April 20, 2024

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Novak Djokovic bids for Grand Slam history as Australian Open starts

Djokovic is aiming for his 11th Australian Open title and 25th major title, which would put him ahead of Margaret Court on the all-time list.

On Monday, Novak Djokovic begins his bid for Grand Slam history at the Australian Open against 18-year-old qualifier Dino Prizmic, while Aryna Sabalenka begins her title defense.

Djokovic is aiming for his 11th Australian Open title and 25th major title, which would put him ahead of Margaret Court on the all-time list.

With 24 Grand Slams, the Serbian is already the most decorated player in men’s tennis, two ahead of the injured Rafael Nadal and four ahead of the retired Roger Federer.

Last year, Djokovic came close to completing a calendar Grand Slam, winning three titles and losing a thrilling Wimbledon final to Carlos Alcaraz.

The 36-year-old, who defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in last year’s title match in Melbourne, is the overwhelming favorite once more.

“I’m just hoping I can start the season in a way that I have been starting my seasons, most of my seasons, throughout my career, with a win here in Australia, in Melbourne,” he said.

“It’s my favourite place, no doubt — the court where I’ve done great things and achieved my greatest Grand Slam results.”

After a breakthrough year in 2023 in which she won in Melbourne, finished runner-up at the US Open, and reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, Belarusian star Sabalenka is used to playing at the top of the majors.

She became the first woman since Serena Williams in 2016 to reach the semi-finals of all four Grand Slams in the same calendar year.

Currently ranked second behind Poland’s Iga Swiatek, the 25-year-old said she is in good mental and physical shape as she prepares to face unseeded German Ella Seidel.

“I had an incredible season last year, improved a lot as a player and as a person. I did really a great pre-season. We worked a lot. I felt like we improved a lot,” she said.

Caroline Wozniacki, a former champion who was granted a wildcard to compete, returns to the site of her greatest triumph four years after her last appearance at Melbourne Park.

The 2018 Australian Open champion has joined the ranks of tennis mothers such as Elina Svitolina, Angelique Kerber, and Naomi Osaka in juggling on-court commitments with motherhood duties.

Despite her long absence from the tour, the 33-year-old, who faces Poland’s 20th-seed Magda Linette, believes she can compete with the best.

“I think any time I step on a court, I believe I can win the match no matter who the opponent is across the net” she said.

Men’s fourth seed Jannik Sinner, fifth seed Andrey Rublev, fresh from winning the Hong Kong Open, and women’s eighth seed Maria Sakkari are also in action on day one of the Australian Open, which is a 15-day event for the first time.

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