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Fun time before the real battle

Roger and Rafa were behaving like best mates on Rod Laver Arena _ high-fiving, hugging, shaking hands and laughing at each other’s jokes on the eve of the Australian Open.

sports Updated: Jan 16, 2011 23:31 IST

Roger and Rafa were behaving like best mates on Rod Laver Arena _ high-fiving, hugging, shaking hands and laughing at each other’s jokes on the eve of the Australian Open.

Roger Federer and Rafal Nadal were at the Rally for Relief to raise money for victims of the fatal floods in Australia’s northeastern Queensland state. It’ll be a completely different story if they’re back on the same court two weeks from Sunday. Federer is the defending champion. Nadal has won the three Grand Slam titles in the interim and is aiming to win four straight majors.

The pair played on opposite sides of the net, and the played together against Kim Clijsters and Sam Stosur in front of a capacity 15,000 crowd which paid to watch a host of tennis stars in the fundraiser. Novak Djokovic and Andy Roddick wore microphones and joked with the crowd, playing alongside and against the likes of Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka in the celebrity hit-and-giggle exhibition.

Spotlight on clijster

The Belgian is hot favourite to add the Australian Open to her US Open crown after five-time champion Serena Williams’ injury withdrawal.

Clijsters, 27, heads the list of challengers with compatriot Justine Henin and world No. 1 Wozniacki.

Australian Open dossier

Australian Lawn Tennis is older than Australia as a state. The Australian Championship had to wait for the creation of Australia as a Commonwealth nation. The first national tournament was staged at Melbourne in 1905. New Zealand twice staged the tournament in 1906 and 1912.

YOUNGEST CHAMPION:
Rodney Heath of Australia won the men’s singles title at 17 in 1905.
Monica Seles was 17 years and 53 days old when she won the women’s singles title in 1991.