Novak Djokovic chases Rafael Nadal’s record, while Iga Światek looks to cement her status as the sport’s best

(CNN)The first grand slam of the new tennis season gets underway on January 16 in Melbourne and the 2023 Australian Open is set to provide no end of intriguing storylines.

Chief among them is the return of Novak Djokovic one year from his deportation debacle, as the Serb looks to match Rafael Nadal’s record of 22 grand slam titles.

Djokovic’s preparation for the Australian Open got off to the best possible start, winning the Adelaide International warmup event to secure his 92nd ATP singles title and go level with Nadal in joint fourth place in the all-time rankings.

Only Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer and Ivan Lendl have won more Tour singles titles.

However, Djokovic suffered an injury scare on Wednesday and was forced to withdraw from a practice match against Daniil Medvedev.

The world No. 5 told told 9News Melbourne it was the same hamstring issue he had during last week’s Adelaide International and that his withdrawal against Medvedev was just a precaution.

Novak Djokovic won the Adelaide International to secure his 92nd ATP title.
Novak Djokovic won the Adelaide International to secure his 92nd ATP title.
“I just felt it pulling and I didn’t want to risk anything worse,” he said. “I played a set and apologized to him [Medvedev] and he was understanding. I just want to avoid any bigger scares before the Australian Open.

“There was a lot of care going into today’s match about the hamstring. It was all right. A few times in the match, I felt the muscle was tightening up, but nothing that would worry me for my performance.”

Djokovic is the bookmakers’ clear favorite to win the title Down Under and gets his bid for a record-extending 10th Australian Open crown underway against Spain’s Roberto Carballés Baena on Monday.

“We all wonder how is that hamstring injury of his, where he said he didn’t want to play that match against Medvedev and he also cut a few practices short,” Barbara Schett, a former professional and current broadcaster, told CNN’s Amanda Davies. “But he had a great start to the season, he won a tournament in Adelaide and he is hungry.

“He wasn’t allowed to play in Australia, wasn’t allowed to enter Australia and it was very hard for him to digest. I think now he’s over it and he just wants to start from scratch. He had so much success in the past at the Australian Open, he won the title there nine times so he feels really comfortable there and the interesting thing is how he’s going to be received.

“In Adelaide the people have loved him, hopefully it’s going to be the same thing in Melbourne as well. When he walked out onto the court the other day for his first practice he was kissing the court so that shows you how much it means to him.

“I think he’s hungry, he had a good rest last year because he only played 11 tournaments and he played some unbelievable tennis that extended his career … so he is my heavy favorite going into this year’s Australian Open, that’s for sure.”

World No. 1 missing
Unfortunately for tennis fans, particularly those from Spain, men’s world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz will be missing from the tournament in Melbourne due to a right leg injury suffered in training last week.

The Australian Open would have been Alcaraz’s first grand slam since winning the 2022 US Open in September, but his place at the top of the rankings is now under threat with Djokovic, Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas all able to take the No. 1 spot from him.

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