The first Grand Slam of the season begins on Monday and it looks like there could be a familiar face in the men's draw that will be walking away with Australian Open glory again.
|What:||Australian Open Men's singles|
|Where:||Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia|
|When:||Monday 16th January to Sunday 29th January 2023|
|How to watch:||Eurosport 1 & 2 and bet365's Sports Live Streaming|
|Odds:||Novak Djokovic 1/1, Stefanos Tsitsipas 5/1, Holger Rune 6/1|
Rafael Nadal made the most of Novak Djokovic's absence from last year's Australian Open to land his second Melbourne Park triumph, but with the super Serb back for the first Grand Slam tournament of the season the favourite is difficult to oppose.
Djokovic, seeded fourth Down Under this year, is to claim a 10th Australian Open singles crown. But while there are sometimes reasons for opposing the former world number one in the US Open or the French Open, the Balkan maestro has pretty much farmed the Melbourne event and it's likely to take a huge performance to deny him this year.
He has already made a major statement of intent by winning the first of the two Adelaide International events, defeating Sebastian Korda in the final, and that should mean Djokovic is just about spot-on for his competitive return to Melbourne Park.
The Belgrade native has 21 Grand Slam singles title to his name, one fewer than Nadal. But Djokovic should fancy his chances of drawing level with the Spaniard in the coming fortnight, especially with the French Open, Nadal's favourite Slam, being the next major due to take place.
Djokovic looks to have a much better draw than Nadal in Melbourne too. His first two rounds should be cakewalks, then it could be Grigor Dimitrov or Aslan Karatsev in the third round, neither of whom should trouble the Serb unduly.
In round four Pablo Carreno Busta or Alex De Minaur could lie in wait, but again neither of that duo looks up to stopping a player who has taken hard-court tennis to a new level in recent seasons.
Djokovic's first real test of note could come against homeland talent Nick Kyrgios in the quarter-finals. Of course, Djokovic denied the Canberra native in last year's Wimbledon final. And while Kyrgios could be a genuine threat to the title favourite, it's difficult to see the Aussie having the discipline required to keep tabs on the nine-time champion over the best-of-five sets, regardless of the amount of crowd support he could receive.
Taylor Fritz could lie in wait in the semi-finals but it's probably more likely to be second seed Casper Ruud, who showed with two Slam final appearances last year what a fine player the Norwegian can be.
Ruud looks set to get better with age and experience too and is one of a few players capable of making the most of opportunities should Djokovic be found wanting at the age of 35.
Trying to pin down who Djokovic might meet in the final is tough, but while Nadal and Medvedev merit obvious respect it could be one of the younger brigade who lines up against the Serb in the title match.
Choosing a winner of what could be a cracking quarter-final between Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jannik Sinner is difficult, especially now Darren Cahill is coaching Sinner, while either of that pair, should they meet in the last eight, could find Korda a handful were the American - and not Nadal or Medvedev - to reach the last four.
Nadal has it tough from the outset with matches against promising Briton Jack Draper then possibly Brandon Nakashima, Mikael Ymer and Frances Tiafoe and that's even before a possible quarter-final clash with Medvedev, Korda or Denis Shapovalov.
Stefanos Tsitsipas is the highest-ranked performer in the second quarter, but it may still come down to a titanic tussle between high-class younger players Auger-Aliassime and Sinner.
Italian Sinner is getting better all the time and Cahill is sure to take his charge to new levels, but Auger-Aliassime remains a blinding talent who broke many records in recent years and his best times are still to come in the near future too.
Sinner is 13/5 to win the 2nd Quarter behind 21/10 Tsitsipas with Auger-Aliassime priced at . With Tsitsipas and Sinner scheduled to clash in the last 16, it could be worth supporting Canadian number one Auger-Aliassime.
Djokovic is just 2/7 to win the 3rd Quarter ahead of 5/1 Kyrgios and 7/1 Holger Rune, so let's skip quickly to the 4th Quarter, in which Fritz is available at . The Californian is a superb player who's going to carry on getting better for many years yet, but he's also one of the slowest burners near the top of men's tennis.
With than in mind, the about Ruud - Alexander Zverev is also that price on his competitive return from a bad leg injury - is difficult to ignore. Ruud made the finals of the French and US Opens last year and he's perfectly capable of embarking on a long run Down Under too.