The Fed Express has tried to shrug off red hot favouritism for the Australian Open, but individual sport's greatest ever prize-money earner has his work cut out doing so.

By Joe McDonough

Posted on January 15, 2018

Last year, Roger Federer surprised everyone including himself by winning his fifth Australian Open at 35 years of age, and after a six-month injury lay-off.

Prior to that, the Swiss master hadn’t won a grand slam title since Wimbledon in 2012.

In his resurgent 2017 season, he then went on to win Wimbledon again for the eighth time and three ATP World Tour Masters events, reclaiming his throne as king of the court.

He begins his assault on Melbourne Park tomorrow, eyeing off the unprecedented milestone of 20 men’s singles career majors β€” which would also stretch his lead over great adversary Rafael Nadal, who sits on 16.

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus is the next closest male athlete from an individual sport, boasting a career haul of 18 majors.

Despite the likes of Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori pulling out of this year’s event, and Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka under injury clouds, the ‘Fed Express’ says he shouldn’t be favourite.

“With age, I feel like I play down my chances just because I don’t think a 36-year-old should be a favourite of a tournament. It should not be the case,” Federer said on Sunday.

“That’s why I see things more relaxed, you know, at a later stage of my career.”

Maybe not your ordinary 36-year-old, but Federer is clearly the exception to the rule.

Last year, Forbes reported that he eclipsed Tiger Woods as the highest career prize-money earner in individual sports.

After the second group match at the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals in London, he had banked $110,235,682, topping Woods’s $110,061,012.

He can add a further A$4 million to his total by taking out the Aus Open.

Federer was also named the world’s most marketable sports person by researchers at the London School of Marketing (LSM), and that was in 2016, after a prolonged dry spell in the big four tournaments.

LSM estimated he had earned nearly Β£50 million ($60.7m) in sponsorships and endorsements from companies like Nike and Credit Suisse, leaving NBA superstar Lebron James (Β£41m, $50.2m) in his wake.

“Despite Roger Federer’s slow year in terms of success in his sport, his successful endorsement deals show that personal characteristics can also be an important part of long-lasting sponsorships,” Jacques de Cock, LSM faculty member said at the time.

He also holds the record for the most weeks (302) as the number one ranked player in the world, 16 clear of Pete Sampras.

And of course, just over a week ago in Perth he went through undefeated and won the Hopman Cup with Swiss partner Belinda Bencic.

So yes, while being on the wrong side of 30 is generally considered a weakness, in the case of this particular favourite, age is just a number.