Tennis: Federer at home in Australia

Roger Federer will launch his bid for a record fifth Australian Open men's crown buoyed by a poll that ranked the Swiss tennis ace the most admired athlete in the country.

For the third year running Federer upstaged our football, cricket and swimming stars in a gemba Asset Study (gES) which surveys Australians' attitudes and opinions towards more than 200 Australian and international sporting icons.

"Australians are very attracted to athletes who are seen as competitive and humble and Roger embodies these attributes," gemba director Rob Mills told AAP.

The study aims to understand which athletes are most admired by Australians.

"Asset Power" is gemba's key indicator of an athlete's ability to engage Australians and measures awareness and likeability of that athlete within the community.

Federer, who begins his Australian Open campaign against young Frenchman Benoit Paire on Tuesday, was humbled to have out-polled the likes AFL superstar Buddy Franklin and Test cricket captain Michael Clarke to be voted the most popular athlete in Australia.

Federer has been heavily influenced by Australians throughout his life and career and the 17-times grand slam champion admitted he thought of one particular Aussie, his late coach Peter Carter, every year upon arrival for the season-opening major.

"(Peter's) parents always come around every year to watch me play, which is nice," Federer said.

"I feel very welcome here. I know the people well. I have good feelings here, good friends.

"So it feels sort of a home away from home to a degree."

Federer hasn't played competitively since losing to world No.1 and two-time defending Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic in the final of the World Tour Finals in November.

But the second seed doesn't consider his build-up a gamble.

"It's been very relaxing, the last one and a half months," he said.

"Not many appearances, no press almost. Just focusing on getting ready mentally and physically really.

"I went to South America, played some (exhibition) matches there, which was good for me, because I didn't play any tournaments leading up to this event.

"That was good to do that after a few weeks of vacation.

"Now I feel fine. I arrived really early, two, three days earlier than in the past, which has been quite nice.

"I feel like I have an extra two, three days of a cushion, which is honestly good to have before a slam sometimes.

"I'm hoping for another good year."

- AAP

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 02 Sep 2014 09:15:06 Processing Time: 905ms