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Australian Open: Novak Djokovic chases Rafael Nadal's record as Iga Swiatek looks to cement her status as the best in the sport

2023-01-16T00:03:25.861Z


The first Grand Slam of the new tennis season begins this January 16 in Melbourne. The Australian Open 2023 is presented with endless interesting stories.


Who are the candidates to win the Australian Open?

4:59

(CNN) --

The first Grand Slam of the new tennis season begins on January 16 in Melbourne.

The Australian Open 2023 is presented with endless interesting stories.

Chief among these is the return of Novak Djokovic, a year after his post-deportation debacle.

The Serb will attempt to match Rafael Nadal's record of 22 Grand Slam titles.

Djokovic's preparation for the Australian Open began in the best possible way, with victory in the preparation tournament for the Adelaide International, which allowed him to win his 92nd ATP singles title and equal Nadal for fourth place in the all-time rankings. .

Only Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer and Ivan Lendl have won more singles titles on Tour.

However, Djokovic suffered an injury on Wednesday and was forced to withdraw from a training match against Daniil Medvedev.

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The world number 5 told 9News Melbourne it was the same hamstring problem he suffered last week at the Adelaide International and abandoned against Medvedev out of caution.

Novak Djokovic won the Adelaide International to clinch his 92nd ATP title.

(Loren Elliott/Reuters)

"I just felt it pull and I didn't want to risk anything worse," he said.

"I played a set and apologized to him (Medvedev) and he was understanding. I just want to avoid any major scares before the Australian Open."

"In today's match I was very careful with the hamstring. It was fine. A couple of times in the match I felt the muscle tighten, but nothing to worry about for my performance."

Djokovic is the bookmakers' clear favorite to win the title in Australia, and this Monday he will face Spaniard Roberto Carballés Baena in his attempt to win his tenth Australian Open crown.

"We were all wondering how his hamstring injury is, when he said he didn't want to play that match against Medvedev and also cut some training short," Barbara Schett, former professional and current broadcaster, told CNN's Amanda Davies.

"But he had a great start to the season, he won a tournament in Adelaide and he's hungry.

"He was not allowed to play in Australia and it was very hard for him to take it. I think he is over it now and wants to start from scratch. He was very successful in the past at the Australian Open, he won the title at that tournament nine times, so that he feels very comfortable there and what is interesting is how he will be received.

"In Adelaide people loved him, let's hope the same thing happens in Melbourne. The other day when he came out on track for his first practice session he was kissing the track, which shows how much it means to him."

"I think he's hungry, he was well rested last year because he only played 11 tournaments and he played amazing tennis that extended his career... so he's my big favorite going into the Australian Open this year, that's for sure."

The number 1 in the world, absent

Hard blow for Carlos Alcaraz, he will miss the Australian Open 0:56

Unfortunately for tennis fans, especially Spanish ones, world number 1 Carlos Alcaraz will miss the Melbourne tournament due to a right leg injury sustained in training last week.

The Australian Open would have been Alcaraz's first Grand Slam since winning the 2022 US Open in September, but his place at the top of the standings is now under threat as Djokovic, Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas can take him from number 1.

Last year, Alcaraz won five ATP titles and became the youngest No. 1 in men's tennis by capturing his first Grand Slam in New York.

He is the youngest man since Rafael Nadal to break into the top 10 and win an ATP 1000 title.

At 19 years and 214 days, Alcaraz also became the youngest No. 1 in men's tennis history, surpassing Lleyton Hewitt's record set in 2001.

Fortunately, the injury does not appear to be too serious, as Alcaraz announced in a tweet on Wednesday that he will return to court for the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires, which begins on February 11.

Nadal, for his part, will defend the title won in 2022.

However, the world number 2 - the top seed in Melbourne in Alcaraz's absence - has struggled with injury and has started the year slowly, losing his only two matches to date, in the United Cup.

Nadal had a tough draw in the first round and will face British youngster Jack Draper, who had a flying start to the season by reaching the semi-finals of the Adelaide International.

"With Rafa Nadal you never know," said Schett.

"We know that many times he has had problems with injuries and suddenly he appears and wins a Grand Slam title.

"Last year he didn't play much tennis and he appeared at the Australian Open and won the title, so I wouldn't make a big deal out of him losing two matches in the United Cup."

"Of course, facing Jack Draper in the first round is not an easy draw, but Rafa Nadal should never be ruled out because he has experience, especially in Grand Slams, and I think he is looking forward to winning more Grand Slam titles."

Other notable first-round matchups in the men's draw include world number 14 and last year's semifinalist Matteo Berrettini against three-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray, as well as local box office favorite Nick Kyrgios, who hopes to become the first Australian champion in 47 years, against Roman Safiullin.

Swiatek's success

Iga Swiatek lifts her US Open trophy on Sept. 10, 2022. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Iga Swiatek hopes to add an Australian Open title to her already impressive resume, which includes two French Open titles and a US Open crown.

At just 21 years old, Swiatek was poised to become the dominant force in the sport following Ash Barty's shock retirement last year, when he was ranked No. 1 in the world.

  • Iga Swiatek defeats Ons Jabeur, wins the US Open and takes his third Grand Slam title

Swiatek now tops the rankings and, at the US Open late last year, dispelled any doubts that her Grand Slam success on clay could not translate to hard courts.

The Polish star enjoyed an incredibly successful 2022, winning a staggering eight titles, including the French Open, US Open, and WTA 1000 tournaments in Rome, Miami, and Indian Wells.

Swiatek's success last year has placed her in another stratosphere at the top of the women's rankings, almost 6,000 points clear of world number 2 Ons Jabeur.

Swiatek is clearly the favorite at the Australian Open and is hoping to improve on her performance from last year when she reached the semifinals, but she was dealt a tough first round tie against Germany's Jule Niemeier.

The 23-year-old caused a sensation last year by reaching the Wimbledon quarterfinals and the US Open round of 16 with her big shots and, now ranked 68th in the world, makes her first appearance at the main draw of the Australian Open.

One of Swiatek's main rivals for the title in Melbourne will be world number 3 Jessica Pegula, who beat the Pole in last week's United Cup semi-finals before clinching the title.

The American has become one of the most regular players on the circuit, and her third victory on the circuit came last year in Guadalajara (Mexico), in the WTA 1000 event.

Pegula also played a key role in Team USA's victory in the inaugural mixed team event, the United Cup, and her brilliant start to the year will make her sure she can claim her first Grand Slam title in Australia.

The best of the rest of the Australian Open

Jabeur, who in 2022 starred in a great year by reaching two Grand Slam finals, is another of the contenders for the title at the Australian Open.

Although she lost in the Wimbledon and US Open finals, Jabeur won two WTA titles last year, including the Madrid 1000 event, to add to her only previous Birmingham title in 2021.

Jabeur's success in 2022 helped her climb to a career-high world number 2, and her varied play, dangerous on all surfaces, makes her a real threat in Melbourne, with experience gained from reaching two major endings, certainly a benefit.

Teenage superstar Coco Gauff will be another player hoping to break her losing streak at a Grand Slam after also reaching her first final in 2022.

Gauff lost to Swiatek in the French Open final, but he impressed on clay, a surface that is far from his favourite, which will certainly give him more confidence to excel on his preferred surface in Australia.

Though she didn't win any singles titles in 2022, Gauff continued her rise as one of the world's most impressive doubles players by winning three WTA titles with compatriot Pegula.

At just 18 years old, Gauff finished 2022 among the top 10 in both singles and doubles -seventh and fourth, respectively- and will undoubtedly be a serious contender for the four Grand Slams of 2023.

Australian Open 2021Tennis

Source: cnnespanol

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