Roger Federer plays his first competitive match of the season on Monday when he launches his 21st Australian Open campaign against recently-crowned Bendigo Challenger champion Steve Johnson in the opening round.
Roger Federer ?? vs Steve Johnson ?? Match Info
Date: Monday January 20
Tournament: Australian Open R1
Court: Rod Laver Arena
Time: 2.00pm local time (3.00am GMT)
Roger Federer vs Steve Johnson Head-to-Head
Federer leads 2-0
2017 | Indian Wells R32 | Federer 7-6(3) 7-6(4)
2016 | Wimbledon R16 | Federer 6-2 6-3 7-5
Roger Federer vs Steve Johnson Match Preview
After deciding to pull out of the ATP Cup for personal reasons, Federer arrives at the Australian Open without any match-play ahead of his first round clash with Steve Johnson, who comes into the first Grand Slam of the season on the back of a title run at the Bendigo Challenger.
Speaking to reporters at Melbourne Park on Saturday, Federer admitted it was a ‘tricky’ scenario, despite owning a 2-0 record over Johnson, winning all five of the sets they’ve contested.
“It’s a tricky situation right now, playing somebody who has just played a lot this week. He’s ready to go. He’s match-ready and I’m not,” Federer said.
“I got to really make sure I get out of the gates quick. Practice has been going well. Had plenty of time to pace myself and do all the things I had to do to get ready. I hope it’s enough.
“I know it’s a super long road to victory. That’s why I got to take it one match at a time. My expectations are quite low.”
It’s interesting to hear Federer – who has always been extremely confident – say he doesn’t have high expectations for himself at the Australian Open, but that’s probably an attempt to keep the limelight on his rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, at least for the first week of the tournament.
Federer failed to add another Grand Slam title to his trophy cabinet in 2019, but he came agonisingly close at Wimbledon, failing to convert two match points in the final against Djokovic before succumbing in a final set tiebreak. The Swiss won four titles in Dubai, Miami, Halle and Basel, but he would have been extremely disappointed with how he departed the hardcourt majors, losing in the fourth round of the Australian Open to Stefanos Tsitsipas and the quarter-finals of the U.S. Open to Grigor Dimitrov.
Set to turn 39 later this year, Federer is showing no signs of wanting to hang up the racquet, with the 20-time major champion once again set to adopt a very limited schedule as he prioritises the Grand Slams and of course Tokyo Olympics. A six-time Australian Open champion having won consecutive titles not long ago in 2017-18, can Federer get his campaign off to a smooth start on Monday?
Johnson, arguably the best college tennis player of all time, has been a very solid player on tour for a while now, with his career-best season coming in 2016 when he won his maiden ATP title on the grass of Nottingham, made the fourth round at Wimbledon (losing to Federer) and reached his first Masters 1000 quarter-final in Cincinnati, hitting a career-high ranking of No. 21 as a result.
The American would pick up three more ATP titles over the course of the next two seasons, but Johnson tumbled down the rankings in 2019 after a sub-par season in which he went 14-21 on the ATP World Tour, finishing the year at No. 85. The 30-year-old made one semi-final in Winston-Salem and snapped a nine-match losing run to reach the quarter-finals in Delray Beach, but apart from a third round run at Wimbledon, that was pretty much as good as it got.
Johnson has started the 2020 season in encouraging fashion, albeit on the Challenger Tour, advancing to the quarter-finals in Canberra (which was relocated to Bendigo due to the smoke), before winning the actual Bendigo Challenger this past weekend, dropping just one set en route to the silverware, defeating Stefano Travaglia in the final.
Roger Federer vs Steve Johnson Prediction
Johnson does bring winning momentum into this clash, but this isn’t a good match-up for him at all. The American has an excellent serve and forehand, but his backhand is a glaring weakness and something Federer will target repeatedly. Johnson more often than not slices his backhand, and Federer should exploit that wing with his variety and own strong serving and forehand. Federer might struggle to find his range at stages due to it being his first match of the season, but he really should be winning this one with minimal fuss.