Rafael Nadal 'feeling fine' and ready for Australian Open

Rafael Nadal 'feeling fine' and ready for Australian Open

Rarely have so many top players begun the season either carrying injuries or taking the early steps back from lengthy absences.

As much as he might now lack that sharpness and the ability to move supremely around the court, something which Djokovic has mastered throughout his career, his opponents will always recall previous encounters.

Sharapova said after a long time out she had to be patient coming back to the tour, but was still confident of returning to the top ranking and winning major tournaments.

Murray, 30, has reached the final of the Australian Open five times, but was beaten on four occasions by Novac Jokovic and once by Roger Federer.

The 12-time Grand Slam champion said potential five-set matches in Melbourne hold some fitness concerns for him.

Lying in wait on his half of the draw are potential match ups against fellow Swiss, and 2014 victor Stan Wawrinka, Dominic Thiem, Gael Monfils, Juan Martin del Potro, and six-time champ Novak Djokovic.

Federer will saddle up for a 19th time in the main draw at Melbourne Park, looking to frustrate "Generation Next" once again and defend the title he won previous year during a stunning comeback from knee surgery. That duo went on to dominate the year.

Ahead of next week's Australian Open, Roger Federer has proclaimed last year's final set against arch-rival and number one seed Rafael Nadal as the best tennis he has ever played.

But former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash on Monday said he expected the Serbian to be the most unsafe of the injured stars. "If he comes back with the joy of fighting and the joy of playing and his confidence is high, he is as unsafe as all the other guys". So far, it's been a case of "last man or woman standing", with plenty of familiar faces spending the tournament on the physio's table.

For a man who has enjoyed such domination in the sport, holding the top spot in the rankings for over four years, it will feel a tad odd entering this particular Grand Slam some way down the list of favourites. With Novak the elbow, Rafa the knee, Federer the knee and now Murray the hip, it's just wear and tear eventually.

"The thing with great athletes is we take for granted what they do". That means we focus more on the old guys.

Australia's charge will be led by Nick Kyrgios and Ashleigh Barty in the men's and women's tournaments respectively.

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