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  • Superstar Roger Federer is well remembered for his miracle comeback in 2017, when he took home the Australian Open trophy (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)Source: Michael Dodge/Getty Images
The stage is ready for two weeks of world-class tennis on Aussie soil, with the Australian Open starting on Monday. Some of the greatest names of the sport have returned to Melbourne Park, but more than ever we have to pay special attention to some champions-to-be.
By
Maria Schaller

12 Jan 2018 - 11:12 PM  UPDATED 13 Jan 2018 - 10:44 AM

Tennis heavyweight Roger Federer stunned everyone in 2017 with a fairytale comeback, whilst Serena Williams secured her record seventh title.

But with her and many other stars being absent or in question, Melbourne might see maiden winners this year.  

In the Men´s draw, everyone will be chasing last year´s champion Roger Federer and world number one, Rafael Nadal.

The Swiss, who has five Australian Open trophies under his belt, loves coming back Down Under.

“The weather’s great, but the fans are amazing. They’ve been unbelievably supportive of me. Personally, I feel that they’ve always been behind me”, Roger says.

Before arriving in Melbourne, he made headlines in Perth winning the Hopman Cup. But Federer also took the chance to make new friends:

 

Federer´s long-time rival Rafael Nadal had an equally impressive 2017, winning two Grand Slams, just like “Fed”.

But the Spaniard, who just returned to the court after a knee injury, is not the only player who suffered some problems recently.

Former Melbourne champions Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka had not played any competitive games since Wimbledon last July, due to an elbow (Novak) and knee injury (Stan).

Two other former Top Five players won´t participate at all: Five-time Melbourne finalist Andy Murray recently underwent hip surgery, while Japanese powerhouse Kei Nishikori shares the fate. He withdrew from the tournament with a wrist injury. 

In Nishikori´s absence, the spotlight has turned to South Korean rising star Chung Hyeon, 21, the first Korean to win an ATP tournament in almost 15 years. 

With so many top players not being at their best, the next generation have their chance for glory.

Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev, and Dominic Thiem – ranked three to five in the world – have demonstrated the potential of being able to win a Grand Slam title.

But the Top Ten has other players capable of having a big win: David Goffin (7), Jack Sock (8) and Pablo Carreno Busta (10).

And, of course, let´s not overlook the Aussie contenders. Above all Nick Kyrgios, who in early January, just secured his first ATP title on home soil in Brisbane.

In the Women´s draw, it´s a similar story.

Serena Williams, who dominated the field in recent years, has withdrawn from this year´s tournament.

The 23 time Grand Slam champion gave birth to her first child in September.

With the seven time Australian Open winner being absent, the field is wide open for a new champion to emerge this year.

German powerhouse Angelique Kerber is the only other player in the current field, besides Maria Sharapova, who has previously won the trophy with her spectacular win in 2016.

After a disastrous 2017, Kerber is back to Melbourne with a new coach and already demonstrated her good form in both Perth and Sydney.

Sharapova is still a question mark after her doping suspension has been lifted, but the Russian shouldn´t be overlooked.

So, who else is there?

Most experts believe that world number one Simona Halep is overdue for her first Grand Slam title. The Romanian, however, has never made it past the quarterfinals in Australia.

The same applies to Wimbledon and French Open champ Garbine Muguruza, currently second ranked.

Will the world´s best female players lift the curse this year?

WTA Tour Finals champion Caroline Wozniacki sounds like a logical candidate, but she is still waiting for her maiden Grand Slam title.

Jelena Ostapenko is someone who already achieved Grand Slam glory when she stunned the world by taking out the French Open last year.

But picking a favourite is incredibly difficult this year, with so many potential winners in the field.

Asia´s brightest hope might be Naomi Osaka, the fastest female server at the 2017 Australian Open with 198 km/h.

The Aussie crowd will particularly watch out for Daria Gavrilova, Ash Barty, and Sam Stosur, who are no doubt eager to impress audiences at their home slam.

“I just love playing here. I always get the best support out here. And playing at home is amazing”, Daria “Dasha” Gavrilova says.

 

Will the established players take home the trophies or will some rookies join the Grand Slam roll of honor?

Don’t miss any of the action with SBS Radio´s coverage of the 2018 Australian Open!