Monday, January 18, 2021

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Daniela Hantuchova is looking forward to seeing how Roger Federer reacts to playing in front of empty crowds once the much-loved tennis star returns to the ATP Tour in 2021. Federer has not played since the Australian Open earlier this year and has since undergone two knee surgeries.

The Swiss icon recently saw long-time rival Rafael Nadal join him on 20 Grand Slam triumphs while Novak Djokovic has also closed to within three major successes of Federer.

Now 39, Federer was pictured back on court as he builds up his fitness ahead of a return to competitive matches and said: “I should be on the court at the beginning of January.

“I am still fighting for my return, I want to be on the court, I would like to play with the legends of the game, with the best players.

“I feel that there is a little left in me. I am doing well, it is a long process – not daily, but weekly.”

But the 103-time titlist – whose last success came at the 2019 Miami Open – has not yet played in a behind-closed-doors event since the coronavirus pandemic struck due to his injury lay-off.

And former women’s world No 5 Hantuchova, now a tennis analyst for Amazon Prime, is intrigued to see how Federer fares without the usual adulation he gets from spectators inside stadiums.

Neither Djokovic or Nadal have been too heavily affected, although the Serbian was unable to add to his Slam haul at the US Open or the French Open.

Hantuchova told Express Sport: “Even if Roger is not around we’ve still got Rafa and Novak, we must not forget that. I personally enjoy all three of them just the same.

“But I think everyone is looking forward to seeing him as well. What to expect? It’s great to see him practicing as well.

“To me I thought for someone like Novak and Rafa, it must be so difficult to suddenly play without all that support and the fans and the energy they get from the crowd.

“They handled that really well so it’s going to be interesting to see how Roger reacts to that.

“It’s going to be something new for him, even though Australia maybe will be played with a crowd – I don’t know, we’ll see.

“I think everyone wants to see all three guys playing in tournaments for as long as they can because this generation has been so special and we’ve been so blessed to be a part of it in any way, whether that’s spectators, the fans, players.

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“It’s something that maybe we don’t still realise as much as until they’re gone, how special it is.”

Hantuchova meanwhile expects world No 1 Djokovic – who will end the year as the top-ranked player for a record-equalling sixth year – to displace Federer as the man with the most weeks as No 1 in the near future.

Federer boasts 310 weeks atop the rankings with Djokovic to surpass 300 before 2021 and the Slovakian tennis expert added: “Yeah I think so, just because he’s younger, fresher and his fitness levels are higher than I’ve ever seen.

“He’s got that hunger, that motivation inside of him which I really find so admirable, for all three guys, Rafa, Roger, Novak.

“To still have that hunger after everything they’ve achieved, I do believe they’re better because of each other, they keep pushing each other.

“Novak I feel like has still got a lot of miles in his legs and as long as he can stay healthy and motivated, I don’t see what could stop him.”

The 2020 season came to an end at the weekend with Daniil Medvedev winning the ATP Finals at London’s O2 Arena, beating Dominic Thiem in the final.

Both world No 1 Djokovic and No 2 Nadal crashed out at the semi-final stage with the latter still yet to win the year-end tournament for the first time.

Former Tennis Professional and current Sports Broadcaster and Social Influencer Daniela Hantuchova interviews highly successful guests from the world of sports, entertainment, and culture on her podcast The Real DNA. Daniela pursues the common thread or the DNA of what breeds success at the highest levels. You can listen here.



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