Novak's tough test — Men's draw

Novak Djokovic Stan Wawrinka train on the Rod Laver Arena
Novak Djokovic Stan Wawrinka train on the Rod Laver Arena 7 Jan 2018  View 3368 by Gatto Luigi
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14 Enero, 2018

She could face a daunting test in the third round from either Angelique Kerber, the 2016 champion, or Maria Sharapova, the 2008 winner.

When the six-time Australian Open champion withdrew from the season-opening Qatar Open, he said he "did not know what was going to happen". The Serb faces Donald Young in his opener and will likely meet the dangerous Gael Monfils in the second round.

Grigor Dimitrov is the No. 3 seed, and six-time champion Novak Djokovic is 14th as he comes back from a six-month injury layoff.

He nevertheless looked relaxed and quietly confident at the draw ceremony, as he reflected on his remarkable career. While Konta has been in poor form of late and doesn't appear to be 100%, she has a strong record in Melbourne and a combination of her new coach and an Australian crowd that will readopt her will guide her to the title.

Federer, though, is intimately familiar with the pressure weighing down on a defending champion and will take a typically philosophical approach to his campaign at Melbourne Park. Question marks hang over the fitness of Nadal, while Andy Murray has already pulled out. This leaves several top players who all could potentially lift the trophy at the end of the fortnight, with it being possible to make cases for any of Muguruza, Halep or Pliskova.

The first grand slam always brings with it a sense of uncertainty. His opponents in finals were on average ranked 5.75.

Spains Rafael Nadal serves during a practice match against Austrias Dominic Thiem on Margaret Court Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. Federer expressed his awareness and appreciation of that history last year.

"I think he's actually a really nice guy", Federer told Channel Nine when asked about the mercurial 22-year-old.

With tens of thousands of dollars at stake just for playing in round one, early injury pull-outs have often caused suspicion at Grand Slams, particularly at last year's Wimbledon. He triggered improvements in others too. Another young player who is one to watch in the Australian Open is Francis Tiafoe who has already defeated Alexander Zverev, as well as pushing Federer to five sets at last year's US Open.

"I don't want to be over-confident", he said.

Australia's singles contingent could be boosted with John Patrick Smith, Bernard Tomic, James Duckworth, Brad Mousley and Patricia Hon still in contention.

The British No3 will face Dutchwoman Bibiane Schoofs in the second round with three victories needed for a place in the main draw. Additional watch-ability, for one. Williams is obviously the biggest name there, and is not yet ready for Grand Slam competition following the birth of her child. So is Djokovic's match-up against World No. 1 Nadal.

Their replacement - a 'lucky loser' from the qualifying tournament - will get the other 50 percent of the first-round prize money.

"I think it's normal because there's a lot of expectations this year", he was quoted as saying by the Australian Open website.

"It's great to be back".

Here's a look at some of the storylines that could define Australian Open 2018. He delayed his return until two exhibition appearances this week.


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