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Thursday, February 2, 2023
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Thursday, February 2, 2023
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    Djokovic, Nadal to kickstart bid for 2023 supremacy in Australia

    AFP – Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal kickstart their 2023 campaigns this week in Adelaide and Sydney respectively, with the superstar veterans and great rivals eyeing up yet more Australian Open glory.

    With the pair sharing 43 Grand Slam titles between them – Djokovic has 21 and Nadal 22 – the scene is set for an epic showdown at Melbourne Park in January.

    Nadal is the defending Australian Open champion and Djokovic is a nine-time winner.

    Djokovic returns Down Under for the first time since being sensationally detained and then deported ahead of the 2022 Australian Open because of his refusal to get vaccinated for Covid-19.

    He starts his bid for an incredible 10th Australian Open title at the Adelaide International from Sunday, following a troubled and truncated year in which he missed two majors because of his vaccine status.

    Novak Djokovic. PHOTO: AFP

    Djokovic was initially barred from entering Australia before 2025, but a new government in Canberra reversed the ruling and he is now gunning for more silverware at his most successful Grand Slam venue.

    “Over the years I’ve been really fortunate to start very strong in Australia and I love playing there,” said the world number five in Dubai last week, after ending 2022 with a record-equalling sixth ATP Tour Finals crown.

    “After obviously what happened earlier this year, hopefully I can have a decent reception there and hopefully that can help me play some good tennis.”

    He will face a top-notch field in Adelaide, including Felix Auger-Aliassime, Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, ranked six, seven and eight respectively.

    In Djokovic’s absence this year, Spanish great Nadal swept past Medvedev to win the Australian Open in an epic five-setter – then backed it up with a 14th French Open.

    Nadal will begin his preparations in Sydney at the United Cup, a new mixed-teams event, where a blockbuster showdown with Australian showman Nick Kyrgios will test his credentials.

    Eighteen countries will compete in the event across 11 days from tomorrow, with Brisbane, Perth and Sydney hosting group games in a round-robin format.

    Ties comprise two men’s and two women’s singles matches and one mixed doubles.

    The finals series will be played in Sydney.

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