The Sydney International kicks off on Sunday and it will serve as the last opportunity for many high-quality players to shape up their game before heading to Melbourne where they will compete at the first Grand Slam of the season.
The top seed Kyle Edmund has decided to skip Sydney due to a minor knee injury which means that Stefanos Tsitsipas will be the top seed ahead of Daniil Medvedev, Diego Schwartzman, Gilles Simon and Alex de Minaur. The Sydney native James Duckworth has been given the main draw wild card, entering the main action for the fourth time after 2012, 2013 and 2016 when he won a match against Inigo Cervantes.
A former world no. 82 has been ranked outside the top-200 since October 2017, struggling with injuries and undergoing two right foot surgeries and one on the right shoulder two years ago, playing just one match and losing all of his points.
A right foot and right elbow surgeries followed in the first half of 2018 and James even feared he will not be able to make a comeback after spending more time on his rehab than on the court. The positive signs were there when he won Challenger in Cary in September as a qualifier and another huge step on the comeback trail was made when he won the Australian Open Wild Card Play-off at Melbourne Park in December to secure the place in the main draw of the upcoming Australian Open, making his seventh appearance in Melbourne in the last eight years.
In the title match, James took down Luke Saville 6-3 5-7 7-5 7-6 to win this tournament for the second time and complete the year in the best possible way. Duckworth opened the new season in Brisbane where he also received a wild card and he lost in the opening round to Andy Murray in straight sets, hoping for a better run in his hometown and seeking the first win since August when he reached the third round in Washington, beating Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and Jason Kubler before Stefanos Tsitsipas halted him in the third round.