Nadal preparation may cost repeat of Federer epic

Rafael Nadal in action during a practice session on Rod Laver Arena

Rafael Nadal in action during a practice session on Rod Laver Arena

And so if the 2017 Australian Open was one for the ages - the revival of the Federer- Nadal rivalry and another Williams sisters final - the 2018 edition is shaping as a survival of the fittest.

Williams's sister Venus, who lost to her sibling in the final last year, is seeded fourth and the 37-year-old was handed a tricky first encounter against Swiss former world number seven Belinda Bencic, who is 17 years her junior.

A year ago, popular consensus held that the 'Big Four' of men's tennis - Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray - had been reduced to a 'Big Two'.

Qualifying is free to attend, but with no matches underway due to wet weather, the crowd quickly made their way to the show court.

Djokovic will begin this tournament ranked number 14 in the world and seriously lacking any kind of form after being out injured for the second half of last season.

The trio, along with Canadian prodigy Denis Shapovalov, flamboyant Korean Hyeon Chung, Russian dynamos Andrey Rublev, Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov, Croatia's next-gen star Borna Coric and seemingly Australian teenage summer sensation Alex de Minaur head the list of potential grand slam champions in the future.

'It's the first match ever that I am playing with a sleeve on, I am trying to serve well, it went good today, ' he said.

Edmund tried to do just that last year at Roland Garros but the big South African simply would not let him; Anderson won in five sets.

"I don't usually like going to draws, I just want to see the sheet".

"I'll take whatever I can - one or two matches here will be good preparation".

Karolina Pliskova is attracting some interest with the bookies (Picture: Getty Images)Where can you live stream the Australian Open?

All eyes will be on fourth seed Alexander Zverev after the 20-year-old German's remarkable run (five titles, including two Masters 1000 crowns) in 2017.

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.

"Obviously I missed tennis (when he was sidelined for six months last year)".

After that, John Isner (16) or Diego Schwartzman (24) could meet the Spaniard in the round of 16. Nobody from the younger generations has risen to the challenge of consistently rivalling Federer and Nadal, the pair who have dominated the sport since 2005. And when you see the finish line, you don't slow down. Chris Kermode, executive chairman of the men's tour, the Association of Tennis Professionals, promised a shake-up, although he accepted the players' reasons for withdrawing.

"It was a huge surprise".

But, beneath the gleaming Djokovic exterior, cracks appeared, first emerging in Melbourne.

They were richly rewarded, with fine hitting from two of the biggest names in the sport.

Federer won the 2017 Australian Open.

There is also the Plexicushion court to consider, which, in spite of repeated denials by the authorities, looked faster than ever last year.

While the roof was closed, both men struggled in humid conditions and called off a third set in favour of a tiebreak. With an abundance of activities and events, the project will provide an insight into the life and times of these artists. "But when he's on, he's on, and he's really difficult to beat".

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