Contenders v pretenders to win the tournament — The Australian Open

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Having remained sidelined for nearly six months with an elbow injury, the 30-year-old made a successful comeback by thrashing world number five Dominic Thiem 6-1, 6-4 in the exhibition event at the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne today. His 2017 comeback could be inspiration for the likes of Djokovic, who has won the Australian title a record six times but has been sidelined since Wimbledon with a right elbow injury.

He beat Nadal in a five-set final for his 18th Grand Slam title — and his first since 2012 — and later won Wimbledon. However, the current season will be made more hard by the return of Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka, who missed the 2017 campaign through injury.

The top seeds of the men's and women's singles draws at the Australian Open were handed mixed fortunes as Rafael Nadal managed to avoid Novak Djokovic in his half while Simona Halep was given a brutal path.

Williams's sister Venus, who lost to her sibling in the final last year, is seeded fourth and the 37-year-old was handed a tricky first encounter against Swiss former world number seven Belinda Bencic, who is 17 years her junior.

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Federer, seeded second, and will bid for his 20th Grand Slam title in the bottom half of the draw.

While Nadal and six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic battle to prove their fitness following the withdrawal of five-time runner-up Andy Murray, defending champion Federer is pain-free and enjoying a relaxed build-up.

Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro, competing at the Australian Open for the first rime since 2014 due to a series of career-threatening wrist injuries, will compete in one of the most intriguing match-ups in the first round when he faces American prospect Frances Tiafoe. Dimitrov did engage Nadal in a brawl of a 2017 Australian semifinal, falling only 6-4 in the fifth set, and did win the ATP Finals in London in November. "I think that affects him mentally as well as physically", she said.

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.

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Cilic, last years losing Wimbledon finalist against Roger Federer, heads into his final practice days for the Australian Open content with his form.

Their replacement - a "lucky loser" from the qualifying tournament - will get the other 50 percent of the first-round prize money.

The list of absentees including the likes of current Australian Open champion Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and three-time Grand Slam victor Andy Murray caused tennis fans all over to let out a huge sigh of disappointment.

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Zverev, 20, won five tournaments previous year, including Masters 1000 events in Rome and Montreal, to announce himself as a force to be reckoned with.

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