They said what? 12 things we learned at the Australian Open media blitz
MELBOURNE -- The world's top players all took to the microphone during the Australian Open's media day. Here's what we learned.
Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, and Stan Wawrinka each temper expectations
• Wawrinka, who won last year's Open, doesn't consider himself a favorite: "I will still put Rafa, Novak and Roger as the favorites of the tournament," he said. "Maybe a bit more Novak. Then you have to see. I still think that Rafa, if he get through the first week, then he's going to be really dangerous. It's not about his game, it's more about the confidence he get after few months out. And it's going to be interesting I think because you also have the young generation who is there trying to win a Grand Slam. I think it's going to be an exciting Australian Open."
• Wawrinka is trying to keep things simple ahead of his title defense: "I'm not putting my goal to win a Grand Slam. I know I can do it, that's not the question. But it's a long way for that. For me most important is to be ready for the first match."
• Does Nadal consider him a favorite in Melbourne? Ask him in a week: "No, I don't consider myself one of the favorites here. Last year, yes. This year is a different story. I would be lying if I say I feel that I am ready to win today. I don't feel myself ready to win the tournament here today. If I am here in a press conference in one week, maybe I will say another thing because will have the feeling that I will play few matches, and if I'm able to win that couple of matches, then probably I will have little bit more rhythm, I will have more confidence.
• The secret to Nadal's success? Match play: "Last week in Doha I did a very good thing in the first set, played very good first set. But then I lose the intensity on my game, I lose the rhythm, something that normally never happen to me when I am competing two weeks in a row. That is something you need when you didn't play for a long time. I don't know about in which part of my game I'm more happy. But I really know what I have to do to be happy with my game. My game is always good when my movements are good, when I am able to have control of the point with my forehand, and always hitting good backhands. But the forehand need to be aggressive, need to create space with my forehand. That's the way that I need to play to have my chances back on being competitive against."
• Williams on her pre-tournament preparation at Hopman Cup, where she lost to Eugenie Bouchard and Agnieszka Radwanska: "I'm not very happy with it, but I'm never really happy about my practice or preparation. So maybe that's a good sign... I remember last year I felt really good, was playing well. I was feeling amazing on the court. So, yeah, I remember that now. So, yeah, this year I feel a little off."
Roger Federer is the picture of calm
• Federer arrives in Melbourne relaxed and confident after a fantastic 2014 and season-opening title at the Brisbane International: "Clearly things are more calm this year coming in. Last year having the new racquet, having gotten through the back issues, having gone through the off-season feeling good but still not quite sure because I needed matches to see how it was going to cope. I came here also with Stefan Edberg helping me out. There was many changes that took place in the six months leading into the Australian Open, whereas this time around I've played so well. Also was able to win Brisbane last week. Makes me feel more secure this year coming into the Aussie Open."
• Federer didn't put his feet up in the offseason. He went right back to work: "I practiced actually very hard, to be quite honest, because I played so many matches I didn't have enough practice. So I came out of it a bit tired. But that's normal when you practice hard. That's why for me it was important to not overtrain when I came to Brisbane, not overtrain in these middle weeks, so I maintain the freshness. But the bigger break is going to come after the Australian Open."
Maria Sharapova is fit and hungry for a charge at the No. 1 ranking
• Sharapova spent the offseason working to ensure she could play her best from first ball to last ball: "Last year my offseason, a lot of it had to do with rehab and getting myself healthy. This year I felt like I could really train and push myself a little bit more physically. I think last year, especially toward the end of the season, you saw how physical and how well everyone was moving, especially with the courts being a little bit slower toward the end of the season. I wanted to feel that I was ready and fit for the beginning of this year, try to be as healthy as possible toward all of it."
• She considers herself one of the favorites in Melbourne but has already put her title run at the Brisbane International behind: "I'm starting from scratch. I'm hungry. I'm determined to do better. I lost in the fourth round here. That's not a result I want. I want to do much better. I'm here to try to win the title."
Andy Murray isn't worried about his draw ... yet
• Murray may have to go through Federer, Nadal and Djokovic to win the title. He's not letting it get him down: "It's very hard to comment on it. If you have to play all of those players, obviously it's going to be extremely difficult to come through that. I'm aware of that. That's fine. But often in these events there is upsets. And then you just have to wait and see who you're playing in each round because it doesn't always work out as simply as that."
Serena will be without her regular hitting partner
• Sascha Bajin, Serena's long-time hitting partner and confidant, is back home in America: "Yeah, he just got injured. There's been a lot of stories on how he hurt himself. I'm not sure which one I should tell today. I jumped on his back and broke it," Serena said, laughing.
Nadal is unsure how his back will hold up
• His knees are fine, but the Spaniard isn't 100 percent confident his back injury won't flare up again: "I don't have enough time having good feelings to say I am 100 percent perfect, no? I need to take care about this for the moment. But hopefully will be fine."
Ana Ivanovic is ready to take the next big step
• Ivanovic's big focus in 2015 is doing well at the Slams, where she's struggled: "I think it's a lot to do with confidence," she said. "It takes time for certain things to fall into place. Last year I really felt I made big steps toward winning more matches, beating top players. These kinds of things you sort of have to have in place in order to do well at the big events. I feel like I'm ready for next step. Also I feel comfortable in my team. I feel I can communicate with them more. Last year at some points it was not the case. Then also US Open was just a fresh start with new team, with new coach. So it takes time to get used to. Now I feel I can communicate with them more and they can help me."
Murray is happy with his new team
• Is it strange training without his long-time hitting partner, coach, and friend Dani Vallverdu, Murray said no: "It's been, in my opinion, positive. When things aren't working well, there's not a positive atmosphere, it's not good for anybody. So when that changes and everyone's working together, that makes things better. So the last two months for me so far have been very, very good."
The women's tournament is wide open
• Simona Halep is trying to downplay any pressure going into Melbourne: "I can say that all the players from here have a chance to do this. I was thinking a few days ago that even if I am third in the rankings, I have my chance, but is not like I have to be in the semifinals or in the finals. Everyone from top 20 I can say has their own chance to win this title. You saw [Karolina] Pliskova, last week she played very well. [Petra] Kvitova as well. Everyone can win this title. The tournament is open I think for everyone."
The WTA is all about collegiality these days
• Serena has seen more camaraderie on the tour: "I definitely think people talk a little bit more now than back in the '90s. I remember Steffi and Monica, they never spoke. When you're young, you really idolize those people. I wanted to do what they did. I was like really quiet. I did my own thing. You noticed all the top players had like their own little thing that they did. I tried to just copy them and do what they did. I noticed a lot of the ladies now just kind of play their matches. It's like a big family now. We travel 10, 11 months out of the year together. So you just know everyone."
Serena might be playing Fed Cup
Q: Can you tell us if you and Venus are going to play Fed Cup in Argentina after the Open?
Williams: Are you from Argentina?
Williams: Yes, I will be there (smiling).
Federer might not be playing Davis Cup
• He'll make the decision after the Australian Open: "Clearly it's hard to get out from the chair after finally winning Davis Cup. It was always a goal of mine, for Swiss tennis, the guys on my team, for myself, after playing for 15 years."
Eugenie Bouchard is working with Diego Ayala in Melbourne
• After being dropped by Nick Saviano over the offseason, Bouchard will have Diego Ayala in her corner: The former director of coaching at Saviano's academy, the two have known each other for years. "He was someone I worked with when I was younger. So there's that familiarity I have with him right now which is good. He's been on tour with a few players, can hit really well, as well. He just knows me from when I was younger. You don't get that on the tour now so much. So I think that's helpful for me right now."