Australian Open: Medvedev embracing the pressure but says Nadal remains the favourite

By Sports Desk January 18, 2022

Daniil Medvedev is happy to be considered the favourite for the Australian Open title but says Rafael Nadal remains the man to beat at Melbourne Park.

World number two Medvedev is now the top-seeded player in the competition after Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia on Sunday.

Competing in his first grand slam since winning the US Open in September, Medvedev made a solid start by seeing off Henri Laaksonen 6-1 6-4 7-6 (7-3) on Tuesday.

The Russian, who lost last year's Australian Open final to Djokovic in straight sets, will now take on either Liam Broady or Nick Kyrgios in round two.

He is aiming to become the first man in the Open Era to follow up his maiden Grand Slam title with another in his next major appearance.

Medvedev is not shying away from the spotlight, but the 25-year-old considers Nadal the real favourite for the trophy because of his incredible record.

"I like pressure but last year I started well here in Australia in the ATP Cup and I managed to be in the final here," he said.

"The tournaments in Australia are always really important for me. I like to play in Australia on hard courts. I want to do better here than I did last year but it's not going to be easy.

"But I always say whoever is the highest ranked is the favourite so this time I will go with Rafa because he has 20 Grand Slams."

The 20 major singles titles won by Nadal is equal to Djokovic and Roger Federer, who is also absent in Melbourne due to injury, as the most by a men's player.

 

Just one of those titles have come at the Australian Open, however, with the Spaniard – who beat Marcos Giron in his opening match on Monday – going all the way in 2009.

Nadal and Medvedev are in opposite sides of the draw and are on course to meet in the final, but many challengers await between now and then.

That path became a little clearer on Tuesday as world number eight Casper Ruud withdrew from the tournament due to an injured ankle.

Ruud had been due to face Alex Molcan in the first round, but his place will be taken by lucky loser Roman Safiullin.

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    Juve's disappointing season ended with a whimper on Saturday as they slumped to a 2-0 defeat to Fiorentina at the Artemio Franchi.

    Alfred Duncan opening the scoring for a Fiorentina side who were far and away the superior team, before a late penalty from Nicolas Gonzalez finished the Bianconeri off.

    It was the first time Fiorentina have won a Serie A home clash against Juventus since January 2017.

    The game marked the end of Giorgio Chiellini, Paulo Dybala and Federico Bernardeschi's Juve careers, and Allegri acknowledged that the club, who have been linked with free transfer moves for Paul Pogba and Angel Di Maria, will need to replace their experience.

    "I am happy because we have unity of purpose," he told Sky Sport Italia. "We have many players, several will have to leave. Chiellini has stopped, Bernardeschi and Dybala are at the end of their contracts.

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    "The team grows, it is normal that a mix is ​​needed within the team otherwise with all young people it is more difficult to win.

    "Experience is needed. We will need balance in the team."

    Juve ended the Serie A season with eight fewer points than they did under the leadership of Andrea Pirlo in his maiden campaign, yet Allegri believes that is not a true representation of what he has achieved since he returned to the club.

    "There is a psychological aspect because we had to chase from the start and knew once we lost to Inter and had secured fourth place, the results after that didn't entirely reflect the team and are somewhat false," he added.

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    Marquinhos also paid tribute to the outgoing Di Maria, who is heavily linked with a move to Serie A giants Juventus.

    "[Angel is] a great, he's a gentleman. He's a big game player," he continued.

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