MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer begin their quest for five Australian Open titles while Serena Williams is chasing her 19th Grand Slam crown in the year’s first major starting on Monday.
World number one Djokovic looms as the player to beat in the men’s draw having won four of the last seven Australian editions, and he holds an affinity with the hardcourts in Melbourne.
“There are so many players who are contenders to win the title,” said the Serb.
“Considering the success that I had in my career in this tournament gives me enough reason and confidence to believe I can go far.”
While Djokovic has never lost a final in Melbourne, Federer will be again be the sentimental favorite at 33 years old, pursuing his 18th major title having not won one since Wimbledon 2012.
“I would hope that over the years I’ve always improved. I think I’m serving more consistent and stronger than I ever have,” Federer said.
“I definitely think the racquet has helped me with that as well, my concentration I do believe is there, better than it’s ever been and I think my backhand is working better than it has in the past as well.”
There are question marks over Rafael Nadal’s match fitness after playing few matches since Wimbledon last July following a wrist injury and later an appendectomy.
Nadal suffered a shock defeat in his first match of the season in Doha to German qualifier Michael Berrer on the way to Australia.
“I am doing lot of practice and doing the things that we believe we have to do to recover our level,” Nadal said.
“Is true that having a Grand Slam this early in the season after injury like I’ve had is not the ideal thing. But here we are.”
Nadal has won 14 Grand Slams, but only won one of them in Australia where he also had two runner-up finishes, including in last year’s final to Stan Wawrinka.
Britain’s Andy Murray has lost three finals in Melbourne and will have to get past Federer and Nadal to make his fourth.