Australian Open 2018: Federer favourite?

Defending champion Roger Federer is likely to meet world number seven David Goffin in the men's singles quarter-final of Australian Open 2018, starting January 15 in Melbourne.

Nadal is all set to play against Serbia's Novak Djokovic, world No. 14, at the Tie Break Tens in Melbourne, where matches are going to consist of tie-breaks only, with no games and no sets.

"I'm grateful and flattered that people see me as one of the favourites, but I have to take a step back", said the six-time Australian Open champion, the most successful men's player at Melbourne Park alongside Roy Emerson.

Elsewhere, all eyes will be on Maria Sharapova as she returns for only her second grand slam tournament since serving a drugs ban.

"For me, the first thing is to play a match, to play a tennis match again".

Zverev is considered the heir apparent to the ATP's aging superstars but his hopes of advancing deep into this slam could come under an early threat from two unsafe floaters in the most hotly contested quarter of the draw. Potential pitfalls include Gael Monfils in the second round, Alexander Zverev in the fourth, Stan Wawrinka or Dominic Thiem in the quarters and finally Federer in the last four.

Venus will open against Belinda Bencic, a tough go for her first matchup.

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The first Grand Slam of the year is just around the corner - but who can threaten the usual suspects in the Australian Open men's singles? While the 2018 tournament could feature a host of the top female players such as Venus Williams, Sharapova and Azarenka, it is hard to make a case for any of them to win it as they all have their own issues that would make glory unlikely. He stayed injury free until the final stages of his brilliant 2017 campaign, winning a 10th French Open title and then claiming the US Open, before familiar knee problems returned putting an end to his season at the ATP Finals in London.

Their replacement - a "lucky loser" from the qualifying tournament - will get the other 50 percent of the first-round prize money. Add slower courts and the corresponding shift to longer, more physical rallies and the strain on the male players' bodies starts to become evident in the rash of high-profile injuries now plaguing the tour.

Australian bad boy Bernard Tomic was fined a third of his £35,000 ($47,500) prize money for unsportsmanlike conduct at Wimbledon, after saying he felt "bored" and "couldn't care less" following a straight-sets defeat on day one.

A similar controversy blew up at the Auckland Classic this week when four players pulled out before their opening matches, citing injury or illness.

It is no wonder that Roger Federer at 36 can produces such electrifying and immaculate tennis, comfortably taking out power tennis players and baseline warriors with a mix of court craft, deceit and anticipation.

Who is playing where ahead of the Australian Open? "Hopefully if I can reach the last few rounds, I will feel more comfortable". New rules reverting Grand Slams to 16 seeds from the current 32 are due to come into force in 2019.

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