Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer begin their quest for five Australian Open titles while Serena Williams is chasing her 19th Grand Slam crown in the year’s first major starting Monday.
World No 1 Djokovic looms as the player to beat in the men’s draw having won four of the last seven Australian editions, and he holds an affinity with the hardcourts in Melbourne. “There are so many players who are contenders to win the title,” said the Serb. “Considering the success that I had in my career in this tournament gives me enough reason and confidence to believe I can go far.”
While Djokovic has never lost a final in Melbourne, Federer will be again be the sentimental favourite at 33 years old, pursuing his 18th major title having not won one since Wimbledon 2012. “I would hope that over the years I’ve always improved. I think I’m serving more consistent and stronger than I ever have,” Federer said.
There are question marks over Rafael Nadal’s match fitness after playing few matches since Wimbledon last July following a wrist injury and later an appendectomy.
Nadal suffered a shock defeat in his first match of the season in Doha to German qualifier Michael Berrer on the way to Australia. “I am doing lot of practice and doing the things that we believe we have to do to recover our level,” Nadal said.
Nadal has won 14 Slams, but only won one of them here where he also had two runner-up finishes, including in last year’s final to Stan Wawrinka.
Britain’s Andy Murray has lost three finals in Melbourne and will have to get past Federer and Nadal to make his fourth.
Defending champion Wawrinka, who shocked Djokovic in the quarter-finals on the way to winning last year, is a last start winner, having captured back-to-back Chennai Opens on the way here.
Top ranking at stake
World No 1 Williams is tied with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova with 18 Grand Slams behind all-time leader Margaret Court (24) but hasn’t won in Australia since 2010, something she is determined to fix. “It would be really great. I’ve been going for number six for a number of years now,” Williams said.
Adding spice to the women’s side of the draw is that the top four seeds — Williams, Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova — all have the chance to end the tournament as world No 1. “There’s a lot of players that have an opportunity to get there, and I’m one of them,” said Sharapova.
High temperatures often leave players gasping here. The decision to implement the heat policy will be taken into account when the ambient temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celsius, and the wet bulb global temperature reading exceeds 32.5.