Australian Open

Djokovic primed for more success in new era at Australian Open

Reuters

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Djokovic primed for more success in new era at Australian Open

UNSTOPPABLE. Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during practice ahead of the 2024 Australian Open.

Issei Kato/REUTERS

Novak Djokovic enters the 2024 Australian Open as the last of the 'Big Three' still standing, following the retirement of Roger Federer in 2022 and the continued absence Rafa Nadal due to injury

MELBOURNE, Australia – Novak Djokovic begins his Australian Open title defense against qualifier Dino Prizmic when the expanded Grand Slam kicks off on Sunday, January 14, with few betting against him adding a record-extending 11th crown to his trophy cabinet in just over two weeks’ time.

The world No. 1 also enters the tournament as the last of the ‘Big Three’ still standing, following the retirement of Swiss maestro Roger Federer in 2022 and the continued absence of his other fierce rival Rafa Nadal due to injury.

Melbourne Park is preparing for its first tournament in 25 years without either Federer or Nadal but those fans hoping for a new champion to begin a new era may be left wanting as Djokovic eyes a 25th major to surpass Margaret Court’s haul.

“I’m just hoping I can start the season in a way I’ve been starting most of my seasons throughout my career – with a win in Australia, in Melbourne. My favorite place, no doubt,” Djokovic told reporters on Saturday, January 13.

“The court where I’ve done great things and achieved my greatest Grand Slam results.

“I hope that I’m going to be able to, if not play at the level that I did last year, then be very close to that because that was one of the best tennis levels that I’ve ever played, here in Australia last year.”

The Australian Open has had an extra day added to the schedule this year as organizers bid to curb the late finishes that have prompted heavy criticism over the years.

But with Djokovic expected to breeze past the 18-year-old Prizmic and women’s champion Aryna Sabalenka facing qualifier Ella Seidel after him, there could be a swift end to the opening day’s proceedings on Rod Laver Arena.

Iga Swiatek has dominated women’s tennis since the 2022 retirement of Australian Ash Barty and the four-time Grand Slam champion will also seek a fast start when she takes on 2020 winner Sofia Kenin on Monday.

The Polish player has been in rip-roaring form in the new season having ended 2023 strongly by reclaiming the top ranking from Sabalenka at the WTA Finals after surrendering it during the US Open.

The pair will be the main contenders along with Brisbane champion Elena Rybakina in a women’s field that also has a host of former champions including Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, and Caroline Wozniacki all returning following motherhood.

Coco Gauff joins them as the newest entrant in the Grand Slam club following her US Open triumph and the American can mount a strong challenge having defended her Auckland title in the lead-up to the Slam.

Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner are both light on match practice this season but will attempt to dethrone Djokovic at his Australian fortress after handing the 36-year-old Serb stunning defeats last season.

While Wimbledon champion Alcaraz has proved himself on the biggest stage, Sinner is yet to win a major and the Italian will begin his latest bid against Botic van de Zandschulp in Sunday’s opener on Rod Laver Arena.

Melbourne’s sizable Greek community could be out in force to support Maria Sakkari against Nao Hibino on the main showcourt, while another crowd favorite Wozniacki meets 20th seed Magda Linette on Margaret Court Arena. – Rappler.com

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