Aussie star ready for his big shot at Open success

 

World No.1s Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams will begin the defence of their Australian Open titles today, but all eyes will be on Australia's Nick Kyrgios.

The 29th seed has been installed as the sixth favourite to win the tournament ahead of his first-round clash this evening against Spain's Pablo Carrena Busta.

Kyrgios will be one of five Aussies in action on the opening day, with Sam Stosur, Daria Gavrilova, Ajla Tomljanovic and Omar Jasika also kicking off their campaigns.

Kyrgios, coming off a victory with Gavrilova in the Hopman Cup, which included a first win against world No.1 Andy Murray, said he was ready to let his racquet do the talking after making headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2015.

"I'm definitely playing a lot better," he said. "Coming back this year, I feel like I've grown - physically made a lot of improvements.

"I feel as if I'm ready for whatever comes."

Kyrgios is in a tough section of the draw, and to reach the quarter-finals would potentially have to beat sixth seed Thomas Berdych in the third round and 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic in the fourth round.

 

Novak Djokovic practices with coach Boris Becker yesterday. Photo: AAP Image
Novak Djokovic practices with coach Boris Becker yesterday. Photo: AAP Image

Djokovic, meanwhile, will take on South Korean rising star Hyeon Chung on Rod Laver Arena.

Chung was voted the most improved player on the ATP Tour in 2015 after lifting his ranking from 173 to 51.

He won four second-tier Challenger titles, but is still looking for his first victory against a top-10 opponent. The highest-ranked player he has defeated is world No.18 Benoit Paire.

Djokovic is an almost unbackable favourite to win his sixth Australian Open title, an effort that would see him match Roy Emerson's record.

The Serb went 82-6 in 2015, becoming just the third man in the open era to reach all four grand slam finals in a calendar year after Rod Laver (1969) and Roger Federer (2006-07, 2009).

Djokovic opened the year with a victory against Rafael Nadal in the Qatar Open final, the Spaniard describing the world No.1's play as perfection.

While Djokovic is clearly the man to beat in the men's draw, women's top seed Serena Williams comes in to the tournament under an injury cloud.

After being surprisingly beaten in the semi-finals of last year's US Open, the American pulled out of tournaments in China and Singapore.

Her chronic knee complaint then saw her call it quits mid-way through her Hopman Cup match against Australia's Jarmila Wolfe earlier this month in Perth.

The 34-year-old later described the injury as something she could deal with, but time will tell whether she can add a seventh Australian Open title to her resume, an achievement that would see her join Steffi Graf on 22 grand slam victories.

- APN SPORTS BUREAU



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