Federer embraces Australian Open favouritism

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“So he’s (number) one, I’m (number) two so that means we have six matches to play (to meet in the final). But I don’t want to say it’s 100 per cent”.

Battling illness, the Argentinian came back from the dead against Dominic Thiem before shocking Roger Federer and went on to finish the season very strongly.

This first Australian Open was held in 1905.

Federer, the champion, is listed at .75 AUD to lift the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup for the sixth time, according to AustralianGambling, while the man who pushed him to five sets in the 2017 decider, Nadal, is set at $5.50.

So maybe Nadal versus Federer in the final isn’t so much of a long shot after all? Djokovic hasn’t lost in the first round of a grand slam since the 2006 Australian Open.

The defender of the crown and for many, the best in history will enjoy an accessible debut against the Slovenian Aljaz Bedene.

“It’s great to be back”.

“I can’t stop smiling on the outside and on the inside, it’s such a great joy and I’ve missed it”, Djokovic said. Previous year he admitted he had no love for the game, saying it is just a job and he felt “trapped”.

Djokovic, seeded a lowly 14th after six months out of tennis with an elbow injury, has been pitch-forked into the quarter of world No.4 Alexander Zverev and will start against American left-hander Donald Young. The third-seeded Bulgarian, despite falling in the semifinals in his Brisbane International title defence last week, has imposed himself at last as a serious contender with victory in the season-ending ATP Finals.

A knee injury which has prevented Nadal from playing competitively since losing to David Goffin at the ATP Finals in November has restricted the 16-time major champion to just a pair of exhibition contests in Melbourne – a far cry from his run to the quarter-finals at the Brisbane International a year ago. Venus was dealt one of the toughest possible opening draws, facing 77th-ranked Belinda Bencic, a teen prodigy whose ranking fell after undergoing left wrist surgery past year.

After defending champion Serena Williams withdrew from the event due to her extended recovery period of becoming a mother, her elder sister and last year’s runner up Venus Williams will be the overwhelming favourite for the title.

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Germany’s Angelique Kerber, the 2016 champion will face compatriot Anna-Lena Friedsam, while 2008 champion Maria Sharapova will also face a German, the world No 46 Tatjana Maria.

High-profile players pull out of Oz Grand Slam

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