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Roger Federer best now: Fitzgerald

Melbourne: Swiss ace Roger Federer was the toughest player Australia have faced in Davis Cup tennis for several years, captain John Fitzgerald said Thursday.

Federer spearheads Switzerland in the Cup semi-final against Australia on hardcourt at Melbourne Park here from September 19 to 21.

Ranked No. 3 in the ATP champions race, Federer represented a major obstacle to Australia reaching the Davis Cup final in November, Fitzgerald said.

According to Fitzgerald, the 21-year-old Swiss, who has won three titles this year, is the form player in the world.

“Federer — I would say he’s the best player that we will have come up against in my three years,” Fitzgerald said here.

He described the Basel right-hander as “arguably at the moment the form player in the world.”

“He’s either ranked three or four at the moment but I think he’s ranked better than that,” Fitzgerald said.

“He’s a great player and I think he’s a player who, when he wins his first major, he will win three or four, may be five of them. And he has a game which can win on every surface, which is unusual.

“There are not many guys around that you could say could win at any major — any of the four — and he’s one of them.”

Hewitt has a 6-2 win-loss record against Federer but the Australian only just survived their last encounter, in the Masters in Shanghai in November 7-5, 5-7, 7-5.

Mark Philippoussis trails Federer 0-2 head-to-head but their last meeting was more than two years ago, in March 2001.

Fitzgerald said with Federer such a threat, Australia will want to win both of its singles matches against his much lower-ranked Swiss teammate — probably either Michael Kratochvil or George Bastl.

Fitzgerald has unfinished Davis Cup business at Melbourne Park.

His last tie there, the 2001 final, resulted in an inglorious defeat by France on a controversial specially-laid grass-court.

“That final was like one of my best memories and one of my worst memories all wrapped up in one,” Fitzgerald said.

“But we are delighted it’s here — it’s as good a venue as there is in the world and the players are thrilled it’s here.”

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