Federer to open title defence against Slovenian Bedene

RogerFederer-Cropped

19-time grand slam champion Roger Federer

While most players prepare by taking part in at least one event in the first two weeks of the season, a few of them go into the Slam with very little match practice under their belts.

Doubt was cast over whether Djokovic would be fit to play in the Australian Open, which starts on Monday, when he withdrew from warm-up events in Abu Dhabi and Doha.

"I played better than I thought might happen [on Wednesday] and most importantly I played without pain". By contrast, Djokovic is returning from injury and hopes to avoid a repeat of last year's second-round defeat to Denis Istomin - his worst result since bowing out at the first hurdle in his first appearances in 2005 and 2006.

No Australian man has won the Australian Open since Mark Edmondson in 1976, and no woman since Chris O'Neil in 1978.

Following Thursday's draw, the Serbian 12-time major champion will begin his campaign against American world No 63 Donald Young, a player he has beaten in both of their previous encounters.

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The Russian captured his first ATP title past year and reached the US Open quarter-finals - where he couldn't pull off a major upset and beat eventual champion Rafael Nadal.

Twelve months on from his unforgettable surge to a fifth Open crown aged 35 and in his first official tournament back after six months out of the game, Federer admits he can still barely believe what he pulled off. "I don't think there's anybody else that you could say is a favourite other than Roger at the moment". Andy Murray has had to extend his six-month absence by having hip surgery, while Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka have not played competitively since Wimbledon in July although the pair, unlike the Briton, will be at Melbourne Park.

Nadal's five-set defeat to Federer past year will go down as a true epic between two sporting greats, but the longest grand slam final in the Open era belongs to Djokovic and Nadal, who battled for five hours and 53 minutes in 2012.

"Last year's season was a bit long and I had to start a little bit later than I would've liked".

"It was a fantastic test for me to see what we have done as a team in the off-season, whether it works or not on the court", said the Serb.

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Women's top seed Simona Halep will take on 17-year-old Australian wildcard Destinee Aiava in the first round, but will likely have to beat Eugenie Bouchard and Petra Kvitova just to make the round of 16.

The opening Grand Slam of the 2018 is just round the corner and there are plenty of reasons for you to set that alarm early for a fortnight of scintillating tennis.

Like many players, injuries plagued Kyrgios' 2017, but in front of a willing home crowd at Melbourne Park, the right-hander will be desperate to put on a dazzling display.

In 2017, we saw two first-time Major-winners - Ostapenko at the French Open and Sloane Stephens at the US Open.

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