MELBOURNE, Australia
Five players to watch in the men’s draw at the Australian Open, the first Grand
Slam tournament of the season, which starts on Monday:

– Novak Djokovic –

Much like the changeable weather, the superb Serb’s success
in Melbourne is almost a given. Djokovic is going for a record-extending eighth
title after making his Grand Slam breakthrough on the azure courts way back in
2008.

Djokovic, who has now amassed 16 major tournament wins,
thrashed his old sparring partner Rafael Nadal in last year’s final to kick off
another phenomenal year where he won his fifth Wimbledon title and collected
five tournament victories to take his career tally to 77. 

Now 32 and ranked world number two, nobody is betting
against ‘Nole’ putting together a similar season this year.

– Roger Federer –

Crowd favourite Federer is rapidly becoming the oldest
swinger in town but even at 38, he still has the tools to add to his all-time
record of 20 Grand Slam titles.

At this stage in his career, retirement talk is never far
away but there are few signs Federer will call a halt this year, when he will
look to fill the only gap in his trophy cabinet — Olympic singles gold. 

Like Djokovic, Federer also has a liking for Melbourne Park,
winning two of the last three men’s singles titles, and he will hope to bounce
back from last year’s chastening fourth-round defeat to Greek Stefanos
Tsitsipas, who is 17 years his junior.

– Rafael Nadal – 

Top-ranked Nadal, so often Federer’s nemesis, can deliver
the ultimate slap to the great Swiss by equalling his 20 Major titles in
Melbourne. 

The Mallorcan, now the first man to be world number one in
three different decades, won the 2009 final against a tearful Federer but that
remains his best showing in Australia, with four runner-up finishes to his
name.

Nadal, 33, has been the gallant loser in two of the last
three deciders but it would be just like the indomitable Spaniard to hit back
with a long-awaited second Australian Open title on February 2.

– Stefanos Tsitsipas –

Greece has never had a player like Tsitsipas and
expectations are high for the 21-year-old, who stunned Federer last year en
route to the Melbourne semi-finals. 

The 1.93m (6ft 4in) Tsitsipas had quite the season in 2019,
lifting his second, third and fourth ATP trophies and beating Dominic Thiem to
win the ATP Finals.

Apart from his Melbourne run, however, Tsitsipas wasn’t such
a threat at Grand Slams, as he was a first-round loser at Wimbledon and the US
Open and fell to Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round at Roland Garros. 

Now Tsitsipas needs to show he can take the next step this
season — and break the Big Three’s stranglehold on the Major titles. 

– Nick Kyrgios – 

When Kyrgios plays, controversy is never far away and there
is no doubt that the combustible Canberran will provide some fireworks at
Melbourne Park. 

Kyrgios is possessed of a huge forehand and serve — when
he’s not serving underarm — but by general consensus, he needs to curb his
sparring with umpires, fans and fellow players if he is to threaten at his home
Grand Slam. 

Kyrgios, 24, is also playing under a suspended 16-week ban,
meaning the consequences will be severe if he lets his temper get the better of
him.

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