Federer has undergone life-changing experiences


MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Life has changed so much for Roger Federer since his teary finish in last year’s Australian Open final loss to Rafael Nadal.

Twelve months ago, the talk was all about his game, his recovery from illness and his prospects for equaling Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles.

On Saturday, two days before the start of the first major of 2010, the questions revolved around his recent experience as a dad — with an aside on his friendship with troubled golfer Tiger Woods.

Federer didn’t once mention No. 2-ranked Nadal, or No. 3 Novak Djokovic, who upset him in the 2008 semifinals in Melbourne, or No. 4 Juan Martin del Potro, who surprised him in the last U.S. Open final.

Nor was he asked about them. Defending champion Nadal and No. 5 Andy Murray had both been questioned about their thoughts on the Australian Open favorite. Not Federer.

Now that he’s married, has twin daughters and has won his 14th and 15th majors to beat Sampras’ mark, Federer seems inclined to talk more broadly — about jetlag and how it affects the family, or whether he can stay awake late watching tennis on TV without losing too much sleep.

But he’s certain that no change has diminished his desire to win more titles.

“The hunger is still there,” he said. “I’m working as hard. I haven’t been just baby-sitting, you know. I also like to go out in the morning, put in the big hours. I feel my game’s really where it’s supposed to be.”

Top-ranked Federer won’t play his first match at the Australian Open until Tuesday, so he organized an exhibition today to raise money for the victims of the Haiti earthquakes.

Nadal will start Monday, aiming for his first Grand Slam title since his previous trip to Australia. In 2008, he beat Federer at Wimbledon for his first major on grass. His win 12 months ago was his first major title on hardcourts.

Women

Justine Henin is making her Grand Slam comeback with a new perspective on life and tennis.

The seven-time Grand Slam champion stunned the tennis world in May 2008 by announcing her retirement while ranked No. 1, saying she had lost her passion for the sport.

Fast forward to 2010, Henin says her time off gave her a new and improved mindset. Add that to her explosive speed and devastating backhand.

Time off certainly didn’t hurt another Belgian Kim Clijsters — who won the U.S. Open in her third tournament back from retirement.

During a two-year break, Clijsters got married, had a baby and, like Henin, acquired a new outlook.

The return of Henin and Clijsters — who could face each other in the quarterfinals — has added new energy to women’s tennis and raised expectations at Melbourne Park.

The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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