Published: Tue, January 16, 2018
Sport | By Gary Shelton

Major time in Melbourne: Australian Open starts Monday

Major time in Melbourne: Australian Open starts Monday

"But I feel good", said the 31-year-old, who first played at Melbourne Park in 2004. I think it's the players.

"I feel like maybe somebody like a Rafa, with the year that he's had, and Novak with the six titles he's had here, even if it's unknown how he's feeling, they could very well be the favourites, too", Federer said.

Stephens agrees the Australian Open field is still extremely tough, even with Serena Williams, the defending champion and 23-time major victor, skipping the tournament as she continues her recovery from a complicated childbirth in September. "I just write a simple half-page", Rosewall told The Australian on Monday. "I'll make the most of it". Very important beginning for me and that's good news. "I always felt comfortable, I have good memories of that time and it's not bad to do it again".

The top-ranked Spaniard, who made a splash as a teenager with his trademark sleeveless shirts and knee-length pirate trousers, came into this year's Australian Open with questions about his health and readiness to compete following a taxing season that saw him capture two Grand Slams and return to No. 1. "(2017 is over) Everyone starts from zero.

He was struggling badly at the end of last season, so badly in fact that he had to postpone the start to the new season to give himself a little bit more recovery time.

Last year's runner-up Venus Williams is dialed in with possibly the toughest first round opponent in Belina Bencic.

And with rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal on their way back from injury, and Briton Andy Murray absent, Federer remains the man to beat.

"It hasn't been 100 per cent yet healed". Never look at a draw and think. I don't know how it's going to behave.

"I still know what I'm capable of, and I believe in my own abilities to win against the best players in the world", he said ahead of his opening round clash. Previous year I was looking at slipping outside the top 30.

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The 37-year-old from the Dominican Republic earned a rousing reception when, after a long game, he broke the Nadal serve to avoid losing the second set to love.

FLYING THE (MAPLE LEAF) FLAG: Canadians have back-to-back matches to start play on Show Court 2.

Yet to notch a grand slam win, Halep is hoping that 2018 can be her year.

Another Federer victory would shunt the grand slam record-holder onto equal footing for the most Australian titles with Djokovic and Queenslander Roy Emerson, who both have six. That's what happened for me past year.

Wimbledon champion and world number three Garbine Muguruza is battling injury problems which could further aid Halep's hopes. The first test will come on Tuesday, against the 14th seed of the 2018 Australian Open, American Donald Young, in what is likely to be an extremely hard fought contest.

RAFAEL NADAL shook off injury fears with a crushing first-round win at the Australian Open.

Former No. 1 Wozniacki is riding high in the rankings again after reaching eight finals in 2017, with victories in Tokyo in September and at the season-ending WTA Tour Finals.

"OK, I have even more points to defend this year rather than last year".

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