Novak Djokovic celebrates his sixth victory in the Australian Open after defeating Andy Murray in the 2016 final
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are both diving for a record seventh Australian Open-crown on Monday, but Andy Murray will make his last appearance in Melbourne when the "Big Four" era comes to an end.
Number one Djokovic and third seed Federer faces a strict challenge of the happy youth troops Alexander Zverev, the four-seater, who is still looking for a first major who accuses his place as torchbearer for the next generation.
But Murray dropped a pre-Grand Slam bomb, broken off during a tear-filled press conference when he revealed that chronic hip pain means he retires after Wimbledon-if he can continue for so long.
And remain questioned by the fitness of world number two Rafael Nadal who left his warming in Brisbane, but arrived in Melbourne, claiming he was "completely fit" and promised to launch a remodeled serve.
It all means that the era of the "Big Four" is almost over after a season in which Federer – who opened his title defense against Denis Istomin on Monday – turned back the years at Rod Laver Arena to lift an emotional 20th Grand Slam.
It brought him into line with other six-time Australian Open winners Djokovic and Roy Emerson – although the victories of the Australian were all for the Open era.
Federer and Djokovic at the Australian Open
In contrast, 31-year-old Djokovic had to contend with a miserable early Melbourne exit in 2018, followed by an elbow operation and a series of disappointing results that put him out of the top 20.
But since he won a fourth Wimbledon in July, the Serb came back inexorably to the first place by losing three more games – one of them was for Zverev during the ATP final.
Djokovic won his third US Open in September to put him on 14 Grand Slams – three behind Nadal and six behind Federer.
And Djokovic said Sunday that he was happy to be back in Melbourne, where his rise to greatness started in 2008 with his first Grand Slam victory.
"It was my first big trophy, which clearly served as a good springboard for my career," Djokovic said as he prepared for his attack on a seventh crown against American Mitchell Krueger on Tuesday.
"It opened a lot of doors for me, it made me believe that I can win the biggest tournaments in the world and challenge the best players in the world."
– Nadal & # 39; feels good & # 39; –
Federer, now 37, remains the main threat to the Serbian and he sounded a warning Sunday.
"I play tennis well, I am confident that I think it will take a good performance from my opponent to beat me," said the Swiss master, who overcame Melbourne in the Hopman Cup in Perth.
Rafael Nadal from Spain all smiles in Brisbane last week
Second place ranked Nadal (32) reached Brisbane with a stiff line, although he returned for an exhibition in Sydney and insisted that his fitness problems were over the weekend.
"I feel good, if I do not feel well, I will not be here," he said before revealing that he had renewed his service.
"There are always things to improve," said the Spaniard, who is facing the Australian wildcard James Duckworth on Monday.
Djokovic chose young guns Zverev from Germany, Borna Coric from Croatia, Karen Khachanov from Russia and Stefano Tsitsipas from Greece as major threats to the top three.
Alexander Zverev of Germany last week passed Lucas Pouille van Francein the Hopman Cup
"It is just a matter of time that we will see some of them taking part in the last races of Grand Slams," said Djokovic.
Zverev, 21, begins the Australian Open with confidence after an impressive warm-up to reach the final of Perth's mixed teams Hopman Cup, despite his terrible record at Grand Slams.
He never got beyond the third round in Melbourne and is on Tuesday in the opener against the Slovenian Aljaz Bedene.
Last year, four out, he crashed in the last 32 to Chung Hyeon in South Korea and reached only a quarter-final in 14 big games.
Home fans will look forward to the new Sydney champion and the 27th seed Alex de Minaur, who will face Pedro Sousa from Portugal on Monday, and the temperamental Nick Kyrgios.
Kyrgios has a difficult opening game against former world champion number three Milos Raonic and then a possible clash with former Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka in round two.
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