Federer begins practice for the Australian Open | india | Hindustan Times
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Federer begins practice for the Australian Open

Top-ranked Roger Federer, who bypassed the Doha Asiad in 2006, has started practicing for the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year.

india Updated: Jan 03, 2007 12:35 IST

Roger Federer isn't messing around as he begins his Australian Open defense, arriving Down Under nearly two weeks before the first tennis Grand Slam of the year.

Top-ranked Federer, who bypassed the Doha, Qatar tournament he won the past two years, flew into Melbourne on Wednesday and headed straight to Rod Laver Arena.

The winner of three Grand Slams last year - he lost to Rafael Nadal in the French Open final - Federer practiced with his girlfriend, former professional Mirka Vavrinec, during a relaxed 30-minute session.

The Australian Open begins January 15, although Federer is entered to play in an eight-man exhibition tournament next week at Melbourne's Kooyong, former home of the Open.

Federer has already spent 10 days practicing with his Australian coach Tony Roche at Dubai in mid-December as he set his sights on a 10th Grand Slam title, four fewer than Pete Sampras' career-leading total of 14.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley was among those watching Federer's practice session Wednesday.

"It's great to have Roger here early and obviously he's excited to be back in Melbourne," Tiley said.

Tiley said the Australian Open was expected to have the strongest field in its history, although former French Open winner Anastasia Myskina of Russia officially withdrew Wednesday with a foot injury.