Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal kick off bids for 2023 supremacy in Australia

Novak Djokovic of Serbia shakes hands with Rafael Nadal of Spain

FILE–Novak Djokovic of Serbia shakes hands with Rafael Nadal of Spain. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal begin their 2023 campaigns this week in Adelaide and Sydney respectively, with superstar veterans and major rivals heading for further Australian Open glory.

With the pair sharing 43 Grand Slam titles between them – Djokovic has 21 and Nadal 22 – the scene is set for an epic showdown at Melbourne Park in January.

Nadal is the defending Australian Open champion and Djokovic is a nine-time champion.

Djokovic returns Down Under for the first time since being reasonably detained and then expelled before the tournament Australian Open 2022 because he refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

He began his bid to win an incredible 10th Australian Open title at the Adelaide International from Sunday, after a tough year and was cut short when he missed two majors because of vaccine conditions. mine.

Djokovic was initially banned from entering Australia before 2025, but a new government in Canberra has reversed the ruling and he is now aiming for more silver titles at his most successful Grand Slam venue.

“Over the years, I’ve been really lucky to start very strong in Australia and I love playing there,” the world number five said in Dubai last week, after finishing 2022 with the title. sixth ATP Tour Finals champion, equaling the record.

“Obviously after what happened earlier this year, hopefully I can be well received there and hopefully that can help me play good tennis.”

He will face a top court in Adelaide, including Felix Auger-Aliassime, Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, who are sixth, seventh and eighth respectively.

In Djokovic’s absence this year, the great Spaniard Nadal overcame Medvedev to win the Australian Open in an epic five-set match — then came back with a French Open title. 14th time.

‘Lots of hours on court’

Tennis - ATP Turin Finals - Pala Alpitour, Turin, Italy - November 17, 2022 Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after winning his group stage match against Casper Ruud of Norway

FILE – Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

Nadal will begin his preparations in Sydney at the United Cup, a new event for mixed teams where a blockbuster match against Australian boxer Nick Kyrgios will test his abilities.

Eighteen nations will compete in the event over 11 days from Thursday, with Brisbane, Perth and Sydney hosting group matches in a round-robin format.

Matches include two men’s singles and two women’s singles and one mixed doubles match.

The series of finals will be held in Sydney.

World number three Casper Ruud and Alexander Zverev of Germany, who are returning from a serious ankle injury, will participate.

Top Rated Carlos Alcaraz will kick off at the Kooyong Classic show in Melbourne from January 10-12 as he fights back from an abdominal injury that shortened his pre-season training.

The 19-year-old Spaniard, a major threat to Djokovic and Nadal, missed the season-ending ATP Finals and Davis Cup finals due to a muscle tear, but is confident he will be ready.

“I’d say it’s important to practice a lot, spend many hours on the court,” he said this month.

“I will be ready and 100% headed to Australia.”

Italy’s Jannik Sinner and world No 9 Taylor Fritz, among others, will also use Kooyong for fine-tuning.

Iga Swiatek WTA San Diego

FILE–Iga Swiatek of Poland. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/AFP

World number one Iga Swiatek will adapt in Perth with her Polish teammates at the United Cup after winning the French Open and US Open titles in 2022.

The three-time Grand Slam champion is aiming for her first Australian Open title after losing to Danielle Collins in the semi-finals this year, who subsequently lost to Ashleigh Barty in the final.

Swiatek inherited the top ranking following Barty’s shock retirement in March and has dominated ever since.

American world number three Jessica Pegula and resurgent French world number four Caroline Garcia, who beat Aryna Sabalenka to qualify for the WTA Finals, are also in the United Cup.

Four of the other top 10 women started the new year in Adelaide, with second-placed Ons Jabeur, world number five Sabalenka, world number eight Daria Kasatkina and world number nine Veronika Kudermetova all taking part.

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