Federer still the man to beat at Melbourne Park

Twelve-time Grand Slam victor Djokovic has been sidelined since Wimbledon in July because of a right elbow injury, but beat world number five Dominic Thiem in straight sets in the Kooyong Classic this week.

"There was a doubt, especially after I pulled out of the first week of the year", said Djokovic, who had not played since retiring in the Wimbledon quarter-finals last July.

Nadal's first official match is scheduled to take place at the Australian Open, following his withdrawal from the Brisbane International tournament and from an exhibition held in Abu Dhabi.

"But I don't want to say it's 100 per cent".

Although Djokovic said he was delighted with his performance, especially his serve, he acknowledged that he was still not in flawless shape.

Novak Djokovic has practised behind closed doors ahead of next week's Australian Open, adding to the intrigue surrounding his return from a lengthy injury layoff.

Has any grand-slam build-up stood more at the mercy of torn muscles, ligaments and tendons?

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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.

The Spaniard had called off his 2017 season due to a knee injury after playing his last match at the ATP Finals.

While his younger rivals battle their bodies, the 36-year-old is living the dream and looks a strong favourite to retain his title and become the first man to hit 20 Grand Slam singles titles.

Several top players-including Williams, Andy Murray, Victoria Azarenka and Kei Nishikori-won't participate in this year's tournament for a variety of health-related and personal reasons. "It's not a secret that I have my sights on 25", she said.

"I think it's normal because there's a lot of expectations this year", he was quoted as saying by the Australian Open website.

While there are many major sporting events that grace the stadiums and streets of the Victorian capital of Melbourne, Australia, none have a bigger impact on the city than the Australian Open. "I certainly will hope I put myself in that position", Sharapova said. Grigor Dimitrov [12.0] is still looking for his first title, as is Alex Zverev [19.0] who won five titles in 2017.

"I had all these great five-setters and, at the end, the epic match against Rafa".

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