inspire me for a few weeks or months."
Federer is trying to piece the puzzle together of how to rediscover his best form after his worst season in more than a decade.
The Swiss is competing at his 57th consecutive grand slam, breaking the record he jointly held with Wayne Ferreira, but he is no longer mentioned in the same breath as title favourites Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
After 36 straight grand slam quarter-finals and 17 titles, Federer is looking to make the last eight for the first time in three tournaments.
He began his season in Brisbane last week and reached the final before losing to a resurgent Lleyton Hewitt.
There he played with his new racquet, which has a 98-square-inch head, eight square inches larger than the one with which he has won all his grand slams.
As age inevitably slows Federer, a bigger-headed racquet should be a little more forgiving.
He said: "I've wanted to change for a number of years but I kept on playing well in the slams, kept on playing well on the tour. Things were just going so well I only did minor changes to my racquet.
"After Wimbledon this year I finally had a bit more time. I was going to do some more after the US Open, but I wasn't in the mood for that, so I waited for the end of the year and did some more testing there.
"Now I've really been putting in a lot of hours on the racquet. It feels good. I'm really looking forward to playing with that racquet here."
Federer is never a man to talk himself down and, after back problems contributed to his poor 2013, he gave an upbeat assessment of his form and fitness.
"I feel good," he said. "My confidence is there. I'm happy I played Brisbane, so I know where my game's at.
"I'm happy I'm able to continue playing tournaments and grand slams, whatever it is in a row. I'm very proud of that. I hope I can keep playing for a long time."
"At the end of the day it all comes down to how well I play to see how big my chances are to go really far and win the tournament."