Djokovic ready to return
Novak Djokovic is back from six months off the tour with a remodeled service motion partly inspired by Andre Agassi and a growing confidence he can get his sore right elbow through the Australian Open.
No man has more Australian Open titles than Djokovic, who has six in all and — until last year’s shocking second-round exit — had won five of the six contested from 2011 to 2016.
Djokovic is seeded 14th and will be coming off just a couple of exhibition matches to prepare for his first-round encounter against Donald Young.
The 12-time major winner is in the same quarter as No. 4 Alexander Zverev, No. 5 Dominic Thiem and 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka, who confirmed Saturday he’d return at Melbourne Park from his own six-month layoff following surgery on his left knee.
They’re all in the same half of the draw as defending champion Roger Federer, who last year returned from an extended injury time out to beat Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final. Federer went on to win Wimbledon for his 19th major and finished the year ranked No. 2 behind Nadal, who won the French and U.S. Open titles.
That is giving Djokovic some hope. “I mean, Roger and Rafa’s year last year has shown age is just a number, especially in Roger’s case,” Djokovic said Saturday in his pre-tournament news conference. “I mean, he’s a great example of someone that manages to take care of himself, knows how to prepare well and peak at the right time.
“He won a couple Grand Slams. Who would predict that after his six months of absence, so ... everything is possible really.”
On the women’s side, with no Serena Williams in the draw, there’s certainly an opportunity for another women’s player to go on a surprising run and emerge as a first-time Grand Slam champion, as Sloane Stephens and Jelena Ostapenko did last year.
Just don’t describe the first Grand Slam of the year as “more open” than usual.
“Whenever I get asked that question, it always comes across in really kind of an almost negative way instead of acknowledging how many great players we have,” Johanna Konta, who reached the semifinals of Wimbledon last year, said in her pre-tournament news conference Saturday.
“The depth in women’s tennis I really do believe in the last few years has gotten so strong,” she added. “There’s no straight sailing to the quarters or semis. It doesn’t exist.”
Stephens agrees the Australian Open field is still extremely tough, even with Williams, the defending champion and 23-time major winner, skipping the tournament as she continues her recovery from a complicated childbirth in September.
“There’s a lot of great players,” she said. “It’s up for grabs.”
Indeed, any number of women could be holding the trophy at Melbourne Park in two weeks. The No. 1-ranking changed seven times in 2017, with five different women assuming top spot — three for the first time.
Despite being seeded 14th and being off for six months, Novak Djokovic is one of the favorites to win the Australian Open.