Tennis: Federer faces down French challenge in Rotterdam

Roger Federer launches the defence of his title against a posse of French challengers as the Rotterdam World Tennis tournament begins on Monday.

The indoor event at the Ahoy stadium marked a comeback for the Swiss a year ago when he played here for the first time since 2005.

He is lined up for a potential re-match of that 2012 final, with last year's runner-up Juan Martin del Potro seeded second.

Both of the top two are rested after skipping Davis Cup first round matches this month.

But lying in wait are a group of eager French challengers, including third-seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, number four Richard Gasquet, fifth seed Gilles Simon plus wild card Gael Monfils, who tackles Del Potro in the first round.

Monfils now stands at 108 in the world as he attempts to recover form after an injury-filled 2012. He lost to eventual champion Gasquet in Montpellier last week.

Federer's last appearance was in the Australian Open semi-finals where he lost to Andy Murray, with the Swiss playing a carefully programmed schedule in 2013.

He begins in Rotterdam against Slovenian Grega Zemlja.

The 31-year-old Federer believes he is coming to the Dutch port city refreshed after his Melbourne performance.

"I go from here with a good feeling for the year," he said in Australia. "I know I have even more time to work on my game, work on my fitness this year. It's something I'm excited about."

The rest of the seeds are rounded out by number six Italian, Andreas Seppi, Paris Bercy runner-up Jerzy Janowicz and number eight German Florian Mayer, who has not won a match in a month.