Melbourne, Jan 15 (AFP) Reigning champion Roger Federertoday piled pressure on Rafael Nadal by calling him"favourite" for the Australian Open, where the Spaniard isgunning for his fourth major title in a row.
Federer said he was sure the world number one would beuntroubled by his recent illness as he bids to unite all fourGrand Slams for the first time since 1969.
"He''s been the one dominating the Slams," Federer said.
"Had hardly any tough matches in the last three Slams. Thatmakes him favourite. I don''t have any problems not beingfavourite, really."
Defeat here would leave Federer without a Grand Slamtitle in his locker for the first time since 2003, when hebegan his world record run of 16 major titles with his maidenWimbledon win.
Nadal is bidding to emulate Federer''s idol Rod Laver byadding the Australian title to his French Open, Wimbledon andUS Open crowns, which would put him on 10 Grand Slam wins.
The Spaniard, 24, is trying to shake off a fever whichsaw him heavily beaten in the Qatar Open semis.
He was forced to retire hurt from last year''s AustralianOpen quarter-finals with a knee injury which kept himsidelined for nearly two months, before returning to capturethree Grand Slam trophies on three surfaces.
"He''s been playing incredible," Federer said of Nadal.
"(He had) an incredible run through the French (Open),Wimbledon, US Open. It was incredible to see.
"Then obviously it''s hard to maintain. But he''s going tobe for ready for this. I''ll follow it very closely. If I get achance, I hope I can stop him, obviously."
Four-time champion Federer is in the opposite half of thedraw and cannot meet Nadal until the final. In 2009, the Swisswas left in tears when Nadal beat him in front of Laver andother greats in a classic, five-set final.
Online bookmaker sportsbet.com.au has named Federer, 29,and Nadal joint favourites at odds of two-to-one. (AFP) CM