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Tennis: Preparation continues ahead of Australian Open

With the 2023 Australian Open just a fortnight away, the new ATP and WTA seasons start to ramp up this week with hard-court tournaments taking place in Australia, India and New Zealand.

The new term began on Thursday with the launch of the United Cup team event, with Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek among those in action across Australia, and now a number of other stars are gearing up to enter the fray from Sunday onwards.

Djokovic the star attraction in Adelaide 

What: ATP Adelaide International 1 
Where: Adelaide, Australia 
When: Sunday 1st January - Sunday 8th January 2023
How to watch: Amazon Prime, bet365 Sports Live Streaming

The next two weeks sees back-to-back tournaments take place in Adelaide on both the ATP Tour and WTA Tour, and the first ATP event is headlined by Novak Djokovic, who will be playing with a point to prove in Australia. 

Djokovic returns to competitive action at Adelaide International 1, where he is the top seed at the Memorial Drive Tennis Centre. 

The 35-year-old, a nine-time champion at the Australian Open, claimed the ATP Finals title when last seen and he'll be a red-hot favourite to start the year with a first-round victory against unheralded Frenchman Constant Lestienne. 

From there, he is on course to meet one of Jordan Thompson or Quentin Halys before things start to get tougher - Denis Shapovalov could lie in wait in the quarters before a potential semi-final clash with Daniil Medvedev. 

The bottom half of the ATP Adelaide draw is packed with talent, with Felix Auger-Aliassime the one to beat after a strong finish to 2022 which saw him claim three consecutive titles in October. 

The Canadian could meet fellow rising star Holger Rune to decide who progresses from the fourth quarter while a stacked third quarter features Jannik Sinner, Kyle Edmund, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Maxime Cressy, Andy Murray, Sebastian Korda, Roberto Bautista Agut and Andrey Rublev.

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Jabeur heads a high-class WTA draw 

What: WTA Adelaide International 1 
Where: Adelaide, Australia 
When: Sunday 1st January - Sunday 8th January 2023
How to watch: Amazon Prime, bet365 Sports Live Streaming

Ons Jabeur reached the final of both Wimbledon and the US Open in 2022 and the Tunisian tunes up for another Grand Slam title tilt as the top seed in WTA Adelaide International 1. 

WTA number two Jabeur has never won a hard-court title, something which she will no doubt want to change before heading to Melbourne Park to compete for Grand Slam glory. 

The 28-year-old has received a bye into the second round but she could face her Wimbledon final foe Elina Rybakina in the quarter-finals should the Kazakh defeat Danielle Collins in a blockbuster first-round meeting. 

The third quarter in Adelaide is just as competitive as its ATP equivalent, with Grand Slam champions Jelena Ostapenko, Garbine Muguruza and Bianca Andreescu joined by Karolina Pliskova, Amanda Anisimova and fourth seed Veronika Kudermetova. 

World number five Aryna Sabalenka, a 10-time WTA champion but winless since the 2021 Madrid Open, receives a bye into the second round, where she could face a tough test against Liudmila Samsonova.

Great Britain in the driving seat as United Cup rumbles on 

What: United Cup 
Where: Brisbane, Perth & Sydney, Australia 
When: Thursday 29th December, 2022 - Sunday 8th January, 2023 
How to watch: bet365 Sports Live Streaming

Great Britain were unlikely to progress from their United Cup group but Tim Henman's team are on the brink of a place in the knockout stage as they head into their final day of Group D action. 

The British team beat Australia 3-2 across matches on Thursday and Friday and Cameron Norrie's magnificent victory over Nadal, followed by Katie Swan's win over former top-50 player Nuria Parrizas Diaz, has put them 2-0 up against Spain. 

Britain need to win just one of their remaining three matches and Harriet Dart is 12/5 to seal Britain's place in the knockout stage when she takes on Paula Badosa on Sunday morning. 

If Dart fails to hit the target, Dan Evans is a 13/8 shot to beat Pablo Carreno Busta. Those two are then expected to face Badosa and Nadal in doubles if the tie is still on the line. 

Croatia ace Cilic the top seed in India

What: ATP Tata Open Maharashtra 
Where: Pune, India 
When: Monday 2nd January - Sunday 8th January 2023
How to watch: Amazon Prime, bet365 Sports Live Streaming 

While most top-tier tennis this week takes place in Australia and New Zealand, there is also ATP action from India, where Marin Cilic is the top seed at the Tata Open Maharashtra. 

Cilic won this tournament twice in a row when it was staged in Chennai and the event moved to Pune in 2018, where Gilles Simon, Kevin Anderson, Jiri Vesely and Joao Sousa have all been successful. 

ATP number 17 Cilic failed to win a title in 2020 but he enjoyed a consistent season and will be aiming to get off the mark early in India, where Botic van de Zandschulp and Emil Ruusuvuori are among his chief rivals. 

Gauff bidding to follow Serena's lead in Auckland 

What: WTA ASB Classic 
Where: Auckland, New Zealand 
When: Monday 2nd January - Sunday 8th January 2023
How to watch: Amazon Prime, bet365 Sports Live Streaming 

Serena Williams claimed her last WTA title in Auckland in 2020, when the ASB Classic last took place, and another American bids to follow her lead with Coco Gauff the top seed in New Zealand. 

The Auckland draw takes place on Sunday, where Gauff will be joined by compatriot Sloane Stephens and 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez.

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