The six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic is preparing to chase the record-breaking seventh title at the Australian Open (Roger Federer will achieve the same feat if he lifts the trophy for the third straight year), motivated to bounce back after the semi-final loss in Doha and an early exit in Melbourne 12 months ago when he was troubled with an injury.
Missing the second part of 2017 due to an elbow problem, Novak needed almost a year to find his rhythm again, starting to play better and better since May and winning four big titles by the end of the season to finish as the year-end no.
1 for the first time since 2015 and stand on 14 Grand Slam crowns after conquering Wimbledon and the US Open. Back in 2008, Novak claimed his first Grand Slam title in Melbourne and he was the player to beat at Melbourne Park since 2011, going all the way five out of six times to become one of the most successful players at the first Grand Slam of the season.
The Serb is the top favorite to lift the Norman Brooks Challenge Cup on January 27 and has been working hard at Melbourne Park to get into the best possible shape and kick off the tournament as the top seed ahead of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Alexander Zverev.
On Thursday, Novak will share the court with his old friend and rival Andy Murray, setting the practice match on the Margaret Court Arena that will be open to the public. Novak and Andy have played 36 times against each other on the Tour and five of those matches came at the Australian Open, never before the semi-final stage and four in the title encounter.
Djokovic has won all of those and they could meet again right from the opening round next week, with Andy currently standing at the 230th place and using the protected ranking to enter the main draw after a hip injury that threatened to end his career at one point.
Just like Novak, Andy hadn't played in the second part of 2017 before a hip surgery he had to undergo a year ago in order to solve the problem and extend his career for a couple of more years. The Briton played just 12 matches in 2018 after making a comeback at Queen's in June and he is hoping for a much better run this season, kicking off the year in Brisbane where he lost to Daniil Medvedev in the second round.
Andy will be unseeded in Melbourne together with Stan Wawrinka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych and Nick Kyrgios and it should be interesting to follow the draw ceremony on Thursday and see their first round rivals.