Aryna Sabalenka’s ruthless defence of her Australian Open title was powered by a sense of fun and new-found inner calm.

The world number two lifted her first grand slam trophy at Melbourne Park 12 months ago and has been untouchable this fortnight.

She did not drop a set in seven matches and defeated first-time grand slam finalist Zheng Qinwen 6-3 6-2 to become the first player since compatriot Victoria Azarenka 11 years ago to claim back-to-back titles.

“I don’t know how to describe my emotions,” said Sabalenka. “But definitely I’m super, super happy and proud of everything I was able to achieve so far. I’m just happy with the level I played today.”

Zheng, who did not face a top-50 player through the first six rounds, had hoped to emulate the watching Li Na and claim the title for China a decade on.

But the 21-year-old, the 12th first-time slam finalist in the women’s game in the last three years, was up against it from the start and Sabalenka wrapped up victory in only 76 minutes despite a brief disruption from pro-Palestine protesters.

Sabalenka has ridden emotional highs and lows throughout her career, overcoming the yips on her serve two years ago and several bruising semi-final losses before she reached her first final 12 months ago.

She showed tremendous consistency at the slams last year, reaching at least the last four in each one, but there were still crushing defeats in big matches, most painfully in the US Open final against Coco Gauff, after which Sabalenka was seen backstage smashing her rackets.

But in Melbourne this year the 25-year-old has been flawless, with her only testing match coming in the semi-finals against Gauff and resulting in a cathartic victory.

“I think it’s all come with experience,” she said. “There is not going to be big wins without really tough losses. Of course I was very down after those matches. I was crying, I was smashing the racket, as we see. I was really crazy.

“But then, after a day or two, we sit down with the team, thinking, ‘OK, what do we have to do to fix it and to make sure this will never happen again’.”

Sabalenka’s ferocity on court is at odds with her fun-loving persona off it, and her team can often be seen joking around behind the scenes, while a tradition this year was for the Belarusian to write her signature on her fitness trainer Jason Stacy’s bald head.

Helping her find an emotional equilibrium during matches has been a lengthy process, with Stacy saying: “That’s been the plan for years. First making her more aware of what’s happening.

“It’s been a big part. She’s just hiding it really well, and it’s not guaranteed it’s going to be that way every week. But that’s what makes her so dangerous and so powerful as well that part of her. It’s beautiful.”

Sabalenka said with a smile: “It’s actually good that I’m two different people on and off the court, because if I would be the same person that I am on the court off the court, I think I wouldn’t have my team around me and I think I would be alone.

“It takes me so much time to become who I am right now on court, to have this control of myself, and to understand myself better.”

Sabalenka seized control of the match from the start, opening up a 3-0 lead before Zheng gained a foothold courtesy of some impressive serving.

Three double faults in one game was a disastrous start to the second set, though, and even four missed match points could not derail Sabalenka.

Zheng, who will break into the top 10 for the first time on Monday, was disappointed with her performance, saying: “To play against her I think it’s so important to hold your own service game. But I couldn’t do that, especially at the beginning.

“I didn’t perform my best. That’s really a pity for me because I really wanted to show better than that.”

Sabalenka used her acceptance speech to thank her family, and a second slam title fulfilled the dream she shared with her late father Sergey, who died in 2019.

“It was really important,” she said. “Of course he’s my biggest motivation. He’s been everything for me.

“But right now I have my mom, my sister, who is here with me, and I feel like I have to think about them. But I just feel that he’s always with me. I’m very thankful for everything he did for me, and I think if not him I wouldn’t be here.

“Now, having two grand slam titles, it definitely gives me more confidence and belief in myself. I just have this, knowing that all my life it wasn’t a waste of time and I was doing the right thing. I’m where I’m meant to be.”

Aryna Sabalenka defeated Zheng Qinwen to make it back-to-back titles at the Australian Open.

The second seed did not drop a set all fortnight, beating first-time major finalist Zheng 6-3 6-2 to become the first woman since fellow Belarusian Victoria Azarenka in 2013 to successfully defend the trophy.

Britain’s Alfie Hewett was unable to match Sabalenka, losing 6-2 6-4 to Tokito Oda in the men’s wheelchair final.

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The tournament will crown a first time Australian Open champion in the men’s singles on Sunday night.

After stunning Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals, 22-year-old fourth seed Jannik Sinner goes into his first grand slam decider as the favourite.

There he will take on third seed Daniil Medvedev, who has survived three five-set matches and will hope to make it third time lucky having finished as runner-up in 2021 and 2022.

Aryna Sabalenka completed a ruthless defence of her Australian Open title by beating first-timer Zheng Qinwen in the final.

The world number two lifted her first grand-slam trophy at Melbourne Park 12 months ago and has been untouchable this fortnight.

She did not drop a set in seven matches and defeated Zheng 6-3 6-2 to become the first player since countrywoman Victoria Azarenka 11 years ago to claim back-to-back titles.

Zheng, who had not had to face a top-50 player through the first six rounds, had hoped to emulate the watching Li Na and claim the title for China a decade on.

But the 21-year-old, the 12th first-time slam finalist in the women’s game in the last three years, was up against it from the start and Sabalenka wrapped up victory in only 76 minutes despite a brief disruption from pro-Palestine protesters.

Zheng was the first player this century to reach a slam final without facing a seeded opponent, and the low rankings of her opponents made this a huge step up.

Early nerves were evident and Sabalenka set straight about seizing on the Zheng serve, breaking for 2-0 and then holding from 0-40 in another statement of intent.

Zheng has struggled with the consistency of her serve this tournament but, when she has made the first delivery, it has been very effective, and two aces helped her get on the board in the fourth game.

The Chinese fans in the crowd were making their presence felt but, while Zheng came up with more big serving to save three set points at 5-2, Sabalenka finished it off decisively on her own delivery.

The Belarusian has ridden emotional highs and lows throughout her career, and her stellar 2023 could have brought her more than one slam title had she not wobbled in defeats by Karolina Muchova, Ons Jabeur and Coco Gauff.

The latter came in the US Open final after Sabalenka had dominated the first set, but here she has been steely on and off court, claiming a cathartic win over Gauff in the semi-finals.

Zheng had won just five games in their only previous meeting in the quarter-finals in New York last summer, and her hopes of doing better were hit by a disastrous start to the second set, serving three double faults in the opening game.

With Zheng trying to hold in the third game, the match was briefly delayed when two spectators held up a Palestinian flag in the stands and shouted until they were hauled away by security to cheers from the remaining fans.

Zheng kept her composure to get on the board but her serve had really dropped off and Sabalenka broke again to lead 4-1.

Zheng managed some brief late resistance, saving four match points, but Sabalenka crunched a forehand winner on her fifth chance before thrusting her arms into the air.

Nick Kyrgios says the prospect of life after tennis now “excites” him as he takes to the commentator’s box for the Australian Open.

The Australian former world number 11 has taken time off from the professional circuit due to injury, filling in his time by working at the grand slam for Eurosport.

He wrote on Wednesday in Australian newspaper The Age that he is now seriously considering retirement.

“I’m at a crossroads in my career and have reached a point where life after tennis is a prospect that excites me,” he wrote.

His words come hours after he conducted his first on-court interview of the Australian Open on Tuesday night, speaking to 24-time grand slam winner Novak Djokovic.

But, despite enjoying his time in the commentator’s box, the 28-year-old says he still feels the urge to play.

“Over the past week being at Melbourne Park for the Australian Open, I’ve been happy,” he said.

“Of course, there’s a part of me watching on that would love nothing more than to be out there.

“I know I can be one of the best in the world and win major tournaments – if my body lets me.

“The fire still burns, but it’s not my everything.”

Kyrgios attempted a comeback in June. However, his return only lasted one match thanks to continuing knee and wrist injuries.

Kyrgios said a return to the professional circuit has not been totally ruled out, but he stressed he will not put his name forward to represent Australia at the Paris 2024 Olympics.

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.

Emma Raducanu was left unable to do simple tasks after three surgeries last spring, but the 21-year-old believes the enforced break from tennis could be the making of her.

Coping with the instant global fame and expectations that accompanied her remarkable US Open victory in 2021 proved very difficult for Raducanu, who had slipped outside the top 100 when she revealed she needed operations on both wrists and one ankle.

The recovery has not been straightforward, with the Kent player finally able to make her comeback last week in Auckland after eight months on the sidelines.


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She cut a noticeably more relaxed and happy figure, and she told the PA news agency: “I would say I would take the place that I’m in now mentally and physically and trade it for the past eight months on the tour.

“Missing that time, it obviously was really difficult in the moment, and seeing the tournaments go on, but I would have done it again if I had to.”

Raducanu spoke on Friday about feeling like she was carrying around a “backpack of rocks” as she tried to build on her history-making success.

“It was like it was glued on,” she added. “I think now it’s completely off, I feel good, I feel better and ready to take this second chance at being on the tour again.”

Now able to look back and reflect on the decisions she has made since lifting the trophy at Flushing Meadows, Raducanu’s one regret is not giving herself more time.

A swift loss in her opening match in Indian Wells at her next tournament set the tone for a year and a half of struggle.

“I probably would have taken some more time off to rest and then to train because I feel like I had a lot of things straight after the US Open and then Indian Wells was right around the corner, so I kind of rushed straight into it with minimal practice and it was a bit of a spiral from there,” she said.

Coincidentally, Raducanu’s grand slam return at the Australian Open on Tuesday will be against American Shelby Rogers, whom she beat in the fourth round in New York.


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Rogers is also coming off a period of inactivity after knee surgery, an abdominal injury and a December wedding.

The 31-year-old is not surprised that time away has helped Raducanu’s mindset, saying: “I think sometimes it’s difficult to keep that perspective week to week.

“Especially if you don’t have your identity rooted somewhere outside of tennis, you’re sort of living and dying with wins and losses. It can be really difficult.

“It’s really nice to hear that she’s feeling refreshed and has that perspective again. I think it’s really important for especially the younger players to keep that.”

Accompanying Raducanu in Melbourne is new coach Nick Cavaday, who she originally worked with a decade ago.

Raducanu has returned to the tour with a determination to play her aggressive game style having felt she had unintentionally moved away from that.

Much has been made of the frequent changes in her coaching set-up, and she said: “I think it’s different styles of training, different styles of coaching. I think I play my best when I’m instinctive and free, and to be able to do that I need to put the time in on the practice court.

“I felt like I was chasing my tail a bit from tournament to tournament, and I wasn’t really doing the blocks of work in between, so I think just pausing and doing those physical things and on the practice court is something I’m going to do more of this year.

“With Nick, we both are very much aligned with how we see my tennis and my potential but potential is one thing so we have to do the work. I’m looking forward to doing it with him to get there. I need to be aggressive but find a balance, not just being a bull in a china shop.”

Coaching instability and Raducanu’s commercial activities have been central to the criticism that has rained down on her post-US Open.

Raducanu’s career continues to attract significant attention from far beyond the tennis world, and she said with a smile: “I guess I should feel flattered that they’re speaking about me.

“I think it affected me more straight after when I was a bit younger. Now I think I’m getting more and more immunised to it the more it goes on.”

The first British player in action on Sunday will be Jodie Burrage, who is making her debut in the main draw and will face German Tamara Korpatsch.

Novak Djokovic is optimistic his wrist problems are behind him as he prepares to start his bid for an 11th Australian Open title.

The world number one was hampered by a right wrist issue during an uncharacteristic loss to Alex De Minaur playing for Serbia at the United Cup earlier this month.

But he has been practising this week at Melbourne Park, and said ahead of a first-round clash with Croatian teenager Dino Prizmic on Sunday: “My wrist is good.

“I had time from the last match against De Minaur in the United Cup to my first match here to recover. I’ve been training well. Practice sessions pain-free so far. It’s all looking good. Let’s see how it goes.”

Djokovic is no stranger to injuries in Melbourne, with an abdominal problem almost derailing him in 2021, while he played through last year’s tournament with a hamstring issue.

He still won the title on both occasions, and he said of the wrist: “It’s not as bad as some other injuries I had here – 2021 and last year I had worse injuries that I had to deal with.

“I can’t predict whether it’s going to come back. Once I start playing more matches, stress levels go higher. I don’t know. We have to find out.”

At 36, Djokovic remains as dominant as ever, falling only one match short of a calendar Grand Slam in 2023.

This year once again offers the chance for a Golden Slam, with a first Olympic gold medal in Paris an obvious target, while another victory in Melbourne would make him the first player ever to win 25 slam singles titles.

“It’s no secret that I verbalise my goals and I say clearly that I want to win every slam that I play in,” said the Serbian.

“It’s no different this year. I’m just hoping I can start the season in a way that I have been starting my seasons, most of my seasons, throughout my career: with a win here in Australia, in Melbourne.

“My favourite place, no doubt. The court where I’ve done great things and achieved my greatest grand slam results.

“I hope that I’m going to be able to, if not play at the level that I did last year, then be very close to that, because that was one of the best tennis levels that I’ve ever played, here in Australia last year.

“The season is so long. Grand slams, Olympics, those are the big goals. I have to see how it goes here and think about everything else when it comes around the corner.”

Djokovic continues to hold back the next generation single-handed, with only Carlos Alcaraz managing to get the better of him at the slams last year in a brilliant Wimbledon final.

The Spaniard, who missed last year’s Australian Open with a leg injury, leads Djokovic’s likely challengers along with fellow young gun Jannik Sinner.


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Alcaraz is already eyeing a potential final battle against Djokovic, saying: “It’s an extra motivation for me. I’m an ambitious guy. Obviously it’s a good test, playing against him in the places or in the tournament that he’s almost unbeaten.

“I’m looking for reaching the final and hopefully playing a final against him. It would be great, obviously.”

Alcaraz will have to do it, though, without his long-time coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, who is back home in Spain recuperating from knee surgery.

Alcaraz, who plays veteran Richard Gasquet in round one, is being guided here by Ferrero’s former coach Samuel Lopez, and he said: “It’s tough not being with him. Obviously he travels to almost 100 per cent of the tournaments. It’s going to be difficult to approach a big tournament without him.

“I have Sam with me that is a great coach as well. I trust him. I believe in him. Juan Carlos as well. I think I can learn a lot from him.”

Coco Gauff has set herself a target of winning at least 10 grand slam titles during her career.

The 19-year-old goes into the Australian Open as tennis’ newest major winner after lifting the trophy at the US Open last September.

Asked if she had a number in mind, Gauff said: “I would say recently I feel like I wanted to get double-digits. That’s cool.


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“I don’t know if it will happen, but I think that’s a high goal. I think setting my goals high pushes me beyond what I think I can do.”

Players often struggle in the period after a major breakthrough, but Gauff began her 2024 season by defending her title in Auckland and will be one of the favourites for success in Melbourne.

“During the off-season we did celebrate a little bit just because after the US Open everything was so fast,” said the world number four, who plays Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the first round.

“Now, going into another slam, it really feels like so long ago. Some players’ goal is to win a grand slam. Once they reach that, it’s kind of what’s next.

“For me, I always knew I wanted to win multiple. It was kind of easy to forget about it. Not ‘forget’. I think that’s the wrong word. Maybe just put it in the past and look forward to the future instead of dwelling on the past.

“I think for me the only thing I will try to remember from that slam is just the way that I won. It wasn’t my best tennis. It was more the mental fire.”

Gauff credits her success to a shift in mentality, helped by new coach Brad Gilbert, after a disappointing loss against Sofia Kenin in the opening round of Wimbledon.

“I think I put too much pressure on winning a slam,” she said. “When I went on the scene at 15, I felt like I had to win a slam as a teenager because that’s what everybody thought.

“Honestly, going into US Open, I didn’t expect it. I felt like I was having a bad season, and my focus was just get through the season and focus on the Australian Open this year.

“I think putting that mindset just relaxed me a lot. At the end of the day, the worst thing that happened to me at Wimbledon was I could lose first round. That wasn’t even that bad. Obviously it sucked. The world didn’t end. The sun still shines. I still have my friends and family.

“I realised that losing isn’t all that bad, and that I should just focus on the battle and the process and enjoy it. When it’s 5-5 in the third set, enjoy that battle instead of thinking, ‘What if I lose?’ I found myself being able to play freer and trust myself more.”


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Looking to avoid a first-round upset against former Australian Open winner Kenin this time will be top seed Iga Swiatek, who is bidding for a first title in Melbourne.

Aryna Sabalenka broke her grand slam duck here last year and went on to reach at least the semi-finals at each of the grand slams and become world number one.

The Belarusian, who will take on German teenager Ella Seidel in the first night session on Sunday, said: “I had an incredible season last year, improved a lot as a player and as a person. I did really a great pre-season. We worked a lot. I felt like we improved a lot. I feel really great and feel like I’m ready to go.”

Cameron Norrie admits he is concerned about the wrist injury he suffered ahead of the Australian Open.

The British number one was forced to pull out of his quarter-final at the ASB Classic in Auckland, the city where he grew up, on Thursday after feeling pain in his left wrist following a second-round victory over Luca Van Assche.

Norrie is due to play his first match at Melbourne Park on Tuesday against Peruvian Juan Pablo Varillas, and he said: “There was not a particular moment where I felt something happen or anything.


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“The next day I was a bit sore, wasn’t able to play, obviously. I did a scan. It didn’t show anything too much. So I’m here and it’s feeling a bit better.

“I couldn’t play Auckland, so I’m obviously concerned. But we’re managing it with my team. It was better today, which is positive. Luckily I’m scheduled to play on Tuesday, so I have a few more days. I’m looking forward to practice tomorrow.”

The injury is badly timed for 19th seed Norrie, who struggled during the second half of last season and admitted he felt a little burned out.

He was rejuvenated after a strong pre-season, where he worked with new coach Stephen Huss, and claimed an excellent win to start 2024 against in-form Alex De Minaur at the United Cup.

Australian Huss will work alongside Norrie’s main coach Facundo Lagones, with the focus being on training weeks, and Norrie said: “He was so good, such a good influence on everyone in the team.

“He speaks really clearly on what he wants to see and what his ideas are, which I liked. He came in with some really good ideas. Great fit for the team. It was an unbelievable two weeks with him there.

“Great for Facu as well. Facu learnt a lot. I think it was exactly what we needed to talk about a bit more, tactics. I really liked him. There was no ego involved. He came in and he was really excited. He was loving the sessions and the quality we were bringing.

“I’m just pumped to be back on the court playing, competing the way I was there in the United Cup and the match in Auckland. I just want to keep evolving, keep getting better. A lot to learn from last year, but I want to look forward.”

There are also question marks over the fitness of British number two Dan Evans.

The 33-year-old played his first tournament this week in Adelaide after suffering a calf injury in October but admits he is still short of where he needs to be.

“The amount of people who say it’s an old person’s injury, pulling a calf, is astonishing,” said Evans with a wry smile.

“I had to be really cautious with it because all the doctors and physios said to do it again is not what you want. It was my tendon, as well, which is pretty important. My leg is fully fit. Obviously, you have to work the rest up.”


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Evans will take on Italian Lorenzo Sonego in his first match, while second seed Carlos Alcaraz is likely to be waiting should he win that.

“Definitely I can win my first round,” said Evans. “It’s how my body holds up and how it will recover. It was sore last week. I just haven’t had as much practice and training as I would really like.

“But you can have as much practice as you like, if you’re playing Alcaraz, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win anyway.”

Emma Raducanu believes she is “too good” not to get back to the top of the game – if she can stay fit.

The 21-year-old will play a grand-slam match for the first time in a year when she takes on American Shelby Rogers in the opening round of the Australian Open.

Triple surgery on both wrists and one ankle put Raducanu off the tour for eight months but she gave a reminder of what a high-class tennis player she is in her comeback tournament in Auckland last week.

The biggest question mark remains the robustness of Raducanu’s body, and she pulled out of two exhibition matches this week with soreness following a long practice session on Monday.


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Any fears about her participation in Melbourne have since been allayed, and she said: “Physically I feel good. I did a lot of good work in the off-season.

“But I think that, regardless of how good I may feel on the court on a particular day or in practice, I think to get that level of consistency is going to require more time.

“I’ve been doing the right work, doing it consistently. I just need to keep going more and more. But I feel good on court and in the gym.”

Raducanu is currently ranked down at 299 as a result of her long break, although she can enter tournaments using her protected ranking from before surgery of 103.

“I think success to me in the long-term is, for the rest of the year, to play a full season, to be healthy throughout, to be able to train consistent weeks,” she said.

“I know my level is there, I just need to keep working on it to make it more consistent. I think that will come with time in the gym, time on court, being able to play the calendar, not thinking about ‘Will I have to pull out from this one, does that hurt’?

“I think my level, to be honest, is just too good not to come through if I put consistent work together.”

Raducanu practised with British duo Katie Boulter and Jodie Burrage on Friday and earned rave reviews from both.

“I think it’s absolutely incredible what she’s doing,” said Boulter. “To come back with that level already, it’s inspirational.

“You know how long it took me to get back (from injury). It really isn’t easy, trust me. It’s not something that you can just pick up like that. It seems like she’s playing very, very well. I’m sure it’s going to be a great year for her. I’m expecting big things.”

Without a coach for most of her recovery, Raducanu is in Melbourne with Nick Cavaday, who she previously worked with between the ages of 10 and 12.

Raducanu hopes it will prove a good fit, saying: “We’re just taking it how it goes. It’s been working really well so far.

“I, of course, hope to continue with him because I feel very comfortable with him. I know his sister (former British player Naomi Cavaday) really well because, like, everyone is from Bromley.”


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Cavaday previously coached Dominic Inglot and Aljaz Bedene before heading up the Lawn Tennis Association’s national academy in Loughborough.

There is no indication Raducanu will look to add a full-time fitness trainer or physio to her team, with the former US Open champion keen to keep a tight circle around her.

She cuts a much happier figure than for most of the period post her New York triumph, and she said: “I feel a lot lighter now than I did for a long time after US Open. I feel like I’m not playing with a backpack of rocks. I feel pretty light and happy.

“Reflecting on the past, I think people are very important. I think surrounding yourself with competent and knowledgeable people is of course really important, but also the type of person and their character is big-time, just making sure we really get on and intentions are really good.”

Katie Boulter is enjoying being part of the “circus” surrounding Australian boyfriend Alex De Minaur.

De Minaur is the newest member of the world’s top 10 and the home country’s great hope for a grand slam champion at Melbourne Park in a fortnight’s time.

His relationship with Boulter has generated a lot of attention, with the pair playing mixed doubles together at Wimbledon last summer, and she is happy to share his moment in the spotlight.

“I am a very private person,” she said. “I like to keep myself to myself, my team close, the things that matter most to me away from everything.

“I think it’s definitely been fun to be a part of because it’s been a little bit of a circus, but a good circus. I think it’s awesome that he’s getting the attention that he really does deserve and he’s put the work in for it.

“He’s playing some of the best tennis of his life and it really does fill me with a lot of pride to actually watch him at this moment.

“I feel like I’m sharing him with everyone, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s definitely a lot. But he’s handled it a lot of his career and he knows how to deal with it and I’m right there next to him.”


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With Nick Kyrgios still sidelined through injury, De Minaur will carry home hopes virtually single-handed, but the 24-year-old sees only positives.

“I’m living my dream,” he said. “I can wake up in the morning and know that I’ve achieved a massive milestone, which was very tough to get to. I didn’t know if I was going to achieve it.

“Now I can look at myself and say that I’ve done it, that I’m a completely different player to what I was last year. It’s exciting because I’ve got bigger and better things to come hopefully.”

Boulter and De Minaur have been together since 2020 but the last 12 months have seen both hit new heights in their career.

Boulter enters the Australian Open ranked 57 and heads into a first-round clash with China’s Yuan Yue full of confidence after a great start to 2024.

At the United Cup in Perth, Boulter claimed the biggest victory of her career over world number five Jessica Pegula and has her sights set on another sizeable leap this year.

“It was huge,” she said of her win over the American. “I’m sure it wasn’t the best match of her career but I felt like I was right there.

“She’s one of the top players in the world and it gives you belief that that can be you and I strongly believe that if I keep working the way that I do that I can do that.”

She continued: “Top 100 has not been my number. I think I did that five years ago and now I really want to keep pushing. Even 50, I’ve ticked that off as well.

“And now it’s time to start getting up to the real business side of tennis and I think the work that we’ve been putting in has given me a great platform this past year to really push on and give these girls a go. Now it just takes a little bit of belief and a lot more hard work.”

Nostalgia and memories of past glories have accompanied Naomi Osaka on her return to the Australian Open but the two-time champion is determined to be patient with herself.

Osaka is playing her first grand slam tournament since the US Open in 2022 after giving birth to daughter Shai last summer.

The winner at Melbourne Park in 2019 and 2021, the 26-year-old is feeling her way back into life on tour having made her comeback at the Brisbane International last week.


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“Just going into the locker room and having the same locker as before, I think little things like that really make me happy,” said Osaka.

“Just being able to hit on Rod Laver, I guess, look up at the sky and kind of realise, I’ve been able to win twice here. I would love to do it again.

“Definitely it is hard because I do think of all the amazing memories that I’ve had. I also think, in my head, who am I to just come back in the second tournament and expect so much from myself, especially against the best players in the world?

“Even hitting today with Ons (Jabeur), I caught myself getting a little disappointed in myself when I would make some mistakes. But I’m hitting against Ons. I think it’s just one of those things where I now think to myself that I have to give myself a lot of time and patience.”

Osaka cuts a notably happier figure than the player who struggled with her mental health during 2022 and contemplated stepping away from the sport completely.

Time and a new perspective as a mother has given Osaka, who is also a two-time winner of the US Open, a different outlook on her career.

“I’ve taken a lot of breaks throughout the years,” she said. “I think this one was the one that finally clicked in my head. I think I realised, being an athlete, that time is really precious. (Before) I was young and I felt like I could kind of roll back into it whenever I needed to.

“I guess after having Shai, going through the struggle of trying to get myself back to where I want to be, it was incredibly tough.

“I have a much more positive mindset and a much more grateful mindset. I think overall I’m just happy to be here because I remember last year I was watching people playing Australian Open, and I couldn’t participate myself.”

Osaka has not travelled to Australia with Shai, who has stayed back home in the USA.

“It’s definitely been really hard,” she said. “She’s learning things while I’m gone. I’m hoping she doesn’t learn how to crawl before I come back. She’s doing her little plank thing and scooting forward and back. I think it might be a little inevitable.

“I’m definitely sad, but I feel like it’s a selfish sad because I want her to be here. But I think, for her health, her whole environment is at home. I don’t want to put her out of that while she’s still so young. I FaceTime her often.”

Osaka, who joins fellow former champions Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber as mothers making their Australian Open returns, has a tricky first-round draw against 16th seed Caroline Garcia.

She is happy how her body has reacted to playing matches again, saying: “There has been stiffness and soreness but honestly not as bad as I was expecting. Even without having gone through post-pregnancy, I’m normally very sore on the first tournament back.

“But it ended up really fine. I think my body’s quite adaptable. I think I’ve been doing pretty well. I’m pretty confident with where I’m at right now.”

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