sport

Fed targets return to the top

Roger Federer is optimistic he can put a forgettable 12 months behind him and become a major force in tennis once again.

The 17-time grand slam champion is regarded by many as the greatest ever player, but he appeared to be on the slide in 2013 after winning just one title.

He has slipped to sixth in the ATP world rankings, with rivals Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray the leading lights in the men's game in terms of current success.

Yet despite his lack of form and with his age against him, the 32-year-old is confident he can challenge for major honours after a gruelling pre-season.

"I probably trained harder in the off-season than all the guys ahead of me in the rankings," said Federer to the Independent ahead of the Australian Open, which gets under way next week.

"They went off to play exhibitions, like I did last year, so that [counts in my favour]. I did a full-on month [of training], which I haven't done in a long time.

"I really feel like I'm on the way back. Who knows? Maybe I'll play my best in March or April. That's my feeling, but I still feel there's a lot that's possible right now.

"Maybe that's why I haven't set particular, special goals. I just want to get back to a good level and then, hopefully, I can start winning tournaments again."

Federer's slump prompted him to become the latest player to recruit a 1980s great, with Stefan Edberg joining the former world number one's coaching team.

Federer has confirmed he will work with Edberg for a minimum of 10 weeks, starting at the Australian Open.

That will also be the first grand slam for the new pairing of Novak Djokovic and Boris Becker, while Andy Murray has won both his grand slam titles since appointing Ivan Lendl as his coach.

"I'm very inspired and motivated right now," Federer added. "Of course, working with Stefan Edberg is a very special situation for me.

"He was the man who I was watching the most when I was growing up and has influenced me most in terms of inspiring me as a tennis player.

"So to spend some weeks with him throughout the year is going to be very special for me."