Fed Express in no rush to beat record at Australian Open tennis tournament

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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MELBOURNE, Australia Roger Federer doesnt think he needs to be in a hurry to break Pete Sampras Grand Slam record.

Federer is bidding to equal Sampras 14 major titles by capturing the Australian Open.

The growing perception is that the 27-year-old Swiss will find it harder than in recent years to win a major, with Andy Murray joining Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic all 22 or under among the leading contenders to beat him.

I want to do well, not only this year but many more years, Federer said Sunday, a day before opening play against Andreas Seppi of Italy. I dont feel like this is my last chance to either win ... or pick up a few Slams more easily.

They never come around easily. Lets not forget who I had to beat on the way.

Nadal is 22 and already has five majors four straight at Roland Garros and the last at Wimbledon. He also snapped Federers record 237-week reign atop the rankings last season.

No. 3 Djokovic and No. 4 Murray will both be 22 in May. Federer was closing in on his 22nd birthday when he won Wimbledon in 2003, the first of his 13 major titles.

Federer doesnt think age will start counting against him.

He won three of the four majors in three of the last five seasons, twice finishing one match short of a season Grand Slam by losing the French Open final to Nadal.

But he had to wait until the U.S. Open to secure his first major of last season. Hes feeling more confident this year.

They will be tough to win, he said. But I know Ive got the game to do it.

Peter Polansky of Thornhill, Ont., and Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls, Ont., are also entered in the mens singles draw. Torontos Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia are the top seeds in the mens doubles draw.

A bout of mononucleosis hampered Federers preparations for the last Australian Open and he lost in the semifinals to Djokovic.

Federer lost momentum, and lost the French Open and Wimbledon finals to Nadal, who also won the Olympic singles gold medal.

Under pressure in the last Grand Slam event of the year, Federer beat Murray in straight sets in the final to win his fifth straight U.S. Open. He then struggled at the season-ending Masters Cup and Djokovic took that title.

I know a lot of people are saying this seems like a tough generation right now with Murray, Djokovic, Rafa and everything, Federer said. I dont think its that much stronger than when I came about.

Before Federers domination, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin and Juan Carlos Ferrero were all winning Grand Slams.

It just always seems like two years on and nobody talks about what happened two years ago, Federer said. Its not just now that we have really four great players again.

I think they were there before, but there were just different names.

Among those who think Sampras record could fall is Hewitt, who won the 2001 U.S. Open and 2002 Wimbledon and was ranked No. 1 before watching Federer take over and dominate.

You didnt really put anyone in the same category as Sampras, Hewitt said. That seemed like an awfully long way away before anyone got close to Petes record.

Hes had an unbelievable run. He won the last Slam, the U.S. Open, so hes going to be one of the favourites coming in here. If he does it, good on him.Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic of Serbia will highlight the womens action Monday.

Top-ranked Jankovic starts against Yvonne Meusburger, determined to overcome a virus that prevented her from playing in Hong Kong last week and to silence the doubters who think she doesnt deserve the top ranking because shes never won a major.

Ivanovic lost the final here last year to Maria Sharapova and then went on to win the French Open, her first Grand Slam title.

Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que., and Stephanie Dubois of Laval, Que., are also entered in the womens singles draw.



Organizations: Australian Open, Fed, U.S. Open French Open

Geographic location: Wimbledon, MELBOURNE, Italy Serbia Thornhill Niagara Falls Hong Kong Blainville Laval

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