Roger Federer insists he can still be a force at the Australian Open despite his loss in the Brisbane International final to a resurgent Lleyton Hewitt.
The world number six was always intrigued how he would perform in the first tournament of the year, arriving in Brisbane after an unusually long six-week break and playing the event for the first time.
All appeared to be on track as he advanced to the final in clinical fashion, not dropping a single service game until he fell to Hewitt 6-1 4-6 6-3 in the decider.
Federer was clearly out of sorts, turning in 22 unforced errors in the first set, while Hewitt would later say he was "seeing it like a football" as he popped the cork on some vintage tennis.
But the 17-time Grand Slam winner put the pieces together in the second set before Hewitt finished the job in the third.
With Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic the top three selects for the Australian Open, the 32-year-old Federer is on a mission to prove he can still mix it with those who have taken his mantle at the top of the sport.
His efforts in Brisbane answered some questions but raised others. Federer said he was largely happy with his body of work but would focus on some key areas before stepping out in search of his fifth Australian Open title.
"Yeah, (I feel) pretty good, especially having played all the matches I have here now with the doubles in particular. It's a good thing. I didn't quite know what to expect from myself before the tournament," Federer said.
"I didn't play great today which is a bit unfortunate but also Lleyton was the best player I played this week. He made it toughest on me. So I have a clear idea what I need to work on and I have a clear idea where my mind and body is.
"I'm very hungry and eager to attack the Australian Open next week."
Federer, the top seed, was given a pass through the first round but played doubles in Brisbane as he tried to get the most time on court possible. He said fatigue in the extreme heat wasn't a factor and he felt fit and healthy as he jetted south.
Much of the adjustment in Melbourne will be gauging the speed of the courts. Federer enjoyed the swift surface in Brisbane but not as much as Hewitt in the final, who was able to find winners when it counted.
"I'm pretty pleased that my body is holding up in the first week because you don't quite know what to expect. So overall there were many good things but also a couple you need to readjust," Federer said.
"I'll get to Melbourne and see what the court speed is down there and then you'll have a really good idea of what you need to work on."
Federer's coach Severin Luthi will join his star pupil in Melbourne, as will Swedish great Stefan Edberg, the four-time Grand Slam champion who has recently joined Federer's coaching team.
The story Roger Federer confident of Australian Open success despite loss to Lleyton Hewitt first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.