Saturday, 23 March, 2019

Australian Open: Magnificent seven beckons for Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic

Aussie tennis pros embrace Fortnite with $700750 Australian Open Summer Slam Australian Open qualifying highlights: Ward battles back to beat Banes
Cassandra Castillo | 10 January, 2019, 11:42

The draw for the first Grand Slam of the season was made on Thursday and the top seeds could face some early tests of their title credentials when play gets underway on Monday.

Thirtysomethings Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic share the Australian Open record with six wins, but either could make history with a magnificent seventh when the first Grand Slam of the year begins in Melbourne on Monday.

The Wimbledon champion and world number two will turn 31 on January 18 and is tipped to unveil a more aggressive approach under new coach Rainer Schuttler, who reached the Australian Open final in 2003 where he lost to Andre Agassi.

The American, seeded 16, is gunning to match Margaret Court's record of singles majors and claim an eighth Australian Open crown. The 17-time Grand Slam victor sensibly cut short his 2018 season after bookending it with another injury retirement in the US Open semi-final.

The 20-times Grand Slam winner's victories over Greece's world number 15 Stefanos Tsitsipas and world number four Alexander Zverev prompted the German to playfully quip that he was exhausted of Federer winning everything. While others in "Generation Next" like Austria's Dominic Thiem and the 22-year-old Russians Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev could cause upsets, it is debateable whether they can win seven matches over 14 days.

Wawrinka, the 2014 champion, is also coming back from knee surgery and a back injury in the second half of 2018, but typically flies under the radar through Grand Slams.

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Despite being ranked outside the top 10, few would be fearless enough to count Williams out of the equation as she aims to equal Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles. Among those looking to halt Serena's charge: world number one Simona Halep, defending champion Caroline Wozniacki and US Open victor Naomi Osaka. Wozniacki proved she can still compete by winning in Beijing in October but whether she can cope with the gruelling two-week slog of a Grand Slam remains to be seen, and she was bundled out of the Auckland Classic last week in round two.

However, up-and-comer Naomi Osaka will be out to show that she's here to stay in Grand Slam play after winning her first major at the US Open past year.

Halep cloud: World number one Simona Halep of Romania comes into the tournament under a fitness cloud after a nagging back injury curtailed her 2018 season.

The Australian Open could be a return to normalcy for tennis, or it could simply reiterate that the new age is here to stay.

Kerber beat Wiliams in the Wimbledon final to become the first German woman to win the grass court title since Steffi Graf in 1996.

Also in the mix is the popular Osaka, who stunned Williams in NY. The Japanese star arrives in Melbourne as the world number four after a stunning victory over Serena Williams at Flushing Meadows that sent the 21-year-old's profile into the stratosphere. She warmed up for Melbourne by making the semi-finals of the Brisbane International last week, where she blamed a poor attitude for losing to Lesia Tsurenko.

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