Australian Open: Survival of the fittest as 'open' season starts down under

Aubrey Yates
January 13, 2018

For good reason a two-week grand slam can be described as a "last man standing" marathon of mental and physical endurance, which makes Roger Federer's haul of 19 all the more incredible.

Six-times Melbourne Park champion Djokovic, seeded 14th after missing the back end of last season with an elbow injury, will take on American lefthander Donald Young in his first match with mercurial Frenchman Gael Monfils looming in round two.

Hours after battling past Kiki Bertens 6-3 7-6 (6) to reach the quarter-finals, the 24-year-old announced she had withdrawn.

In the women's bracket, Serena Williams will miss the Australian Open as she recovers from her pregnancy, but Venus Williams has an extremely hard draw herself.

The 2008 champion Maria Sharapova, who on Monday moved back into the world's top 50 for the first time since returning from a 15-month doping ban, is unseeded and takes on 47th-ranked German Tatjana Maria in the first round in the same section of the draw.

Venus Williams, who lost the all-Williams final past year, has a tough opener against Belinda Bencic and is also in the same quarter as U.S. Open victor Sloane Stephens.

He followed his run to the final in Melbourne by winning the French Open and U.S. Open, splitting the Grand Slam honors with Federer for the year.

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Federer's big concern would be against del Potro in the quarters.

In the bottom half, Wozniacki will not be unduly anxious by the first week, although Ostapenko could lurk in the quarters.

He starts against a qualifier and could meet his Brisbane conqueror and home hopeful, 17th seed Nick Kyrgios, in the fourth round.

His longevity has been marvelled at far and wide, underlined by the fact that his 2017 victory came 13 years after his first.

"Wawrinka is the ideal player for a major", Wilander said.

A similar controversy blew up at the Auckland Classic this week when four players pulled out before their opening matches, citing injury or illness. Chris Kermode, executive chairman of the men's tour, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), promised a shake-up, although he accepted the players' reasons for withdrawing. Thiem, who admittedly played far from his best, barely got a read of it.

The Swiss marvel rates his magical Melbourne Park comeback from a career-threatening knee injury above even his incredible eighth Wimbledon triumph last July.

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