Novak Djokovic acquired a rapturous welcome on his return to the court docket in Australia on the Adelaide Worldwide final week
|Dates: 16-29 January Venue: Melbourne Park|
|Protection: Day by day radio commentaries on 5 Sports activities Further/BBC Sport web site and app, with chosen dwell textual content commentaries and match stories on the web site and app|
Novak Djokovic returns to the Australian Open a 12 months on from his controversial deportation, once more primed as the person to beat on the opening Grand Slam match of the 2023 season.
The 35-year-old Serb, aiming for a record-extending tenth title in Melbourne and a record-equalling twenty second males’s main, has warmed up by successful an ATP title in Adelaide.
Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz, ranked the world’s finest males’s participant, has pulled out with a knee harm and is certainly one of a number of high-profile names to overlook out.
British ladies’s primary Emma Raducanu suffered an ankle harm within the build-up, initially placing her participation doubtful however the 20-year-old is now seemingly successful her health battle.
Raducanu shall be hoping to be certainly one of seven Britons taking part in within the singles foremost attracts, with eleventh seed Cameron Norrie and Andy Murray headlining the lads’s curiosity.
This may even be the primary Grand Slam occasion following the retirements of veteran superstars Serena Williams and Roger Federer.
With the match beginning on Monday, BBC Sport runs by the most important speaking factors.
Djokovic continues to be the person to beat
The build-up to this 12 months’s match has been a lot quieter than 12 months in the past – however Djokovic stays the centre of a lot of the consideration.
After a cancelled visa, detention in an immigration centre, a number of court docket instances and eventual deportation – all as a consequence of him being unvaccinated in opposition to Covid-19 – Djokovic was unable to play within the 2022 version of a match which he has lengthy dominated.
On his return, the Serb shall be glad to deal with the tennis and appears nicely positioned to regain his stranglehold on the trophy.
The nine-time champion has gained the title on his previous three appearances and has misplaced solely three matches at Melbourne Park since 2011.
A restricted schedule, partly right down to not being allowed to enter the US final 12 months due to his vaccination standing, means he’s ranked fifth on the earth however a powerful finish to final season, and assured begin to this 12 months, reveals he nonetheless stays the person to beat.
Profitable the Adelaide title final week got here after triumphs in Tel Aviv, Astana and the ATP Tour Finals in 2022, with the one defeat in his previous 25 matches inflicted by Holger Rune within the Paris Masters closing.
Plus, one would think about a participant who has usually thrived when he feels he has a degree to show can have additional fireplace in his stomach after final 12 months’s chaos.
If he wins the title, Djokovic may even regain the world primary rating.
Who can problem in Alcaraz’s absence?
Spain’s Rafael Nadal was the principle beneficiary of Djokovic’s absence final 12 months, successful a file twenty first main males’s title and increasing his general tally with one other victory on the French Open.
Nadal, 36, is one forward of Djokovic, who diminished the hole at Wimbledon, within the race to complete with essentially the most silverware which is usually used to find out the best gamers of all time.
Like Djokovic, Nadal can by no means be underestimated and dominated out of competition at a serious. The 2-time champion would be the high seed following US Open winner Alcaraz’s withdrawal.
However, after an belly harm ruined the second half of final season for him, and having began this season with two consecutive defeats on the United Cup, one other Nadal triumph seems to be a protracted shot.
A tricky draw – which begins with a first-round match in opposition to rising British star Jack Draper – may be problematic.
Norway’s Casper Ruud will look to proceed his upward trajectory following runs to the French Open and US Open finals final 12 months, whereas Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas can be aiming to lastly land his first main at a venue the place he has a powerful file.
Ruud and Tsitsipas even have the chance to grow to be the world primary for the primary time, assured to switch Alcaraz in the event that they win the title.
Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios would be the centre of consideration for the house followers, Russia’s Daniil Medvedev – who misplaced the 2022 closing after a shocking fightback by Nadal – is aiming to recapture his finest kind, whereas Danish teenager Holger Rune goals to proceed his swift ascent.
Swiatek aiming to proceed dominance
For the primary time since Serena Williams was in her pomp virtually a decade in the past, the WTA season was utterly dominated by a single participant final 12 months.
Iga Swiatek rose to the highest of the world rankings when Australia’s Ashleigh Barty introduced her shock retirement in March, a time the 21-year-old from Poland was virtually halfway by a 37-match successful streak and on the best way to successful the third of six titles in a row.
A type of triumphs got here on the French Open – the second time she had gained at Roland Garros – and he or she completed a productive season with one other main trophy on the US Open.
The indicators stay Swiatek will proceed this 12 months the place she left off, though a defeat by American Jessica Pegula final week left the Pole in tears on the court docket and he or she subsequently pulled out of a match in Adelaide citing a shoulder harm.
Pegula, probably the most constant gamers final season however nonetheless to land a serious, additionally withdrew from the warm-up occasion after inspiring the US to victory on the inaugural United Cup.
The world quantity three is predicted to problem Swiatek at Melbourne Park, the place a brand new champion shall be topped after Barty – who introduced final week she is pregnant – ended Australia’s 44-year await a serious singles champion.
Tunisia’s second seed Ons Jabeur is aiming to lastly land a serious after defeats within the Wimbledon and US Open finals final 12 months, France’s Caroline Garcia and American teenager Coco Gauff will look to construct additional on spectacular seasons, whereas China’s Zheng Qinwen is one other gifted teen with a burgeoning status.
Two-time champion Naomi Osaka withdrew earlier than saying she is pregnant and 42-year-old Venus Williams – given a wildcard by organisers – pulled out by harm.
Raducanu hoping to guide the British bid
When Raducanu curtailed her 2022 season and shortly after began a two-month coaching block to construct up her physique for the rigours of the tour, she hoped to place her harm issues behind her.
Then got here the ankle harm – suffered in her second match of the 12 months, when she performed Slovakia’s Viktoria Kuzmova in Auckland – which Raducanu described as an “accident” she couldn’t keep away from.
The 2021 US Open champion’s mobility throughout apply at Melbourne Park this week initially regarded tough and he or she stated her restoration progress can be assessed “daily”.
By Thursday – when the draw was made – she was transferring freely and regarded in ok form to play.
Raducanu was tearful when she left the Auckland court docket after retiring with an ankle harm, however has been upbeat this week about her possibilities of taking part in the Australian Open
Harriet Dart, ranked 96th,is Britain’s solely different consultant within the ladies’s singles.
British males’s primary Norrie, 27, is aiming to keep up his gorgeous progress over the previous couple of years, exhibiting his intent with a career-best victory over Nadal on the latest United Cup.
Norrie vowed after a first-round exit in Melbourne final 12 months to tailor his schedule to peak on the majors, happening to succeed in the Wimbledon semi-finals and now hopes to keep away from falling on the first hurdle in Australia for the fourth time in 5 years.
Dan Evans is the one different British seed within the males’s singles, with rising star Jack Draper and former world primary Murray ranked on the earth’s high 50 however simply exterior the seeds.
Kyle Edmund, a semi-finalist in 2018, returns to Melbourne Park utilizing a protected rating as he continues his comeback after three knee operations.
Within the males’s doubles, world primary Neal Skupski and 2020 Australian Open champion Joe Salisbury lead the British hopes with their respective companions Wesley Koolhof and Rajeev Ram.
Lloyd Glasspool, Jamie Murray, plus all-British partnership Julian Money and Henry Patten, are additionally within the draw, with Olivia Nicholls and Alicia Barnett – who made their breakthrough final 12 months and starred for Britain on the Billie Jean King Cup Finals – within the ladies’s doubles together with Heather Watson.
Within the wheelchair occasion, 17-year-old Ben Bartram has been awarded a wildcard and joins Alfie Hewett, Gordon Reid, Lucy Shuker and Andy Lapthorne.