All eyes on Djokovic on Australian Open return

Come Monday, the world will see the return of the Serbian to his favourite Grand Slam, especially after a forgettable exit last year.

Published: 15th January 2023 09:35 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th January 2023 09:35 AM   |  A+A-

Novak Djokovic

Serbia's Novak Djokovic (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Looking back at the build-up to the 2022 Australian Open, the tennis world witnessed the then defending champion, Novak Djokovic, being deported from the country over vaccination issues. Rafael Nadal went on to win his 21st Grand Slam, surpassing Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Come Monday, the world will see the return of the Serbian to his favourite Grand Slam, especially after a forgettable exit last year. With the chance to equal the tally with Nadal, all eyes will be on the 35-year-old. Former India tennis star Somdev Devvarman feels so as well.

"Without Carlos Alcaraz, two favourites would be Novak and Rafa," said Devvarman in a recent media interaction facilitated by Sony Sports Network. "Taylor Fritz loves playing on quick hard courts. He is great there (Australia) and has got a big serve. Daniil Medvedev has made finals two years in a row. Stefanos Tsitsipas as well — he has not made a run in Aussie as he'd have liked. But he has the ability, no questions. How can you count out Kyrgios after he has made the finals at Wimbledon."

Todd Woodbridge, the Former Australian World No.1 in doubles, also stressed the significance of Djokovic's presence this season. "We want the best players to beat it. And if you don't have the best players, there is always a question mark over the event. It's also really important for Australia to have him here. Because it means that the country is open, it means the travel is back. Tennis is an important part of showcasing our country to the world. With Novak being able to be back, it means Australia is back," said Woodbridge

He added that the 21-Grand Slam title holder might have to face the heat from their media, but that's a hurdle he is experienced enough to handle. "There will be tension, there is no doubt about that from the Australian Media, but he is very worldly. He (Djokovic) has dealt with the press and the media and has years of experience. He loves the surface, he loves the environment, and of course, he has 9 AO titles. I think he is very motivated and very driven to win again here. Because of the fact he wasn't allowed to play. I'm sure that motivates him, in fact."

While Nadal is the top-seeded player, he has lost two matches in the United Cup lately. When asked if his form could be a concern, Devvarman said that the Spaniard is only going to get better with every match. "He has not just found his form. Rafa is the ultimate warrior. He goes out there every single time regardless of the situation, making life incredibly difficult for the opponent."
As far as the women's singles is concerned, Iga Swiatek is the one Devvarman has his eyes on. "In my opinion, the favourite of the tournament is Iga Swiatek. She won two Grand Slams last year. If she's playing well, it's almost impossible to beat her. Aryna Sabalenka won a title last week (Adelaide International 1). There are a lot of players capable of knocking at the doors. (Barbora) Krejcikova can really do some damage. (Elena) Rybakina – we saw her win Wimbledon. Ons Jabeur has been right around all time, but far and ahead favourite is Iga Swiatek."

Watch the LIVE coverage of Australian Open 2023 on Sony Sports Ten 2 and Sony Sports Ten 5 channels starting from the 16th of January 2023 at 5:30am IST.


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