Grand slam dreams
Unchallenged in its billing as the greatest event in this part of the world, the Australian Open continues to provide a fitting start to the sporting year. First held in 1905 as the Australian Championships and contested only by amateurs, the Open, from 1969, celebrates 51 years marking the occasion with another hefty increase in prizemoney to A$62.5m of which the singles winners each pocket $4.1m. Even first round losers in qualifying pick up $15,000 while first round losers in the main singles draws take home $75,000. No-one, surely, would bet against the big three in the men's singles. Since
2006 Novak Djokovic (six), Roger Federer (five) and Rafael Nadal (one) have dominated with only Stan Wawrinka (2014) playing party-pooper. Djokovic is seeded first ahead of Nadal and Federer here. The women's singles appear more open. Apart from seven-time winner Serena Williams — this time seeded 16 — only Victoria Azarenka (twice) has won more than once in recent years. The Belarusian, on the comeback trail, is now ranked 51 and unseeded. Among those to have won in recent times, defending champion Caroline Wozniacki is seeded third behind Simona Halep who lost last year's final and Angelique Kerber, the
2016 champion. Aussie fans will be hoping for an upset from their best hope, 15th-seed
ASB Classic, finals, today from noon. Sydney
● International, finals, today from 5pm. Australian Open, from Monday 1pm then daily.