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World’s best back for Australian Open 2018

10 October 2017 by Tennis Australia

Switzerland's Roger Federer (R) stands next to Rod Laver during the awards ceremony after his victory against Spain's Rafael Nadal (L) in the men's singles final at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 29, 2017.

The biggest names in world tennis are set to return to the Australian Open this summer.

Former world number ones Novak Djokovic (SRB) and Andy Murray (GBR) along with Kei Nishikori (JPN) and Stan Wawrinka (SUI) all sidelined during 2017 due to injury, have confirmed they’ll return healthy for Australian Open 2018.

Defending champion Roger Federer and world No.1 Rafael Nadal, who swept the Grand Slam pool in 2017, show no sign of slowing down as they prepare for more success during the Australian summer.

“I didn’t see it coming this way. I thought maybe if the stars aligned I’d make the quarters or a semi, and maybe beat one or two top ten players,” Roger Federer said recently reflecting on his historic win.

“I was hoping that maybe down the stretch of the season, Wimbledon or US Open in 2017, that was when I was going to hit my stride, you know, that was when I was going to be 100 percent, not before that, you know I needed maybe time, so winning the Australian Open was such a surprise for me.

“I still pinch myself. When I’m home sometimes, having a glass of champagne with my friends and family we say ‘this is for the Australian Open, cheers’. We’re still joking about it, it was a crazy moment in my life … we couldn’t believe it, all the five-setters. The rivalry with Rafa, being down 3-1 in the fifth, it was disbelief.

“I hope it’s going to be another dream, magical run where I can just enjoy the atmosphere and play for the people,” Federer continued.

Serena Williams made it clear how much it meant to her winning her 23rd Grand Slam crown here at the Australian Open.

“I’ve been number one for so long, so many times, and I’ve done things that are amazing. That ranking means a lot but also I think sometimes being able to compete means just as much,” Williams said.

“Tennis is a sport I absolutely love, it’s my life, the rest of my life, whether I’m playing or not playing, it’s definitely something that’s made an incredible impact in my life.

“I was chasing it [23rd Grand Slam title] for a really long time, like a really long time. It was on my radar and I knew I had the opportunity to get there, and I’m here and it is a great feeling, there’s no better place to do it than in Melbourne. This is the crowning moment of the year for sure.”

“I’m very happy to confirm that all the top players will be back in Melbourne in January,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said at the tournament launch today.

“It’s been an incredibly exciting year for tennis. We have seen Roger and Rafa, and Serena and Venus really raise the bar in terms of performance and it all started here in Melbourne.

“Who would have thought when Serena and Venus met the ballkids the week before the AO that they’d end up facing each other in the women’s final? Or that after Serena won, for the sixth time, we’d find out that she was eight weeks pregnant?

“Serena is a truly remarkable athlete and she’s hasn’t ruled out a return to the Australian Open. Her baby’s initials are AO and she’s suggested she should also have her name on the 2017 trophy, so the AO is well and truly top of mind for her at the moment. If anyone can do it, she can and I’m certainly not counting her out of a return come January.

“Venus has also had an incredible year, turning back the clock to make the second week of every major this year.

“And then of course we have Roger and Rafa. Anyone who was fortunate enough to see them play any of their matches this year was in the box seat to witness two of the most amazing comebacks.

“The men’s final between Roger and Rafa is one of the matches of the year and both players have gone from strength to strength since.

“Roger has won five titles from the nine tournaments he’s played and he can’t wait to come back, step out on Rod Laver Arena again and begin his title defence. He loves playing here, loves the Aussie fans, and has said his Australian Open win this year was one of the most meaningful of his career.

“It would be almost unbelievable to think that Rafa has taken the No.1 spot in tennis unless you know how driven and committed he is to not just the sport, but continuously improving himself and his game.

“He’s the ultimate competitor and brings so much intensity to every match. He’s made history with his tenth title at Roland Garros and is on track to finish the year in the top spot.

“With the return of Novak, Andy and Stan, who will all have lower rankings, there’s also a real chance we’ll finally see a breakthrough from one of the rising stars like Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem or David Goffin,” Tiley continued.

The Aussies will be led by world No.21 Nick Kyrgios, No.22 Daria Gavrilova and Ashleigh Barty. Barty has rocketed up the rankings since her return to tennis, rising from 271 at the beginning of 2017 to her current career high of 23, with the potential to overtake Gavrilova as the top -ranked Australian woman.

“We are incredibly fortunate to be really the only sporting event in the country where we get the chance to see the very best in the world compete right here in Melbourne,” Tiley said.