Australian Open qualifying highlights: Ward battles back to beat Banes

Australian Open qualifying highlights: Ward battles back to beat Banes

Bookmakers in Australia have installed Williams as a short-priced favourite for the title with her US Open conqueror Osaka - the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam - next in the betting.

Australian Open organisers said the match on the Margaret Court Arena show court would be open to the public.

Murray, 31, looked way below his best in a second-round straight-sets Brisbane defeat to Daniil Medvedev.

The 20-times Grand Slam winner's victories over Greece's world number 15 Stefanos Tsitsipas and world number four Alexander Zverev prompted the German to playfully quip that he was exhausted of Federer winning everything. "Just why?", Zverev asked jokingly of Federer at the Hopman Cup trophy presentation.

Djokovic won his third US Open in September to put him on 14 Grand Slams - three behind Nadal and six behind Federer.

Two of the older generation who have shown they do have that ability - Britain's Andy Murray and Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka - could be risky floaters in the draw.

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Wawrinka, the 2014 champion, is also coming back from knee surgery and a back injury in the second half of 2018, but typically flies under the radar through Grand Slams.

"In general, it's about her offensive game", Rittner told Deutsche Welle of the three-time Grand Slam champion who lost an agonising, breathless semi-final 9-7 in the final set to Halep in Melbourne a year ago.

On the women's side, all eyes will be on Serena Williams as she aims for Grand Slam number 24. He is hunting a third successive Australian Open after last year becoming the oldest world number one in the 45-year history of the ATP rankings. The shock diagnosis came after Wozniacki had returned to number one and taken her WTA tour title tally to 30 with victories not only in Melbourne, but also Eastbourne and Beijing. Williams missed the chance to equal the record in both the Wimbledon and US Open finals last season and says she is now avoiding focusing on the numbers.

Halep cloud: World number one Simona Halep of Romania comes into the tournament under a fitness cloud after a nagging back injury curtailed her 2018 season.

Top-seeded Halep is without a coach after long-time Australian mentor Darren Cahill stepped down for family reasons, and described 2018 as "very emotional" but insisted it had made her mentally stronger.

Schuttler will add more "daring" to the 2016 Australian Open champion's game, said the German Tennis Association's Barbara Rittner, who helped develop Kerber as a teenager. She has looked sharp at the Hopman Cup and maintained her 100 percent singles record even though Germany lost to Federer's Switzerland in the final. Regarding the controversial final against Osaka at Flushing Meadows - when she raged against umpire Carlos Ramos who imposed three code violations, the final one resulting in the loss of a game - Williams said she had put it put behind her and meant to "move on to bigger and better things". She warmed up for Melbourne by making the semi-finals of the Brisbane International last week, where she blamed a poor attitude for losing to Lesia Tsurenko.

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