Djokovic dealt tough Australian Open draw as he plans tennis comeback

Annette Crawford
Января 13, 2018

His miserable year will see him seeded 14th, but Djokovic said he was "just grateful that I'm able to be here".

Alexander Zverev clinched two ATP Masters 1000 in 2017, Grigor Dimitrov won the year-ending ATP Finals and Nick Kyrgios recently won his first title on home soil. Since the 2005 Australian Open, only three men outside the Big Four have won a Slam title - Marin Cilic, Juan Martin del Potro and Wawrinaka.

After spending nearly seven months sidelined, Djokovic looks to be tuning up his game as much as possible ahead of the Australian Open next week (January 15-28), the first Grand Slam event of the year, which he has won six times.

An unlikely victor at Melbourne Park in 2017 before going on to capture Wimbledon, the evergreen 36-year-old - who enjoyed a renaissance last season having been struck down by injuries in 2016 - is trusting his tried and tested preparation, having featured at the Hopman Cup in Perth just like he did last year.

Federer beat Rafael Nadal in the final here a year ago on his return from six months on the sidelines and is seeded No. 2 as he bids for a 20th Grand Slam singles title.

A six-time Australian Open champion, Djokovic wore a compression sleeve on his troublesome right elbow in his long-awaited return to the tennis court on Wednesday. It was the first year since 2009 that Djokovic didn't reach at least one Grand Slam final.

Despite many pundits, including John McEnroe, writing off Federer's Grand Slam chances, Annacone also believes his intelligence has been a crucial factor in his return to the top, with the Swiss tweaking his game to stay amongst the top stars.

The American, who won the title previous year in Melbourne despite being in the early weeks of pregnancy to take her grand slam tally to 23, decided against trying to defend her title, saying she was not yet fully up to speed.

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The Russian captured his first ATP title past year and reached the US Open quarter-finals - where he couldn't pull off a major upset and beat eventual champion Rafael Nadal.

Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza is in the same half of the draw as Halep and takes on France's Jessika Ponchet in the opening round.

And so if the 2017 Australian Open was one for the ages — the revival of the Federer- Nadal rivalry and another Williams sisters final — the 2018 edition is shaping as a survival of the fittest.

Djokovic will begin this tournament ranked number 14 in the world and seriously lacking any kind of form after being out injured for the second half of last season. Former champions Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka will miss the Melbourne Major but Petra Kvitova is back after she was forced to skip it previous year following career-threatening hand injuries in a home invasion. Referring to the final set of the thriller, which he won 6-3, he said: "It was an fantastic final, an wonderful moment for me in my life and it's great to be back here", as quoted by the Express.

Russian Maria Sharapova, back in Melbourne for the first time since she failed a doping test for meldonium in 2016 and completed a ban, is another with the experience and firepower to prevail and along with Angelique Kerber is one of only two former champions in the women's draw.

On a day which saw Britain's last qualifying hope, Cameron Norrie, fall by the wayside, Edmund landed the most awkward of first-round draws against 11 seed Anderson, a 6ft 8in South African whose previous conquests at major tournaments include Andy Murray and Milos Raonic.

"The drive, I still have it".

"If I'm not feeling good, probably I will not be here", Nadal said after his error-filled loss to Richard Gasquet in an exhibition this week.

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