When Federer became the favourite to retain Australian Open title

Lawrence Cooper
January 16, 2018

World No. 6 Karolina Pliskova lost to Svitolina in the Brisbane semi-finals but, with one of the biggest serves on the Tour, she is also a contender for a maiden Grand Slam title.

A SERVICE TWEAK: Djokovic has changed his service motion to help address the elbow issues he's had to deal with in the past year.

In Melbourne, Nadal is at his first major tournament in years without his uncle Toni, who coached him from childhood until after his US Open win last year. "I will wait and see what future gives me".

His draw is a hard one with the returning Djokovic, fit-again Juan Martin del Potro, big-serving Milos Raonic and tricky David Goffin all on his side of the draw. Djokovic and Young first played in the first round at the U.S. Open in 2006, when the American won the first set before losing the next three. If Federer is off his game just a little, Del Potro could pounce.

"It was a good start to the year", said Wozniacki. The top seed has a very comfortable draw with only Marin Cilic likely to offer the Spaniard much resistence.

Williams, who lost in the final to sister Serena previous year, was stunned by Swiss star Belinda Bencic, fresh from winning the Hopman Cup with Roger Federer.

While Serena Williams took time off to have a baby and is not yet fit for the grueling task and Melbourne heat, two-time champion, Victoria Azarenka, had to withdraw because of an ongoing custody battle over her 11-month-old son with her former husband.

Halep has finished the previous season as the world's number one, but is still chasing her first grand slam victory.

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"I've showed on multiple occasions over the year that I can play and beat the best guys in the world", Zverev said. "It feels very good to win my first title in my first tournament this year".

Women's top seed Simona Halep will look to break her Grand Slam duck when she takes on local teenage wildcard awardee Destanee Aiava. "Just happy to be here, and playing pretty well".

When will Australian Open 2018 begin? A year ago, as he came back from a knee injury, he thought reaching the fourth round would be a real result - and he ended up beating Nadal in the final. With no Serena Williams, this is likely her best chance.

"Is the first time I am here without playing an official match in my career".

Despite living in the tax haven of Monte Carlo and amassing over $100 million (£72 million) in prize money during his glittering career, Djokovic still believes that tennis players are still not earning enough when compared to individuals in other sports.

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.

When the theory that Messrs Murray, Nadal and Djokovic play an altogether more physical game than Federer was proposed, the mighty Swiss sounded a bit miffed.

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