Andy Murray admits he has "great memories" of the French Open, after what was likely to be his final appearance in the men's singles at Roland Garros.

The three-time grand slam winner, back at the season's second major for the first time since 2020, was comfortably beaten in straight sets by 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka, who ran out a commanding 6-4 6-4 6-2 victor.

Murray, who gave an extended wave to the crowd as he exited Court Philippe-Chatrier, has repeatedly said he is approaching the end of his career, revealing in February that he does not "plan on playing much past this summer".

And the 2016 runner-up was in a reflective mood after the conclusion of his 12th singles campaign at the French Open, where he also reached four semi-finals and a further two quarter-finals.

"I did really well here over the years," he said. "I think the issue for me is that when you compare it to what Rafa [Nadal] or Novak [Djokovic] achieved in the same time, it obviously is minuscule," Murray said.

"But most players would sign up for the results I've had here. I lost to Novak in five [sets], Stan in five [sets], and twice to Rafa. Obviously, no shame in that.

"In a different time, maybe the results would have been a bit different. But I'm proud of the results that I had here, and I have great memories."

Murray's French Open is not yet over, as he will partner compatriot Dan Evans in the men's doubles event later this week.

Amid the constant question mark hanging over his future in tennis, the 37-year-old admits he still enjoys competing, despite his reduced fitness levels in recent years.

"My body isn't what it was 10 years ago. I'm fully aware of that," he added. "It takes a lot of time and effort to get it in a position to go out there and compete. It's not always perfect.

"But I still enjoy giving [it] a go and trying to get myself out there and be as competitive as possible.

"There has been a lot of talk about the right, or best, ways to go out from playing tennis. There is no perfect ending in most scenarios.

"I'd like to go out winning a match or winning a tournament, but it doesn't really happen that way for most players."

Andy Murray bowed out in the opening round of what is likely to be his final French Open appearance, following a straight-sets defeat by Stan Wawrinka.

The Swiss ran out a commanding 6-4 6-4 6-2 victor in two hours and 19 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier, and could play Murray's compatriot Cameron Norrie in round two.

Murray was facing Wawrinka for a third successive match at Roland Garros, having lost out to the latter in the 2020 first round and 2017 semi-finals.

The 2015 champion stole an early advantage this time around, too, breaking in the opening game and subsequently holding to win the first set.

A single break was also enough in the second set as Wawrinka doubled his lead.

Murray has repeatedly said he is approaching the end of his career, revealing in February that he does not "plan on playing much past this summer".

However, the 2016 runner-up's chances of extending what is potentially his French Open swansong were all but ended as Wawrinka broke twice in the third set for a 4-0 lead, before the 39-year-old rounded off a dominant win.

Data Debrief

Wawrinka (39) and Murray (37) locked horns in the second-oldest match-up at Roland Garros this century, behind the 2019 first-round showdown between Ivo Karlovic (40) and Feliciano Lopez (37).

And the Swiss was not to be denied, as he became the oldest man to win a match at the French Open since compatriot Roger Federer three years ago.

Andy Murray is a "gladiator" and his love for tennis means he could yet prolong his career, according to former world number eight Diego Schwartzman.

Murray has endured a difficult few years with injuries, undergoing surgery on both hips in 2018 and 2019.

The three-time major champion has repeatedly said he is approaching the end of his career, revealing in February that he does not "plan on playing much past this summer".

Murray is currently preparing for what will likely be his final appearance at the French Open, having sat out five of the last six tournaments at Roland-Garros.

Schwartzman, however, feels Murray's love for the game could lead to him playing on for longer than anticipated.  

"His life is tennis and I think he enjoys it. I think this is his legacy," Schwartzman – who won his only tour-level meeting with Murray in Antwerp in 2021 – told Stats Perform.

"No matter what you do, your age or how you are doing, if you really love the sport and you love what you do, you can do it and you can push hard for as many years and as many tournaments as you want.

"He's a fighter, a gladiator, and he's been doing the same since he was very young, and for us also, sharing tournaments and sharing moments, he has the passion out there. 

"So, it's good to see these kinds of guys because tennis always needs guys who love the sport, and this is the one for sure."

Murray would surely have added to his one US Open title and two Wimbledon crowns if not for the presence of the 'big three' of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. The Scot has lost five grand slam finals to Djokovic and one to Federer. 

Schwartzman says the importance of preparation is the main thing he learned from being on tour with those three greats, though he refused to say who was the greatest of all time. 

"I know them very well, playing them on court, outside of the court," the Argentine added. "The good thing for me and many guys who share the tournaments with them is how differently they prepare the tournaments.

"How differently they do things with food, with practice, with everything. It's crazy.

"I think, okay, 'in one small way he's the best to do this side of the game', and then the other one is the best [at another aspect], so it's not my thing, who the GOAT is."

Andy Murray was denied a meeting with Novak Djokovic at the Geneva Open as Yannick Hanfmann completed a 7-5 6-2 win over the Scot on Tuesday.

Murray's first-round clash with Hanfmann was suspended due to rain on Monday, with the three-time grand slam champion 7-5 4-1 down.

He had earlier fumed at umpire Greg Allensworth as pollen rained down on the court in Switzerland, questioning why play had not been stopped.

The rain may have frustrated Hanfmann's victory pursuit on Monday, but it only provided a temporary reprieve for Murray as the players returned to complete the match the next day.

Hanfmann held his nerve through his final two service games to book a meeting with Djokovic for Wednesday.  

In Tuesday's other early match, four-time grand slam quarter-finalist David Goffin was beaten in straight sets by Nicolas Moreno De Alboran.

The likes of Denis Shapovalov and Tallon Griekspoor are also in action in Switzerland on Tuesday, with Taylor Fritz and Casper Ruud joining Djokovic in entering for the second round on Wednesday.

Andy Murray fumed at the umpire as inclement weather forced his Geneva Open tie with Yannick Hanfmann to be suspended.

Murray's meeting with Hanfmann was postponed with the Scot a set and a double break down, with his German opponent in control at 7-5 4-1.

Former world number one Murray was furious with umpire Greg Allensworth as the weather closed in.

"I know you guys don't play but it'd be good to have a bit of a feel for what's happening," said Murray during a break in play.

"You're fine for us to play when there's s*** flying around?

"It's like it's snowing out here and you still want us to keep going."

Allensworth eventually sent the players into the dressing rooms.

Murray is aiming to use the Geneva Open to prepare for what is set to be his first French Open appearance since 2020.

A tie with Novak Djokovic is on the cards if Murray can turn things around on Tuesday, though it looks incredibly unlikely.

Andy Murray will miss next month’s Monte Carlo Masters and the BMW Open Munich with the ankle injury he suffered in Miami.

The 36-year-old Scot has vowed to return to action “as soon as possible”, but it is also uncertain when he will be back on court.

A statement from the two-time Wimbledon champion’s management team on Friday read: “Following consultation with his team and medical experts, Andy Murray has taken the decision to miss the Rolex Monte Carlo Masters and BMW Open Munich.

“At this stage, it is still not clear how long Andy will be out of action, and he is continuing to review options with his medical team.

“Obviously this is very disappointing news for Andy and he has reiterated his desire to get back on court as soon as possible.

“He thanks all his fans for their kind messages of support and will continue to update everybody as the situation evolves.”

The Monte Carlo Masters and BMW Open Munich take place between April 7-14 and April 15-21 respectively.

Murray cried out in pain and fell to the floor late on in his third-round defeat by Tomas Machac at the Miami Open last Sunday.

Murray was able to complete the match after on-court treatment but revealed in an Instagram post that he had seriously damaged two ligaments in his left ankle.

It is less than 10 weeks until the start of the British grass-court season and just over three months until Wimbledon, where Murray had planned to play for the final time before retirement.

He has also targeted a final Olympic appearance in Paris but all those could depend on whether he needs an operation or if non-surgical measures will suffice.

It is cruel timing for the three-time grand-slam champion, who had won back-to-back matches for the first time this year in Miami.

Andy Murray has revealed he is still unsure exactly when this summer he will retire as a tennis player.

Murray, 36, said last month that he “did not plan on playing much past this summer” and in an interview with The Times he explained why he cannot be more specific about when he hangs up his racket.

He said: “I would love the chance to play in another Olympics, but also genuinely only if I felt like there was a chance of winning a medal.

“I’m also very conscious that because of how amazing my experiences at the Olympics have been, I would want to be there by right and not just take one of the other guys’ spots, because it is a brilliant opportunity.

“We have top doubles players (Joe Salisbury and Neal Skupski are ranked inside the world’s top 10) and also Jack (Draper), Cam (Norrie) and Evo (Dan Evans) in singles as well.”

Murray, a three-time grand slam winner, who held the number one spot in the men’s singles rankings for a total of 41 weeks in the same era as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, could focus on the doubles at the Paris Olympics, which will be played on his least favourite surface, clay.

He reached the quarter-finals in partnership with Salisbury at Tokyo 2020 and added: “When I played with Joe, I had the conversation beforehand with him that my feeling was there was a greater chance of me winning a medal in doubles than singles.”

Murray said he was “bored” of being questioned about when he will retire, saying: “It’s been happening since Wimbledon last year in most weeks. It’s something that I’ve had to talk about and entertain.

“Obviously at some stage the end will come. It’s not an easy decision to know exactly when that will be or when it should be.”

Andy Murray produced an accomplished display to beat David Goffin in straight sets and progress to the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

Murray had won his previous seven meetings with the Belgian, but entered this clash in poor form and revealed last week it was likely he would end his decorated tennis career this summer.

The three-time grand-slam champion appeared rejuvenated following his announcement in Dubai and put in one of his best displays of the year to claim a routine 6-3 6-2 victory, which sets up a last-64 clash with Andrey Rublev.

In a nip-and-tuck first set, Murray had to be patient after a break point in Goffin’s opening service game was held before he was able to strike when 4-3 up.

Murray claimed his first break of the match in the eighth game and sent down two aces to seal a 34-minute opener where he won the final 10 points.

The momentum was with the British number four now and a double-fault by Goffin handed him an early advantage in the second set.

World number 61 Murray continued to ask questions of Goffin’s serve and a second break arrived to put him on the verge of a place in the last-64, which was sealed with an ace.

Compatriot Jack Draper suffered disappointment as he lost in three sets to Chris O’Connell in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open.

British prospect Draper had defeated Murray on his way to the last 16 of the tournament in 2023 but lost six games in a row in the final set to go down 1-6 6-3 6-2 to his Australian opponent.

 

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It continued a frustrating period for Draper, who made the semi-finals of the Mexican Open last week but had to retire during his last-four clash with eventual champion Alex de Minaur.

Draper initially showed no ill-effects after he had battled food poisoning in Acapulco and eventually edged a lengthy fourth game to go 3-1 up before he saved a number of break points to consolidate his advantage.

Another break followed to allow the world number 37 to take the opener 6-1 but he sent down two double faults at the start of the second to hand O’Connell the initiative.

The Aussie did not look back and forced a decider, which started with Draper saving four break points before he broke to go 2-0 up.

Draper ran out of gas though, with world number 66 O’Connell booking a second-round meeting with Alexander Zverev.

Andy Murray has hinted he will keep going until at least this summer’s Olympics.

The 36-year-old has been speaking openly about the impending end of his career this season and said after beating Denis Shapovalov in Dubai on Monday: “I probably don’t have too long left, but I’ll do as best as I can these last few months.”

Murray has said previously he has an idea of when he would like to bow out, and he told Radio 4’s Today programme he is likely to make that information public at some point.

“When the time is right I will probably say something before I play my last match and my last tournament,” he said. “Whether I say anything months ahead of the time, I don’t know.”

While Wimbledon appears the most logical venue for Murray to call time on his glittering career, the Scot is tempted by another crack at the Olympics in Paris this summer.

Murray is the only tennis player to have won back-to-back singles gold medals, in London and Rio, and he said: “Hopefully I can get the chance to compete at another one.”

If the Scot does not qualifying by ranking – he has slipped down the standings to 67 after a difficult start to the year – he could seek a spot in the draw as a previous champion.

Sixteen-year-old Mirra Andreeva made her latest statement with a miracle comeback to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open – but that was topped by knowing Andy Murray was watching her.

Andreeva and Murray interacted after the Russian teenager spoke of her admiration for the former world number one at her breakthrough tournament in Madrid last spring, describing him as “beautiful”.

And Murray was up early back home in the UK following Andreeva’s progress as she took on France’s Diane Parry.

The teenager’s run looked poised to end when she trailed 5-1 in the third set and struggled to hold back tears, but Andreeva kept fighting and saved a match point on her way to a 1-6 6-1 7-6 (10/5) victory.

Afterwards, Murray wrote on the social media site X, formerly Twitter: “Andreeva down 5-1 in third. Commentator “she really needs to work on mental side of her game.. she’s too hard on herself when she’s losing” 30 minutes later 7-6 Andreeva wins.

“Maybe the reason she turned the match round is because of her mental strength. Maybe she turned the match around because she is hard on herself and demands more of herself when she’s losing/playing badly? Winner.”

Andreeva was delighted by Murray’s attention, saying: “I didn’t really think that he would watch a match, then after he would tweet, he would comment something.

“Honestly, I will try to print it out somehow. I don’t know, I will put it in a frame. I will bring it everywhere with me. I will maybe put it on the wall so I can see it every day.”

It is the second time Andreeva, who was beaten in the junior final here 12 months ago, has reached the fourth round at a slam after Wimbledon last year and she is closing in on the top 30 in the rankings despite being restricted to 12 tournaments a year because of her age.

She showed all the skills that make her the most exciting young talent in the world to turn around the deciding set, dragging Parry all around the court with her use of angles and showing deft touch on drop shots and lobs.

“Because I won the last time I played her, I had kind of an advantage,” said Andreeva. “I felt like that maybe I should win because I won pretty easy on the score.

“When you think like this, it always happens like 1-6 in the first set. Then I just decided fight, to win one game at a time.

“Maybe being harsh on myself actually helped me. I just try to think positively. This harshness, let’s say, helped me with it because I am not very positive in my head usually. I just kept pushing myself. I was saying not good words to myself.”

A number of upsets have left the women’s draw very open in places, although Andreeva would probably have to get past defending champion Aryna Sabalenka in the quarter-finals if she wants to reach the final stages.

“I don’t think it’s a big deal,” she said of her wins so far. “Fourth round, yes, I’m 16, maybe it’s a bit new.

“Fourth round is nothing. Maybe if I win a slam, I have to win three more matches, and it’s really tough to win seven matches in a row. I don’t think that I did something incredible. I have time to do it, I hope.”

Boris Becker would not rule out Andy Murray appearing at the Australian Open in 2025.

Murray will make his 16th appearance in the main draw at Melbourne Park on Monday when he faces 30th seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry in the first round.

It was five years ago at the 2019 Australian Open when three-time grand-slam champion Murray contemplated retirement and a highlights montage shown after his round-one exit appeared to signal the end of his career.

Surgery to resurface his hip followed and while it has enabled the five-time Australian Open runner-up to continue playing well into his thirties, the Scot cut a frustrated figure at the end of 2023.

But Becker had little concern over Murray not appearing in Australia again.

“Well, I would never rule Andy out,” Eurosport pundit Becker insisted. “As long as he has fun, as long as he enjoys it and as long as he has success, he will continue.

“I was worried a couple of years ago when he did the press conference and said it was most likely his last one because it was before his surgery so he didn’t know if he would come back.

“We moved past that and I think he is physically fit enough, but obviously the tennis circuit doesn’t sleep and Andy doesn’t get younger either.

 

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“Those 22-years-old are now those 24-years-olds and Andy is 36 so the clock is ticking.

“I am sure he will do well this year., I am sure he is aiming for a successful Wimbledon and he’ll take it from there.”

At the other end of the spectrum, British number four Jack Draper will aim to make his mark in Melbourne after an injury-hit past campaign.

Draper, 22, recently beat Becker’s protege Holger Rune to win the UTS event in London last month and earned praise from the six-time grand-slam winner.

Becker said: “Look, an unbelievable talent. You can see he loves the competition, he loves tennis, he loves to be out there, but he had some injury problems last year, so he couldn’t play as much as he wanted to.

“He is a big guy, a powerful guy and he needs to address his body. He needs to be longer in the shape he is right now.

“I don’t know him and I don’t know his group of people too well, so I don’t how much he trains on and off the court, but what I could tell is that physically he struggled last year and that is the foundation of a successful tennis player.

“I am sure he learned his lessons, I am sure he had a good winter. I saw the result in Adelaide, he looked fit. I am sure they have done a lot of off-court training and I wish him luck.

“Great Britain needs good, young players. You have got Wimbledon around the corner, you have the Queens tournament so you want your local heroes to be successful there.”

:: Watch every moment of the Australian Open LIVE and exclusive on Eurosport and discovery+ from 14-28 January.

Andy Murray is happy to see tennis finally addressing its late night habit – although he is not ruling out more long days at the Australian Open.

The ATP and WTA announced earlier this week a new scheduling policy restricting the number of matches played per day at tournaments and setting a deadline of 11pm for contests to start.

Murray was involved in one of the latest finishes in grand slam history last year when he completed a five-set win over Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round of the Australian Open at 4.05am.

The Scot strongly criticised the scheduling afterwards, and the tournament’s response has been to move to a 15-day event, spreading the first round over three days.

There will be a minimum of two matches rather than three in the day session on Rod Laver Arena and Margaret Court Arena but the night session will still feature two matches starting at 7pm.

“I don’t think the Sunday start will change the late finishes,” said Murray. “I think on centre court they’re having two matches in the day, two matches in the evening.

“I think that will reduce the possibility for late finishes on Rod Laver just because it’s unlikely you’re going to have issues with the day session running into the night, then having that gap where they have to clear out the stadium and get the night session fans in.

“My understanding is that on the other show courts that’s not changing, so there still is the possibility for that to happen.”

Murray welcomed the tours’ new rules, saying: “It’s really good. I’ve spoken about it, I’ve heard lots of players and the media, obviously, discussing it for a long time. It just makes sense. It’s a very obvious thing that needs to change.

“I haven’t heard anyone really disagree with that. So it’s positive that there’s going to be some changes made. It will be good for, I think, everyone. It will definitely help with recovery for following day’s matches and things like that.

“I certainly think, for fans and the tournament, it just probably looks a wee bit more professional if you’re not finishing at three or four in the morning.”

Murray is making his 16th appearance in the main draw at Melbourne Park and will take on 30th-seeded Argentinian Tomas Martin Etcheverry in the first round on Monday.

He cut a very frustrated figure at the end of last season and goes into this tournament short on wins but insisted he is feeling happier about his game.

“I definitely feel like I’m enjoying it better,” he said. “I think part of that is the mental side of it. Tennis is a difficult game in that respect. When you’re struggling, you’re obviously out there on your own, it can be difficult at times.

“Also the way you’re playing. When you know you’re capable of doing more than what you are, if you’re not happy with the way you’re hitting forehands and backhands and serving and those sorts of things, there’s the technical aspect as well.

“Fixing some of those problems has helped me feel better on the court. Definitely some focus on the mental side, as well. Reframing the way you look at things definitely, definitely helps.”

Murray and Etcheverry met twice last year, sharing the spoils in two long matches.

“I made most of my matches quite physical last year,” said Murray with a smile. “I know that last year, when I wasn’t serving well, you end up getting into lots more long rallies and everything. Hopefully that’s not the case in a couple of days.”

Novak Djokovic is the greatest male tennis player of all time, according to Marcos Baghdatis.

Djokovic is the most decorated player in the history of the men's game, boasting 24 grand slam triumphs over a magnificent career. Even with Djokovic turning 36 in 2023, the Serbian won three of the four majors on offer throughout the year.

Rival Rafael Nadal, who has the second most grand slam titles among male players with 22, recently conceded Djokovic is the greatest ever.

Baghdatis agrees with Nadal that Djokovic's numbers make him the best of all time, with the 2006 Australian Open runner-up telling Stats Perform: "I think that yes, Rafa is right. He's the GOAT [greatest of all time].

"I mean, statistically, he has the best history written in tennis. Of course, he has written more history than any other player.

"It's tough to say who is the best and who's not. I can say, the three players from Rafa, Roger [Federer] and Djokovic, I think he [Djokovic] is the most complete, if you understand what I mean.

"He's still there, he's still winning matches, still winning Grand Slams.

"So yeah, he's the best of all time because of the stats, but it's very hard to just get the other two out."

Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are often referred to as the 'big three', and Baghdatis believes the trio helped to move tennis forward. However, he also says Andy Murray deserves greater recognition despite failing to match his rivals' grand slam accomplishments.

"I cannot take Andy Murray out of there," Baghdatis said. "Because, you know, he was always taking them to their limits too.

"I think it's a package that these four people changed the sport for the better. Yeah, they helped each other improve themselves, but at the same time, they helped so many other players improve themselves and be better at what they do. So they left a legacy behind."

With Federer retired and Djokovic and Nadal in the latter stages of their careers, Carlos Alcaraz is seen by many as the next potential legend of the sport, having already claimed US Open and Wimbledon glory.

While Baghdatis feels Alcaraz is a great talent, he also believes other youngsters deserve credit, saying: "I'm not saying that Alcaraz cannot [become a legend], of course he has a shot at it. 

"He's young. I think he's great for tennis, he has great energy on the court, a great personality.

"I think maybe right now he's the best of his generation, let's say, but Jannik Sinner, Holger Rune are coming up, [Daniil] Medvedev is still there.

"But it's going to be very tough. I think he has a shot. It's going to be very, very tough to achieve what they [the big three] have achieved."

Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray are among seven British players who have secured direct entry into the Australian Open.

Cameron Norrie is the only seed while Katie Boulter and Jodie Burrage are in the main draw on ranking for the first time.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the British contenders.

Cameron Norrie

The Mr Dependable of British tennis struggled during the second half of last season and admitted he felt a little burned out. Norrie does not have the luxury of a big weapon if his consistent game is not working but there were positive signs at last week’s United Cup, where he beat Alex De Minaur, that he may be close to finding his form again.

Dan Evans

Evans will be unseeded at a grand slam for the first time since 2019 after an inconsistent 2023 campaign ended prematurely by a calf injury. He is fit again and will be keen to try to climb back into the top 30. Now 33, Evans won the biggest title of his career in Washington last summer and also starred for Britain in the Davis Cup.

Andy Murray

It is 12 months since Murray’s extraordinary 4am victory over Thanasi Kokkinakis at Melbourne Park. His performances at the beginning of 2023 fuelled hope that he could push back towards the top of the game but it was largely a season of more frustration. There have been flashes of the old Murray but, at 36, time is very much running out.

Jack Draper

Could this be the year where Draper really makes a name for himself? The 22-year-old has been held back so far by injuries and missed a lot of last season but finished strongly and has all the tools to reach the very top of the game. A run to the fourth round of the US Open last summer is his best grand-slam showing so far.

Emma Raducanu

A raft of withdrawals have allowed Raducanu direct entry using the protected ranking of 103 from before her triple surgery. The hope is this can be a fresh start for the 21-year-old, who looked happy and relaxed on her return to the tour in Auckland last week, and showed in a close defeat to Elina Svitolina that she remains a high-class player.

Katie Boulter

Last season was by a distance the best of Boulter’s career. The 27-year-old won her maiden WTA Tour title in Nottingham and broke into the world’s top 50 for the first time. A supremely clean ball-striker, Boulter claimed the best win of her career over fifth-ranked Jessica Pegula at the United Cup last week for a dream start to 2024.

Jodie Burrage

Beaten by Boulter in the final in Nottingham, Burrage also achieved a long-term goal in 2023 by breaking into the top 100 for the first time. The 24-year-old will make her main-draw debut at Melbourne Park having fallen in the final round of qualifying 12 months ago.

Opportunities abound for returning stars and the usual suspects as the Australian Open kicks off the new grand-slam season.

Hopes that two of the highest-profile major champions would make their slam comebacks after long breaks were dashed when Rafael Nadal announced on Sunday that he had suffered another injury setback.

Having spent a year recovering from the hip injury he sustained in Melbourne 12 months ago, the hope is this latest blow will not prove to be nearly as serious and he can return within weeks.

The Spaniard impressed straight away with his level at the Brisbane International last week prior to a gruelling loss against Jordan Thompson.

 

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Question marks very much remain, though, over how well the 37-year-old’s body will hold up in the long term given the injury problems he has endured throughout his career.

“I have worked very hard during the year for this comeback and as I always mentioned my goal is to be at my best level in three months,” Nadal wrote on social media.

“Within the sad news for me for not being able to play in front of the amazing Melbourne crowds, this is not very bad news and we all remain positive with the evolution for the season.”

Naomi Osaka also returned in Brisbane, playing her first tournament since September 2022 following the birth of daughter Shai in July, and she will be a headline attraction in Melbourne.

 

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The 26-year-old, who won the Australian Open title in 2019 and 2021, was weighing up whether tennis was for her amid mental health struggles prior to her pregnancy but has returned to the tour with renewed desire.

She said after a narrow loss to Karolina Pliskova: “I think when I’m playing and I’m at my best, I’m just really putting my entire soul into every point. It was fun to play that and rediscover that feeling again.”

Also returning after having her first child is former Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open champion Angelique Kerber.

Emma Raducanu’s absence has not been as long as Nadal, Osaka or Kerber’s but it is still a chance for a fresh start for the 21-year-old.

 

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She snuck into the main draw using her protected ranking of 103 following withdrawals and will hope to build on a very promising return in Auckland last week.

“It’s pretty exciting for me,” said Raducanu. “I’ve only played two matches and also my court time has been pretty limited. To be back up to this speed after so little is a great sign. I’m looking forward to this season. It’s just the beginning. A lot more to come.”

Raducanu is one of seven British players in the main draw, with Cameron Norrie the only seed.

It was a difficult second half of 2023 for the British number one but victory over Alex De Minaur at the United Cup was a good way to start the year while Katie Boulter got off to a flyer with the best win of her career against Jessica Pegula.

The 27-year-old has reached the third round at the last two grand slams and will be looking for more of the same.

Andy Murray is a man in need of wins and must hope for a kind draw, while the same could lead to a big fortnight for 22-year-old Jack Draper, with Dan Evans and Jodie Burrage making up the British contingent.

Novak Djokovic will be favourite to claim an 11th Australian Open title, which would make him the first player in history to win 25 grand-slam singles crowns, although a wrist problem is a concern for the Serbian.

Carlos Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner and Daniil Medvedev will be expected to provide the main opposition while in the women’s draw Aryna Sabalenka defends a slam title for the first time.

World number one Iga Swiatek is yet to lift the trophy in Melbourne and has begun 2024 in fine form, as has Coco Gauff, who is the most recent slam champion following her triumph in New York.

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