Emma Raducanu is calling on the advice of England men's football captain Harry Kane as she seeks a deep run at the Australian Open.

Raducanu shot to stardom in 2021 when she became the youngest woman to win the US Open.

However, the 20-year-old heads to Melbourne ranked 77th in the world by the WTA, having only reached one semi-final – at the Korea Open in September – since her triumph at Flushing Meadows.

Raducanu has been nursing an ankle injury prior to the season's first grand slam, but that problem has now cleared up, and she revealed Tottenham star Kane has been offering his advice.

"Harry's obviously such a great role model and very professional and I think to be able to speak to him is really cool," Raducanu told the media. 

"We haven't spoken so much but he's obviously an outstanding player, and it's just pretty cool isn't it?

"For someone of his achievements, it's pretty remarkable how he’s so humble. I respect him a lot.

"It's obviously really cool to speak to some other athletes. I think it's good because we all kind of understand what each other are thinking and going through at times.

"And at the end of the day they're just really cool people as well."

Raducanu will face Tamara Korpatsch in her first match in Melbourne on Monday.

Vasek Pospisil has backed Novak Djokovic to win the Australian Open a year after the Serbian was unable to compete.

Djokovic was denied a place in last year's tournament when his refusal to have a COVID-19 vaccine led to him being detained in a Melbourne immigration centre and later deported.

With vaccination status no longer a condition of entry to the country, the nine-time Australian Open champion is back for this year's tournament, which begins on Monday.

Djokovic played doubles with Pospisil in his first match back in Australia earlier this month at the Adelaide International 1, and speaking to Stats Perform, the Canadian tipped his close friend to go all the way in Melbourne.

"I hope he wins it. I would consider him the favourite, absolutely," Pospisil said. "If you have to pick a favourite, it's hard to pick someone else.

"Having said that, obviously there are so many great players and incredible talents put together for one week, anything can happen, right? That's sport, but I would definitely put him as the favourite and if I had a choice if someone's winning other than myself, obviously, I would put him as the hopeful for the title.

"Also, given he had a tough, tough year obviously with what happened in the past."

Pospisil denied that the frustration of missing out last year would be a factor in Djokovic's motivation to do well this time, though.

"I think he's so motivated already with his ambitions in the sport and just in life in general," he added. "He's obviously a very driven individual, which is not something you need to hear from me to know, you can see that. I don't think it will necessarily be extra motivation.

"I feel like every time he's playing a grand slam, he's maximumly motivated. I do think he's going to have a great year and I don't think that anything that happened recently will affect him in a negative way.

"I think he showed that with how he played at Wimbledon last year [beating Nick Kyrgios in the final] just speaks volumes of his character and how strong he is an as an individual. It's very, very impressive that he was able to bounce back like that."

Pospisil, ranked 94th in the world, is also confident about his own prospects at the Australian Open, saying: "I'm actually feeling good. I had a really strong finish last year.

"The last couple of months, I took a bit [of time] coming back from an injury, so it took a bit to kind of get rolling, but I'm entering with confidence, getting my ranking back up slowly and had a really good preparation. [I am] training really hard, eating well and I feel like I'm ready to go."

The 32-year-old has been drawn against countryman Felix Auger Aliassime in the first round and appreciates the task at hand against the number six seed, who won three of his four ATP titles in 2022 in October before winning the Davis Cup alongside Pospisil in November.

"I would say arguably he was the most in-form player at the end of last year," Pospisil said. "Four or five tournaments in a row and beat the top players in the world. So obviously, extremely talented young player, very physical.

"I know his game quite well. I mean, I've known him for many years. He's a fellow Canadian and Davis Cup team-mate.

"I have a lot of confidence in my abilities, so I feel like if I'm playing well, then I can beat anybody on any given day. It's going to be a tough ask just because he's playing so well these days."

Welcome to the weird world of pandemic era men's tennis, where the world number five is unmistakably the man to beat.

Novak Djokovic sits head and shoulders above the rest for now, and those ranked higher would surely recognise that too, as the Australian Open arrives.

The 35-year-old Djokovic is playing the tennis of a 25-year-old, and being allowed his liberty after arriving in Australia is good news for him, auspicious for the rest of the Melbourne Park field.

Djokovic was being packed off on a flight out of the country around this time last year, after a saga that made minor international celebrities out of local journalists who could interpret the ins and outs of court proceedings.

He remains unvaccinated against COVID-19 as far as is known, but Australia has relaxed its border controls and rolled out the red carpet for Djokovic this time, rather than arrange for him to be detained.

Had he been allowed to play in Australia and North America last season, Djokovic would surely have remained on the top rung of the rankings ladder.

Over the coming fortnight, Djokovic will chase down a 10th Australian Open title and a record-equalling 22nd men's singles major.

What might stop him reaching those goals? Stats Perform has looked at areas where there might be a crumb of hope for his rivals.

Frosty reception?

There might be the odd jeer. He has never been universally popular and he has, through his vaccination choices, seemingly given those that disliked him anyway another stick to beat him with.

But look, if you think crowd pressure is going to get to Novak Djokovic, you haven't watched enough Novak Djokovic. Move on.

Besides, his 'Nole' army is sure to mobilise in Melbourne. He won't be found wanting for support.

Weight of expectation

The greats in sport rarely get flustered, but perhaps these are the moments, as history approaches, when even a model of focus such as Djokovic might miss a step.

You can look at the 2021 US Open final, when Djokovic was chasing a rare Grand Slam of all four majors in the calendar year, only to lose in straight sets to Daniil Medvedev in the Flushing Meadows final.

He would have gone to 21 slams with that win, too, edging ahead of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer with whom he was locked on 20 majors. Instead he was flat, out of gas. The greats do have bad days, but they're rare.

Nadal got the jump on both Djokovic and Federer by winning the Australian and French titles last year to unexpectedly surge to 22 slams, before Djokovic took Wimbledon to narrow the gap and Federer retired to make it a two-man race.

Djokovic has won four of his five finals since Wimbledon, with the exception being a surprising loss to Holger Rune at the Paris Masters.

If he loses, it might have to be early, while still relatively cold. Djokovic has a 100 per cent strike rate once he reaches the semi-finals in Melbourne, never failing to take the title once he reaches the final four.

The #NextGen stars

Who are we looking at here, now we know Carlos Alcaraz is going to be absent? The world number one's hamstring blow has only boosted Djokovic's title chances, while removing the tantalising prospect of a first grand slam match-up between the pair. To date, they have only played once, with Alcaraz winning a tight contest on clay in Madrid last season.

In fact, who even is #NextGen? Stefanos Tsitsipas has been around forever, it feels, but is just 24, the same age as Casper Ruud, who is very much on the rise after two slam finals last season. World number three Ruud is just about #NextGen, but fourth-ranked Tsitsipas probably isn't. His slam results have tailed off, and it would be a significant surprise if the Greek made it to the final from the top half of the draw. He has done well in Australia over the years though, with semi-final runs in three of the last four seasons.

Norwegian Ruud is a potential semi-final opponent for Djokovic, and that could deliver drama. Felix Auger-Aliassime is on the other side of the draw and won four titles last year, yet all were relative tiddlers, while it might be too soon for Rune to win over five sets against an all-time great, but he is a possible quarter-final foe for Djokovic.

So is a certain other player, who long left behind the #NextGen ranks...

Nicholas Hilmy Kyrgios

Nick Kyrgios versus Rune in the third round is a lip-smacking prospect. And if that happens and Kyrgios comes through it, despite having not played on tour yet this year, the prospect of a quarter-final against Djokovic would likely loom large.

Tennis being tennis, strange things can happen, but given his kind draw it is hard to see anyone beating Djokovic before the quarter-final stage. Should it be Kyrgios waiting for him at that point, it will be popcorn at the ready.

Last year's Wimbledon final was decided by a fourth-set tie-break, rather than what would have been a dishy fifth set, and Djokovic would again fancy getting the better ot the bellicose but hyper-talented Australian.

Yet Kyrgios has beaten Djokovic twice in their three career meetings, so this is potentially the real landmine on the path to the final. If someone can defuse Kyrgios in the early rounds, Djokovic would have no complaints whatsoever.

Djokovic's own body might fail him

Djokovic abandoned a practice session in Melbourne out of caution over a hamstring issue, but by Friday he was fit enough to face Kyrgios in an exhibition on Rod Laver Arena.

Had he held any serious fitness worries, he surely would have given that a swerve. Showing up sent a message to the field.

This is not to say Djokovic's health will hold and his body will last the distance, but then the same is true of everyone in the draw. This is tennis at the highest level and Djokovic has fought his way to grand slam titles while carrying injury worries in the past, and you suspect he will again, probably as soon as Sunday, January 29.

The Professional Tennis Players Association is committed to equal pay for men and women at grand slam level, according to the man who teamed up with Novak Djokovic to launch the organisation.

Vasek Pospisil, whose on-court doubles efforts helped Canada win the Davis Cup for the first time in November, said the PTPA would "fight for both sides" in its efforts to improve players' prospects throughout the sport.

The breakaway union has caused controversy, with the ATP and WTA, which run the men's and women's tours, adamant they already have significant player representation when it comes to making decisions in the best interests of tennis.

Djokovic quit as president of the ATP player council to become the figurehead of the PTPA, which was launched at the height of the pandemic during the 2020 US Open.

There was initial criticism of the PTPA when no women appeared to be involved.

However, Pospisil said at the time discussions were ongoing, and ahead of the upcoming Australian Open, its first executive committee was unveiled, consisting of four men and four women.

Joining Djokovic and Pospisil are Hubert Hurkacz and John Isner, plus WTA players Paula Badosa, Ons Jabeur, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Zheng Saisai.

Pay has been equal at all the grand slams since 2007, when Wimbledon announced it would reward women the same amount it pays men.

Asked about equal pay at the four majors and the PTPA's position, Pospisil told Stats Perform: "From day one, we always knew that this would only be successful with the women, and that has always been our goal. And so we're really happy that we're gaining a lot of traction now on the women's side.

"Currently, there is equal pay at the grand slam level, I believe, so that's obviously amazing.

"It is a joint organisation, both men and women, and we'll do everything to fight for both sides.

"Obviously, they're separate tours. The WTA, ATP, and grand slams are joined, of course. So, the staff will have their hands full with trying to advocate for both sides.

"It's a unified player association for both men and women, and we're really proud of that and where we're going."

Those already involved, and those the PTPA will hope to attract, are being advised the union is aiming to bolster the rights – and at the bottom line, the earning potential – of all involved.

There is currently significantly more money on offer on the ATP tour than on the WTA circuit, which points to issues of inequality remaining in the sport.

It has been known in recent times for some high-profile tournaments, where tours converge, to pay its men's champion more than its title-winning woman. This is despite events on both tours being best-of-three-set matches, whereas in the slams women play best-of-three and men play best-of-five, a matter that has long been a trigger for equal-pay debate.

Pospisil believes the WTA has a "smart and passionate" group of eight on its ExCo and said the "energy was amazing" when the group met for dinner on Thursday in Melbourne.

"I just have such a good feeling after a few years of working on this," Pospisil said. "To finally be at the stage where we're ready to go, are launching, got everything we need, and we have amazing player board reps that honestly we couldn't be happier with."

Djokovic, a 21-time singles grand slam winner, is at the forefront, and Pospisil said the 35-year-old Serbian's role has been crucial.

"I feel like you need somebody that is at the top of the sport," Pospisil said. "So, I just think all the players and our organisation, we're very lucky that he's so supportive and that he's stuck his neck out and is fighting for what he believes in and what he believes is right."

Iga Swiatek had a reminder of the stellar rivalry that never was when she practised alongside Ash Barty on Saturday ahead of the Australian Open.

Australian Barty is the reigning women's singles champion at Melbourne Park, but she retired just weeks after lifting the trophy last year.

That shock decision from the then 25-year-old saw a figurehead of the WTA Tour make way, and Swiatek has taken her place as the undisputed world number one, saying Barty has inspired her to hit those heights.

The prospect of Barty and an ever-improving Swiatek fighting for the tour's biggest titles was dashed, and they only ever played twice, with Barty winning both times.

Barty announced on January 6 she is pregnant, and she appears to have no inclination to perform a retirement U-turn.

"For sure, when she retired, I felt like she still had the best tennis out there," Swiatek said after their light-hearted court session.

"So, I was pretty sad that I'm not going to be able to compete against her and maybe win.

"But on the other hand, she gave me a lot in terms of my motivation and my kind of willingness to practise even more and to have more variety on court.

"When I played against her, I felt like she just has all these different game styles and slice. Even in her book, she says she has five types of slice. I don't know how that's possible. I still haven't figured out only one type.

"I have huge respect for Ash. She really gave me huge motivation at the beginning of last season to get even better. I'm kind of grateful for that."

Swiatek will play the first night session match on Rod Laver Arena at this year's championships, taking on a familiar foe in Germany's Jule Niemeier.

At the US Open last September, the heavy-hitting Niemeier led by a set and a break against Swiatek in the fourth round, only to let the Pole back in and eventually surrender the third set 6-0. Swiatek went on to win the title, her third grand slam trophy success.

Niemeier also reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals, and Swiatek is wary of the opening test that awaits.

"We played at the US Open, and you saw how intense that match was, how tough," Swiatek said. "It's not going to be easy.

"But on the other hand, any match in a grand slam is always more intense and more stressful than other tournaments. I'll be ready for it.

"It's nice also that we played not so long ago, so I can take a lot from that match. Now I know how her ball feels on the racket. So, we'll see. But she has the same."

Rafael Nadal has denied he has already decided to follow Roger Federer into retirement after this year's French Open.

The Spaniard wil turn 37 in June, and calling time on his career at the grand slam he has won a record 14 times might be the ideal way to sign off.

Making predictions for the season, Germany's Alexander Zverev told Eurosport: "Unfortunately, I think Rafa will retire at Roland Garros. I don't want it to happen, but I think he will have a great tournament, potentially win it and say goodbye."

That would mean Nadal joining his former great rival Federer in waving goodbye to a glorious career after the Swiss played for the last time at the Laver Cup in September. Nadal's tears that night in London pointed to a realisation his own time on tour was also nearing its end.

However, Nadal denies Zverev has been given any encouragement to throw out such a specific retirement suggestion, which was revealed ahead of the Australian Open.

Nadal is the defending champion in Melbourne, and he also took the Paris slam last year to reach 22 for his career, putting him one ahead of Novak Djokovic.

"I don't know what's going to happen in six months," Nadal said, quoted by Eurosport.

"I have a very good relationship with Zverev, but not enough to confess something like that to him.

"The reality is that I'm here to play tennis, try to have a great 2023, fight for everything that I have struggled throughout my career, and I don't think about my retirement.

“You think about it week after week because that's how you show me at every press conference. But I will answer the same every time you ask me."

Nadal has lost six of his last seven tour-level matches, suggesting he might struggle to make serious inroads in his title defence, which starts against Britain's Jack Draper on Monday.

Asked if he felt vulnerable, Nadal said: "Yeah, of course. Without a doubt. I have been losing more than usual, so that's part of the business.

"I think I am humble enough to accept that situation and just work with what I have today. I need to build again all this momentum. I need to build again this confidence with myself with victories. But it's true that I have been losing more than usual.

"I already have been here for three weeks, practising every day with the conditions, with the best players. That helps a lot in general terms.

"My situation, I don't know what can happen on Monday, but my personal feeling, without a doubt, is better now than three weeks ago, in general terms."

Iga Swiatek starts the Australian Open as almost as strong a favourite to win the women's singles as Novak Djokovic is for the men's event.

Considering Djokovic is a nine-time champion in Melbourne, and Swiatek has never reached the final, that is some going and indicative of the Polish player's dominance on the WTA Tour over the last 11 months.

Swiatek ended last year with eight titles to her name, winning the French Open and US Open among them, and the 21-year-old has accrued more than twice as many ranking points as the next player on the WTA list, Ons Jabeur.

Her ascent to become the dominant woman in tennis has been remarkable, and Swiatek has also earned admiration for her efforts to raise funds for children in war-hit Ukraine.

But is she such an outstanding favourite for the Melbourne Park title as the odds-makers have it?

Since the US Open, she has been a champion at just one – modest by her standards – of the four tournaments she has contested, including the United Cup team event.

Here, Stats Perform looks at five others who might have a say in the destination of the year's first major.

Jessica Pegula

Swiatek was reduced to tears after a 6-2 6-2 drubbing by Pegula on January 6 at the United Cup, her first loss of the year.

She later described Pegula's performance as "the perfect match", and will hope the American cannot always rise to that level.

"It's always hard when you lose, especially when you're playing for the team and your country," Swiatek said at the time, explaining her post-match tears.

Swiatek had won all four of the matches they contested in 2022, dropping only one set, with quarter-final wins on the way to her two grand slam triumphs included in that set.

The result in Sydney, therefore, might have been just a blip, but Pegula is number three in the world for a reason, and Swiatek will surely want to avoid her over the coming fortnight.

Coco Gauff

Is now Gauff's time? There's a question that has been buzzing around the tennis circuit for at least a couple of seasons, despite the American being just 18 years old.

Time, it should be clear, is firmly on her side. She soared to fourth in the rankings in October but has slipped a little since, while remaining firmly established in the top 10.

Given her great talent, Gauff should be resident in the top 10 for many years to come, so we can afford to wait before watching her fly. The sometimes-erratic forehand remains in need of fine-tuning, and Gauff began this year with just two career singles titles to her name after missing out on a trophy in the 2022 season.

However, she reached a first grand slam final last June, losing to Swiatek in Paris, and began 2023 by capturing a title in Auckland where, as top seed, she made light work of the field.

The victory made her the sixth American player to secure three or more WTA-level titles before turning 19 in the last 40 years, after slam winners Monica Seles, Jennifer Capriati, Lindsay Davenport, Venus and Serena Williams.

That is some company for Gauff, who will face Katerina Siniakova in the first rout in Melbourne, to be keeping, and her time will come. It might even come in Melbourne.

 

Ons Jabeur

After finishing runner-up to Elena Rybakina at Wimbledon and Swiatek at the US Open, Jabeur is targeting a third successive slam final.

The Tunisian would win most popularity contests on the Tour, but she wants one of the big trophies now, and has to be seen as a strong contender in Australia.

Her preparations took a knock with a loss to 18-year-old Czech Linda Noskova at Adelaide International 1, but that will only have made Jabeur work harder in the build-up to the major.

She was gutted to have to pull out of the Australian Open with a back injury last year, and a first-round loss at the French Open followed, but Jabeur came good at the next two majors, albeit falling at the final hurdle.

Aryna Sabalenka

At this time last year, Sabalenka was in crisis, her serve a massive weakness as she struggled to deliver the ball safely.

She recovered from going a set down in three consecutive matches at the Australian Open before losing a rollicking tussle in round four with Estonian veteran and upset specialist Kaia Kanepi.

Sabalenka served a wretched 15 double faults in that match, which was sadly more or less par for her in the early stages of the 2022 season, but the Belarusian got her act together, overcome those yips, and finished the year strongly.

A semi-final run at the US Open was followed by an appearance in the WTA Finals title match, where she lost a close encounter with Caroline Garcia.

Sabalenka began this year not with the serving jitters, but with the Adelaide International 1 title, not dropping a set all week.

She has a big game and with it growing confidence. At the age of 24, she should be entering her prime years, and 2023 could be a special 12 months for the woman with the tiger tattoo.

Zheng Qinwen

The WTA's 2022 Newcomer of the Year winner, Zheng is a 20-year-old Chinese player who could soon follow in the footsteps of compatriot Li Na and begin scooping the biggest prizes in tennis.

How soon? Well, probably not quite yet, but then again very few picked out the then 54th-ranked Swiatek to win the 2020 French Open, the moment that launched her to stardom.

Zheng has rocketed to 30th in the rankings, having begun last year at 126th on the WTA list, and should be considered capable of halving her ranking over this season.

She first came to major prominence at the French Open, when she defeated Simona Halep and for a while also had Swiatek's number in their fourth-round match, winning the first set before menstrual cramps and a leg problem caused her to lose momentum.

The WTA Tour is a learning curve and slam-level success might not come immediately for Zheng, but that newcomer award came her way because she is a player shaping up to have a big say in the sport's future. Along with the likes of Gauff and Swiatek, she could still be a big factor in a decade's time.

Nick Kyrgios insists he is serious about being ready to quit tennis the minute he wins a singles grand slam title.

The Australian went close last year to ending his long wait, only to lose in four sets against Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final.

Now aged 27, Kyrgios wants to achieve glory at a major to satisfy that urge, before stepping off the court for good. If it comes at the Australian Open over the coming fortnight, it will be all the better for him.

Asked whether he stood by his previous comments, Kyrgios said: "A hundred per cent. It's a lot of training, a lot of work, and I just want to be able to eat whatever I want, drink what I want to drink and just relax.

"It's a hard lifestyle, the dedication these guys show day in day out. I did a bit of that last year, had a great year to show the world I'm still one of the best.

"I'm going to try to do it this year, and hopefully I can do it, but it'll be hard."

Kyrgios is ranked 21st by the ATP, but that can be considered a false position, given he collected no points for his career-best Wimbledon run. The tours stripped the London slam of ranking points due to its banning of players from Russia and Belarus.

The 1,200 points Kyrgios would ordinarily have taken away from the All England Club would have nudged him towards a top-10 placing.

There is the tantalising prospect of Kyrgios facing nine-time Melbourne Park champion Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open quarter-finals this year, and they went through a light-hearted dress rehearsal on Rod Laver Arena on Friday.

Speaking after that exhibition match, Djokovic said Kyrgios' two wins from their previous three tour-level encounters meant the sky was the limit for the man from Canberra.

"He is 2-1 against me, so as far as I'm concerned he can win anything," said Djokovic.

According to Djokovic, Kyrgios had been unaware of the potential for a meeting between the pair in the Australian Open last eight.

Serbian Djokovic has done his homework though, and appears to have mapped out his potential route to what would be a record-equalling 22nd men's singles grand slam title.

"I have to be honest, I think most of the guys are studying the draw pretty seriously, but you have to take it one match at a time," Djokovic said, speaking on Channel Nine.

"We think every player has so much motivation and inspiration to be able to play his best in the court, to perform well, so you cannot underestimate anybody, you cannot take any match for granted.

"It's a hopefully long two weeks. I know Nick and I are in the same part of the draw – he didn't know that by the way. Before the match I told him."

Novak Djokovic returned to action in front of a packed Rod Laver Arena crowd for the first time in two years, and declared: "It's great to be back."

The nine-time Australian Open champion was denied a role in last year's tournament when his vaccination status, having refused a COVID-19 jab, led to him being detained in a Melbourne immigration centre and later deported.

He was briefly released in January 2022 to practise at Melbourne Park before the tournament began, only to be effectively thrown out of the country days later.

With Australia's border controls having since been relaxed, and vaccination status no longer a condition of entry, Djokovic has had the red carpet rolled out this year, befitting his status as the most successful male singles player in the Australian Open's history.

He faced Nick Kyrgios in an exhibition match on Friday evening in Melbourne, with the stadium court sold out and the match screened on national television.

Kyrgios won 4-3 2-4 10-9, in what was a largely light-hearted encounter, a jumped-up practice session. It inevitably lacked the intensity of their last meeting, when Djokovic prevailed in four sets in the 2022 Wimbledon final.

A fierce backhand from Kyrgios in the match tie-break briefly caught out Djokovic, who was wrong-footed and volleyed out of court before slumping to the floor as though shot.

There was more than a little dramatic licence about his fall, and about the match in general, typified by the pair being joined on court by wheelchair players and a pair of leading juniors for the decisive tie-break.

The result did not matter, though it will if these two meet in the quarter-finals of the year's opening grand slam, as they might after the draw was revealed on Thursday.

Djokovic, who did not appear hampered by a recent hamstring niggle, told the crowd: "It just feels great to be back in Australia, back in Melbourne.

"This is the court and the stadium where I created the best memories of my tennis career. Back in 2008 it was the first time I won a grand slam here, and 15 years later I'm here again, and I'm competing at a high level, so I must be grateful for this opportunity to be here.

"Thank you guys for welcoming me in a good way tonight, I appreciate it."

It was a night for jollity and camaraderie, but should both reach that quarter-final date, Djokovic said: "I don't think we'll be this friendly to each other."

Kyrgios, who defended Djokovic during last year's January crisis, said of the 35-year-old Serbian: "It's so important to have him around.

"One of the greatest already left us last year, Roger [Federer], and I don't think we actually knew how special the guys are to our sport, so every time Novak's around at these events I want to beat him, even though I can't at a grand slam."

The Australian Open begins on Monday, when Djokovic facing Spain's Roberto Carballes Baena first. Djokovic is chasing a 22nd grand slam title, which would equal the men's singles record held by Rafael Nadal.

Kyrgios, yet to win a singles slam, starts against Russian Roman Safiullin.

Iga Swiatek has no interest in what people expect from her and the world number one will not be "living in the past" as she targets more success this season.

Swiatek was in a class of her own last year, winning a staggering eight titles to firmly establish herself as the best player in the world.

A second French Open title and a maiden US Open triumph were the highlights for the 21-year-old in a stellar 2022.

The Pole will start her quest to win the Australian Open with a first-round match against Germany's Jule Niemeier at Rod Laver Arena on Monday.

Swiatek is the favourite to be crowned champion at Melbourne Park, but will not be putting too much pressure on herself.

"When I don't care about what people think and what their expectations of me are, it's easier for me to succeed," Swiatek told BBC Sport.

"That was what I tried my best to do in 2022.

"Although I'm proud of them, I'm not going to try to match my previous achievements because it would not be constructive.

"A season like that is something amazing and rare. Sure, I would love to do it again, but it's not advantageous to live in the past."

Swiatek was beaten by Danielle Collins at the semi-final stage of the Australian Open 12 months ago.

Nick Kyrgios believes only "a clown" would give Novak Djokovic a hard time at the Australian Open as the Serbian chases a major slice of tennis history.

It was Kyrgios who prominently came to Djokovic's defence when the nine-time champion at Melbourne Park was detained in an immigration facility and then deported ahead of last year's Australian Open due to his COVID-19 vaccination status.

The previously testy relationship between the pair has become increasingly friendly, to the point they will meet in a practice match at Rod Laver Arena on Friday, ahead of the season's first grand slam. That match sold out in a flash, reflecting the popularity of both men.

Kyrgios described their growing closeness as a "bromance" at Wimbledon last year, although Djokovic laughed off that label.

Djokovic, who has refused to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, will have many on his side over the coming fortnight as he chases a 10th grand slam in Australia and a 22nd overall, which would match Rafael Nadal's men's singles record.

Tournament director Craig Tiley has said anyone that boos Djokovic would risk being thrown out, while Kyrgios called for "respect" to be shown to the 35-year-old superstar.

Kyrgios described Djokovic as "the best that we've got", adding: "I would say, Novak's here and he hasn't made any rules. He's abided by them for the last two years or whatever.

"He's here and all he wants to do is put on a show. He's chasing things that athletes rarely are able to chase. He's one of the greatest athletes of all time, not just in the tennis court.

"I think as fans we should be appreciating that. I know there's going to be fans who are not wanting him to win, but I think they can't cross that line as fans.

"You guys have paid money to watch a guy play, it's a bit contradictory if you're going to go there and be a clown about it.

"You've got to respect him a little bit at the end of the day because he's one of the best who's ever done it."

Kyrgios has a 2-1 record against Djokovic, though both of his wins came back in 2017 and Djokovic won in four sets in their last meeting: the 2022 Wimbledon final.

Should they both win through the early rounds in the season's first grand slam, the draw is such that they could go head to head again in the quarter-finals.

Already, Kyrgios is talking about possibly abandoning doubles duty with Thanasi Kokkinakis in order to focus on singles.

He and Kokkinakis took the doubles title last year, but Kyrgios said on Thursday: "We're singles players at heart and the doubles grand slam last year was a flash in the pan.

"We haven't had one conversation about doubles yet. If we play, we play; if we don't, we don't."

Nine-time champion Novak Djokovic will make his return to the Australian Open against Spain's world number 75 Roberto Carballes Baena.

After being deported from Australia last year amid a row over his refusal of a COVID-19 vaccination, Djokovic is firmly back in favour and chasing history in Melbourne, with a record-equalling 22nd men's singles grand slam in his sights.

He begins against an opponent who in four previous main draw appearances has only ever won one singles match at Melbourne Park.

Defending champion Rafael Nadal, whose 22 slam titles Djokovic is seeking to match, has a tricky opener against rising British star Jack Draper, the world number 40.

Second seed Casper Ruud will tackle Czech Tomas Machac first up, with the 115th-ranked player unlikely to prove too daunting an obstacle for last season's French Open and US Open runner-up.

Fifth seed Andrey Rublev could face an awkward assignment against wildcard and former US Open winner Dominic Thiem, while Australia's Nick Kyrgios begins against Russian Roman Safiullin.

Neither 13th seed Matteo Berrettini nor five-time runner-up Andy Murray would have been delighted to be paired together, but that is what happened in Thursday's draw.

In the women's singles, top seed Iga Swiatek starts her bid for a first Australian Open title against Germany's Jule Niemeier, who caught the eye last year on a run to the Wimbledon quarter-finals.

American seventh seed Coco Gauff starts against Czech Katerina Siniakova, while Jessica Pegula, Gauff's third-seeded compatriot who recently beat Swiatek in the United Cup, will face Belgian Jaqueline Cristian.

Gauff could face former US Open winner Emma Raducanu in the second round. Unseeded Briton Raducanu starts against Germany's Tamara Korpatsch.

Former champions Sofia Kenin and Victoria Azarenka go head to head in the first round, with American Kenin unseeded this year and Belarusian Azarenka the 24th seed.

Azarenka's compatriot Aryna Sabalenka is fancied to do well, having banished last year's serving yips, and the fifth seed starts against Czech Tereza Martincova.

Tunisian second seed Ons Jabeur, runner-up at Wimbledon and the US Open, begins her latest quest for an elusive grand slam title against Slovenian world number 88 Tamara Zidansek.

Former US Open winner Bianca Andreescu is unseeded in Australia and Czech 25th seed Marie Bouzkova drew a possible short straw by getting the Canadian in round one.

Four-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka has announced she is pregnant and is not expecting to play tennis again until next year.

The 25-year-old has not been in action since September and withdrew from the upcoming Australian Open on Sunday, but no reason was given for her prolonged absence.

However, Osaka revealed on her personal social media accounts on Wednesday that she is expecting her first child and will take a year out.

"Can't wait to get back on the court, but here's a little life update for 2023," she wrote alongside an image of an ultrasound. 

"The past few years have been interesting to say the least, but I find that it's the most challenging times in life that may be the most fun. 

"These few months away from the sport have really given me a new love and appreciation for the game I've dedicated my life to.

"I realise that life is so short and I don't take any moments for granted, every day is a new blessing and adventure. 

"I know that I have so much to look forward to in the future, one thing I'm looking forward to is for my kid to watch one of my matches and tell someone, 'that's my mom,' haha.

"2023 will be a year that'll be full of lessons for me, and I hope I'll see you guys at the start of the next one 'cause I'll be at Aus 2024. Love you all infinitely."

The Japanese former world number one won the Australian Open in 2019 and 2021, while also winning the US Open in 2018 and 2020.

Osaka is currently ranked 42nd in the world and has been replaced by Dayana Yastremska in the main draw for the opening grand slam of the year.

"I don't think there's a perfectly correct path to take in life," Osaka added in her post. "But I always felt if you move forward with good intentions you'll find your way eventually."

Novak Djokovic cut short a practice match against Daniil Medvedev on Wednesday as a hamstring injury lingers ahead of the Australian Open.

Record nine-time Melbourne champion Djokovic is back in Australia after he was denied entry last year and subsequently deported due to his COVID-19 vaccination status.

The 21-time major winner is expected to be a contender again at the first grand slam of the 2023 season, but his preparations were hampered by an injury scare on Wednesday.

Djokovic, who won his first title of the year in Adelaide last week, was able to complete only a single set of an exhibition against Medvedev.

"It's a hamstring that I had problems with in Adelaide actually last week," he explained to Nine's Wide World of Sports. "It was against Medvedev, when I played the semi-final, and I played with him today in a practice match.

"I just felt it a bit, pulling, and I didn't want to risk anything worse. I played a set, apologised to him, and he was understanding.

"I just want to avoid any bigger scares before the Australian Open."

Having required a lengthy medical timeout against Medvedev in Adelaide, Djokovic had described the issue as "nothing too serious".

The Serbian is also scheduled to play a practice match against home hopeful Nick Kyrgios this week.

Novak Djokovic will face Nick Kyrgios in a practice match ahead of the Australian Open.

Djokovic marked his return to Australia by beating Sebastian Korda to win his 92nd Tour-level title on Sunday in Adelaide.

Kyrgios, meanwhile, did not feature in the inaugural United Cup for Australia after withdrawing due to injury.

They will now meet in a practice match at Rod Laver Arena on Friday, ahead of the season's first grand slam.

Ticket proceeds will go to the Australian Tennis Foundation.

The duo have had a turbulent relationship in the past, though last year appeared to be on better terms.

Kyrgios came to Djokovic's defence when the Serbian was denied entry to Australia and subsequently deported ahead of the 2022 Australian Open due to his COVID-19 vaccination status.

Australia's policy on non-vaccinated individuals entering the country has now changed, and Djokovic had his three-year suspension from the nation revoked, allowing him to compete in Melbourne this year.

Krygios has a 2-1 record against Djokovic, though both of his wins came back in 2017.

They last met in the final of Wimbledon last year, with Djokovic coming out on top 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-3).

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