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13 Enero 2018, 04:16 | Gerardo Tarin
Has Nadal bulked up? Image Getty
In his first appearance in six months, Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic on Wednesday defeated Austria's Dominic Thiem 6-1, 6-4 at the Kooyong Classic exhibition here. With regards to the men, the injuries that plagued Djokovic and Wawrinka in the latter half of 2017 mean that at least one, if not both, will fail to make the latter stages despite their impressive records in Melbourne. It began shortly after he won the 2016 French Open to hold all four Grand Slam titles at once, and it persisted until he finally walked out of Wimbledon during a 2017 quarterfinal opposite Tomas Berdych, his right elbow urging respite. However, the current season will be made more hard by the return of Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka, who missed the 2017 campaign through injury.
Now, under new rules by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), any Grand Slam player who withdraws after 1200 local time yesterday before the tournament draw will still receive 50 percent of first round prize money. Victory in Melbourne, coupled with an early Nadal exit, could see him take it in Australia, six years after he last sat top of the tree.
Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza is in the same half of the draw as Halep and takes on France's Jessika Ponchet in the opening round.
Should Djokovic come through that, he could face France's former world No 6 Gael Monfils, who enters the Australian Open as the recently-crowned Qatar Open champion - a tournament Djokovic has twice won but opted to miss this year to continue his recovery.
The list of absentees including the likes of current Australian Openchampion Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and three-time Grand Slam victor Andy Murray caused tennis fans all over to let out a huge sigh of disappointment. Given that few in the sport would have predicted this resurgence by the legendary veterans, I perhaps risk embarrassment by attempting to preview and predict this year's tournament.
"On the other side of the coin, it's probably more intriguing because you have 20 players that can win a grand slam. Luckily for me I'm here and so I'm hoping in the next four, five days everything will go well and I'll be ready for the Open".
Sharapova said after a long time out she had to be patient coming back to the tour, but was still confident of returning to the top ranking and winning major tournaments.
"The quarters, semis at best, because I would just run into a red-hot Djokovic or Murray or Nadal or somebody and my game wasn't going to be good enough for that day - and it was".
Federer will saddle up for a 19th time in the main draw at Melbourne Park, looking to frustrate "Generation Next" once again and defend the title he won past year during a stunning comeback from knee surgery.
"It was a great test for me to see where I am, to see how I feel, to hear the score being called and feel the pressure of break points".
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