Federer's season begins in Gulf

Despite 15 Grand Slam titles in his pocket, life on court is still no picnic for the 28-year-old, with fresh challenges from rivals led by Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray likely to come during the 2010 season.

The number one will take the final decision on his Australian Open campaign only after the Abu Dhabi tie concludes on Saturday.

Federer won 37 of his past 40 matches at Melbourne Park with three titles. After breaking through in 2009 with his first French Open title and nosing into history by winning a sixth Wimbledon, maintaining pace will be the goal for Federer this season.
With his eye on a possible Paris defence in late spring, he is to skip Monte Carlo and instead play on clay in May in Estoril, Portugal, where he won in 2008.

Nadal, also playing in Abu Dhabi along with Nikolay Davydenko of Russia, has had little more than a month since helping Spain to a fourth David Cup title in a decade.
The number two admits he is keen to rebound from a season in which injuries compromised his form, causing a lengthy absence at the midway point that resulted in missing his Wimbledon title defence.

Djokovic stormed past Murray in the rankings during the autumn to number three and appears to be taking a page from Nadal’s book.

“I will have to try to do everything I can to put priorities on events that I have to perform my best tennis in.”

Murray spent December training in Miami and will be keen to shake his reputation as a traditional under-performer in Australia, where he has never been past the fourth round.

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