Tennis

All eyes on Djokovic and Serena in Australian Open

Warming up: Naomi Osaka, the reigning champion, will be keen to defend her title.

Warming up: Naomi Osaka, the reigning champion, will be keen to defend her title.  

Federer, defying age, eyes his 21st Slam; Osaka looks to keep crown

Old-stagers Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams will aim to keep the younger generation of players waiting in the wings as Grand Slam tennis enters a new decade at the Australian Open on Monday.

After recent bushfire smog largely cleared in Melbourne, the view is all too familiar with Djokovic and Serena, who is seeking a record-equalling 24th Major title, installed as the bookies’ favourites.

Nadal is top seed

Top seed Rafael Nadal, 33, is celebrating becoming World No. 1 in a third decade while Roger Federer, 38, is trying to defy the ageing process and stay ahead of his rivals with a 21st Grand Slam win.

The start of 2020 is not dissimilar to 2010, when Federer and Nadal shared the four Grand Slam titles and Serena won in Melbourne and Wimbledon.

Serena eyes Court’s record

Ten years later, the men’s Big Three — who have won all but two Australian Open titles since 2004 — occupy the top three rankings, and Serena is one step away from Margaret Court’s record for Grand Slam victories.

Several challengers have come and gone but there is increasing hope for the men’s up-and-comers, while nine women have won Grand Slam titles since Williams, 38, claimed her 23rd in Melbourne in 2017.

While Djokovic and Nadal split last year’s Grand Slams, Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev and Fabio Fognini won their first Masters trophies and Stefanos Tsitsipas, 21, became the youngest ATP Finals champion in 18 years.

“They’re very close. I don’t think that’s miles, miles away maybe as it was some years ago,” Djokovic of the NextGen winning a Major title.

The clash between old and new will be epitomised in the first round on Monday, when Venus Williams, who turns 40 this year, plays 15-year-old rising star Coco Gauff — who wasn’t even born when her fellow American lifted her first Grand Slam trophies in 2000.

Japan’s Naomi Osaka, 22, is defending a title for the second Grand Slam in a row after her repeat bid at last year’s US Open fell flat in the fourth round.

World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty carries Australian hopes of seeing the first home-grown women’s winner since 1978.

All eyes on Djokovic and Serena in Australian Open
 

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 1:02:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/all-eyes-on-djokovic-and-serena-in-australian-open/article30601411.ece

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