Djokovic beats Thiem in strong comeback after 6-month absence

Ross Houston
January 13, 2018

On the women's side, Serena Williams is not defending her title as she regains her fitness after childbirth and debilitating blood clotting that followed, leaving the family interests in the hands of Venus Williams, a finalist a year ago. The first three in particular would be expected to be among the big favourites for the title if fit.

Even with Murray and Novak Djokovic out of the frame for much of 2017 due to injury, "Gen Next" once again failed to make inroads at the four tournaments that really count.

Federer was seeded No. 2 behind world No. 1 Rafael Nadal has a seemingly simple opener against 51st-ranked Slovenian Aljaz Bedene, but he might be made to sweat after that.

"Obviously to play best-of-five-set matches and to play seven of them in two weeks, he'd need to have a lot of things go his way".

Nadal finished on top of the year-end rankings after winning the French and United States open crowns.

Meanwhile, 2017 Australian Open champion Serena Williams opted out of the competition, saying that her preparations had fallen just short of what she needed to be competitive after giving birth in September.

Tournament organisers no doubt breathed a sigh of relief when Margaret Court revealed she would not be attending the event this year. Tennis has been nearly universally condemnatory of Court's anti gay marriage stance while there have been calls for a boycott of the Margaret Court Arena.

Sharapova, who is returning to Melbourne for the first time since testing positive here in 2016 for the banned substance meldonium and serving a 15-month ban, was an eyebrow-raising choice by the tournament to carry the women's trophy into Margaret Court Arena during the draw ceremony.

Nadal was naturally rusty after his extended break but he looked free from his notorious knee problems and is by no means alone in heading to the Australian Open after injury troubles.

Here, we look at tennis' walking wounded.

The Spaniard had also been battling a knee injury and had not played since the season-ending ATP Tour Finals in London.

Novak Djokovic, Garbine Muguruza and Stan Wawrinka all face fitness questions ahead of next week's Australian Open.

However, the path to glory in Melbourne will now be just a bit more hazardous given they might well face Djokovic. Unfortunately, some players won't be there to compete.

Another Australian who has enjoyed a strong build-up to the year's first Grand Slam is Ashleigh Barty.

Djokovic hasn't played a competitive tournament since retiring in the quarter finals at Wimbledon a year ago with a right elbow injury.

By contrast, Nadal will enjoy his 11th top seeding at a grand slam, and his fourth at Melbourne Park.

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