Sunday, 21 January, 2018

Wawrinka, Nadal give Australian Open huge boost

Wawrinka, Nadal give Australian Open huge boost Wawrinka, Nadal give Australian Open huge boost
Kristopher Love | 13 January, 2018, 05:13

The former World No. 1, who admittedly is still not at 100% fitness, played his first match after the break on Wednesday at the high-profile exhibition event, the Kooyong Classic.

He missed warmup events in Abu Dhabi and Brisbane but appeared untroubled in an exhibition match win over Austrian world number five Dominic Thiem at Melbourne Park on Friday.

Although Djokovic said he was delighted with his performance, especially his serve, he acknowledged that he was still not in ideal shape.

The Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year, is set to get underway on January 15, with the men's singles title match set for January 28.

One man who might have been expected to have a major say in proceedings is Novak Djokovic, who holds the Open era record with six wins at Melbourne.

Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza and world No. 6 Karolina Pliskova are joint favorites at $8 to lift the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup for the first time.

While his younger rivals battle their bodies, the 36-year-old is living the dream and looks a strong favourite to retain his title and become the first man to hit 20 Grand Slam singles titles.

Andy Murray, Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams have already withdrawn from 2018's opening Grand Slam while Stan Wawrinka remains a doubt.

Kei Nishikori is another high-profile absentee from the Australian Open.

Other form players include France's Gael Monfils, who won the lead-up Qatar Open in a depleted field, and his countryman Gilles Simon who rolled back the years to claim the ATP Maharashtra Open title. Referring to the final set of the thriller, which he won 6-3, he said: "It was an awesome final, an unbelievable moment for me in my life and it's great to be back here", as quoted by the Express.

Her sister Venus, who lost the all-Williams Australian Open final a year ago, has a tough opener against Belinda Bencic - who combined with Federer to win the Hopman Cup for Switzerland last week - and is also in the same quarter as U.S. Open victor Sloane Stephens.

"With Roger, I always felt that he was so gifted and able to do so many things so comfortably that as long as he stayed healthy and driven and enjoyed what he was doing, there was no reason he couldn't claw his way back", adds Annacone.

For a man who has enjoyed such domination in the sport, holding the top spot in the rankings for over four years, it will feel a tad unusual entering this particular Grand Slam some way down the list of favourites. She said it didn't leave her enough time to feel confident of winning a major.