MELBOURNE: Roger Federer is bidding for a third title in four years at Melbourne Park and a record-extending 21st Grand Slam trophy but having not played competitive tennis since November the Swiss are keeping a lid on expectations.Unlike his main rivals, Federer, who won his last Grand Slam in 2018 at Melbourne Park, opted out of the inaugural ATP Cup to spend more time with his family before launching his 22nd season on Tour.The third seed’s pre-tournament news conference on Saturday was dominated by questions about the ongoing bushfires in Australia and the role of the top men’s players on the air quality issue during the tournament.“And I’m playing Steve Johnson, by the way, for those who care,” a smiling Federer told reporters. “I don’t know, I figured that’s why I’m in Australia, but that’s okay.”His opening-round opponent on Monday – American world number 81 Johnson – won a challenger tournament in nearby Bendigo and reached the quarter-finals in the Canberra challenger last week.When finally asked about his opening match, Federer said with a smile: “I’m not in the mood now.”“Look, it’s exactly the tricky situation right now, playing somebody who has just played a lot this week. He’s ready to go. He’s match-ready and I’m not.”Federer’s last match was a defeat in the ATP Finals in November by Stefanos Tsitsipas, who also beat him at Melbourne Park in the fourth round last year.“I got to really make sure I get out of the gates quick,” Federer said. “Practice has been going well. I had plenty of time to pace myself and do all the things I had to do to get ready. I hope it’s enough.”“I know it’s a super long road to victory. That’s why I got to take it one match at a time. My expectations are quite low.”Canadian world number 103 Brayden Schnur labeled Federer and Rafael Nadal ‘selfish’ for not taking a vocal stand for the lower-profile players who faced a difficult time this week during qualifiers due to the bushfire smoke.“I don’t think I can do more than what I did,” Federer said. “I’m on the council. I’ve been on the tour for so long. I came through the lower ranks, the juniors.”“At the end of the day, we all care for one another. We cross paths in the locker room. I understand some frustration always because this tour, this calendar, this schedule, whatever it may be, is never perfect.”“Some guys are always going to complain. But at the end of the day, this is also something new with the smoke. Everybody’s got to figure it out.” AgenciesAlso Read: Roger Federer ready and in good shape for Australian Open campaignAlso Watch: Protesters, who walked all the way from Tinsukia-Guwahati to protest against CAA 2019, Detained!
The Colts selected former Trojan receiver Michael Pittman Jr. in the second round of the NFL Draft Friday. (Sarah Ko / Daily Trojan) Pittman was the eighth wide receiver selected in this year’s draft. He doesn’t profile as one of the faster receivers in his draft class — he ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at the NFL Draft Combine — but he has been lauded by scouts and draft analysts for his hands, size and ability to make contested catches downfield. Scouts also view Pittman as a potential special teams contributor, a role which he occasionally played during his college career. Pittman is the 511th Trojan of all time to be drafted into the NFL, the most of any school in the nation. Pittman will be the newest target for potential Hall of Fame quarterback Philip Rivers, who signed with the Colts this offseason after a lengthy career with the Los Angeles (formerly San Diego) Chargers. “I just couldn’t be more happy that I get to start with a Hall of Fame quarterback,” Pittman said of Rivers. The Colts finished with a 7-9 record last season, third place in the AFC South, following the surprising retirement of quarterback Andrew Luck just a couple weeks before the season’s start. Pittman will look to help add to an Indianapolis offense that finished with the eighth-fewest total yards per game and the third-fewest passing yards per game last season. However, the Colts finished with 22.6 points per game last year, 16th in the NFL. Michael Pittman Jr. became the latest Trojan to join the NFL fraternity when the Indianapolis Colts selected the wide receiver with the 34th overall pick in the NFL Draft Friday. In 2019, Pittman proved himself to be one of the best receivers in the nation, finishing fourth in receptions and 10th in receiving yards en route to a nomination as a Biletnikoff Award finalist. He started all 13 games for the Trojans and was named to the All-Pac-12 First Team and AP All-American Second Team. “I am super excited to be a Colt,” Pittman said in a video posted to the Colts’ Twitter. “Let’s bring the juice.” “I was almost certain that I was gonna be a Colt today,” Pittman said. “You see the blue shirt? … Just based on the conversations that we had. I felt like we had a good connection and I just felt like it was the right fit … I think that they brought me in to impact right now.” Pittman also won the 2019 Pop Warner College Award, given to a senior who made an impact on the field, in the classroom and in the community. A team captain for USC, Pittman won USC’s MVP, Community Service Award and Lifters Award. “I feel like I try to be diverse in what I can do,” Pittman said. “I feel like I use my hands well. Being a bigger guy, people expect me to be physical and strong. So I have that, but I can also do all of the stuff that all of the smaller guys can.”