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Australian Open 2023: Novak Djokovic chases Rafael Nadal’s record



CNN

The first grand slam of the new tennis season begins on January 16 in Melbourne and the Australian Open 2023 is configured to provide endless intriguing scenarios.

Chief among them is the return of Novak Djokovic a year after his expulsion debacle, as the Serb seeks to match That of Raphael Nadal record 22 Grand Slam titles.

Djokovic’s preparation for the Australian Open got off to the best possible start, winning the Adelaide International warm-up event to secure his 92nd ATP singles title and tie Nadal for fourth in the all-time rankings .

Only Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer and Ivan Lendl have won more singles titles on the Tour.

However, Djokovic suffered an injury scare on Wednesday and was forced to pull out of a practice match against Daniil Medvedev.

The world number 5 told 9News Melbourne it was the same hamstring problem he had at the Adelaide International last week and his withdrawal against Medvedev was just one precaution.

Novak Djokovic won the Adelaide International to secure his 92nd ATP title.

“I just felt it tug and didn’t want to risk anything worse,” he said. “I played a set and apologized to him [Medvedev] and he was understanding. I just want to avoid bigger scares before the Australian Open.

“There was a lot of focus in the game today about the hamstrings. Everything was fine. A few times in the game I felt the muscle tightening but nothing that could bother me. worry about my performance.

Djokovic is the bookmakers’ favorite to win the title Down Under and gets his bid for a record 10th Australian Open crown underway against Spaniard Roberto Carballés Baena on Monday.

“We’re all wondering how this hamstring injury is going, where he said he didn’t want to play this game against Medvedev and he also interrupted a few practices,” said Barbara Schett, former professional and current broadcaster, to CNN’s Amanda Davies. . “But he’s had a good start to the season, he won a tournament in Adelaide and he’s hungry.

“He wasn’t allowed to play in Australia, wasn’t allowed to come into Australia and it was very hard for him to digest. I think now he’s done with that and he just wants to start playing again. zero. He’s had so much success in the past at the Australian Open, he’s won the title there nine times, so he feels really comfortable there and what’s interesting is how he will be received.

“In Adelaide people loved him, I hope it will be the same in Melbourne as well. When he came out onto the pitch the other day for his first practice he was embracing the pitch which shows you how how much it means to him.

“I think he’s hungry, he rested well last year because he only played 11 tournaments and he played incredible tennis which extended his career… so he’s my big favorite for the Australian Open this year, for sure.”

Unfortunately for tennis fans, especially those in Spain, the men’s world No. Carlos Alcaraz will miss the Melbourne tournament with a right leg injury suffered in training last week.

Australian Open would have been Alcaraz’s first grand slam since winning US Open 2022 in September, but his place at the top of the table is now under threat with Djokovic, Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas all capable of taking the No.1 spot from him.

Last year, Alcaraz won five ATP titles and became the youngest No. 1 in men’s tennis when he won his first Grand Slam title in New York. He is the youngest man since Rafael Nadal to break into the top 10 and win an ATP 1000 title.

At the age of 19 years and 214 days, Alcaraz also became the youngest year-end No. 1 in men’s tennis history, surpassing Lleyton Hewitt’s record set in 2001.

Luckily, the injury doesn’t seem too serious as Alcaraz announced in a tweet on Wednesday that he will return to the court for the Argentine Open in Buenos Aires, which kicks off on February 11.

Spain’s flag at the top of the leaderboard will instead be Nadal, who hopes to defend the title he won in 2022.

However, the world No. 2 – the No. 1 seed in Melbourne in Alcaraz’s absence – has struggled with injuries and started the year slowly, losing his only two matches so far, at the UnitedCup.

Nadal was handed a tough first-round draw and will face exciting young Briton Jack Draper, who made a stellar start to the season by reaching the semi-finals of the Adelaide International.

“With Rafa Nadal, you never know,” Schett said. “We know that many times he had injury problems and then all of a sudden he pops up and wins a Grand Slam title.

“It was quite similar last year where he didn’t play much tennis and he tears himself up here at the Australian Open and wins the title so I wouldn’t read too much into it that he lost two games in the United Cup.

“Of course, facing Jack Draper in the first round is not an easy draw, but with Rafa Nadal, never rule him out because he has experience, especially at Grand Slam level, and I think that he wants more Grand Slam titles.”

Other notable encounters in the first round of the men’s draw include world No. 14 and last year’s semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini taking on three-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray, as well as box-favorite office Nick Kyrgios, aiming to become the first Australian champion in 47 years, against Roman Safiullin.

Iga Światek hopes to add an Australian Open title to her already impressive resume, which includes two French Open titles and a US Open crown.

At just 21, Światek has been referred to by many as the sport’s dominant force following Ash Barty’s surprise retirement from the sport last year when he was ranked No. 1 in the world.

Światek is now at the top of the rankings and, at the US Open late last year, dispelled any doubt that his Grand Slam success on clay could not be transferred to hard courts.

The Polish star has had an absurdly successful 2022, winning a staggering eight titles including the French Open, US Open and WTA 1000 events in Rome, Miami and Indian Wells.

Światek’s success last year put her in another stratosphere at the top of the women’s rankings, almost 6,000 points ahead of world No. 2 Ons Jabeur.

Światek is the undisputed favorite heading into the Australian Open and will be confident of improving from last year’s semi-final, but he has been handed a tricky first-round match against Germany’s Jule Nthier.

The 23-year-old made waves last year as she reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals and US Open round of 16 with big hits and, now ranked No. 68 in the world, made her first appearance at the main draw at the Australian Open.

One of Światek’s main contenders for title in Melbourne will be world number 3 Jessica Pegulawho beat the Pole in the United Cup semi-finals last week before winning the title.

It was the third Tour victory of Pegula’s career, with the highlight being the WTA 1000 event in Guadalajara, Mexicolast year, and the American star has become one of the most consistent performers on the Tour.

Pegula was also key to Team USA’s victory in the premier mixed team event, the United Cup, and her blistering start to the year will make her rightly confident of securing a maiden Grand Slam title. Down Under.

Other names likely to go deep at the Australian Open include Jabeur, who had a breakthrough year in 2022 reaching two Grand Slam finals.

Despite losing in both the Wimbledon and US Open finals, Jabeur won two WTA titles last year, including the Madrid 1000 event, to add to her only previous title from Birmingham in 2021.

Jabeur’s success in 2022 has helped her rise to career world No. 2 and her varied, dangerous game on all surfaces makes her a real threat in Melbourne, the experience gained from reaching two finals major ones being undoubtedly beneficial. .

Teenage superstar Coco Gauff will be another player hoping to smash her Grand Slam duck after also reaching her first final in 2022.

Gauff lost to Światek in the French Open final but impressed on clay, a surface which is by no means his favorite, which will no doubt give him increased confidence in his ability to do better on his favorite surface. in Australia.

Although she didn’t win a singles title in 2022, Gauff continued her rise as one of the world’s most impressive doubles players by winning three WTA titles with fellow American Pegula.

Aged just 18, Gauff finished 2022 in the top 10 in singles and doubles – seventh and fourth respectively – and is sure to be a strong contender at all four Grand Slams in 2023.

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