Novak Djokovic begins his quest to become the first player in the Open Era to win three straight Australian Opens Monday in Melbourne. The top-ranked Serb challenges French veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu in a first round day match.
Djokovic, who only played the Hopman Cup exo, is the heavy favorite to win a sixth Grand Slam title following his impressive run at the end of 2012 and his history in Australia.
“From my personal experience, I like playing here because it’s after probably five, six, seven weeks of break with no official tournament,” Djokovic said Saturday. “So you get time to recover, regroup, recharge your batteries mentally, physically, try to get ready for the new season with four, five weeks of good practice. You come here fresh. You’re motivated and inspired to play some good tennis.”
Mathieu has never beaten a No. 1 ranked player in his career.
Former finalist and Aussie Hall of Famer Lleyton Hewitt will play in the evening’s marquee match against Djokovic’s countryman Janko Tipsarevic. Hewitt has won three of four meetings with Janko, but this time Tipsarevic comes in as a Top 10 player having just won Chennai.
“I haven’t played him for a few years now,” said Hewitt who’ll be playing his 17th Australian Open. “But he’s improved a bit in the last couple years obviously to get in the top 10. It’s going to be a tough match obviously over five sets. I feel like all I can control is my preparation and doing all the right things. I’ve done absolutely everything in my power. I look forward to the challenge tomorrow.”
The 31-year-old just won the Kooyong Exo beating Juan Martin Del Potro in the final.
Elsewhere, Tomas Berdych tackles American Michael Russell, Fernando Verdasco faces upstart David Goffin and David Ferrer opens against Olivier Rochus.
2008 champion Maria Sharapova and Aussie hope Sam Stosur headline the women’s schedule, but both are off their game. Stosur hasn’t won a match this year and lost to her opponent last fall, while Sharapova comes in with a questionable collarbone.
Former Grand Slam winners and Australian finalists Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic are also in action along with Dominika Cibulkova and Agniezska Radwanska who each play Australian wildcards.
Radwanska has started the season in blistering fashion, winning all nine matches without losing a set.
On Tuesday, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Bernard Tomic, Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams will be on court in the conclusion of the first round.
Rod Laver Arena 11:00 AM Start Time
Olga Puchkova (RUS) v. Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Kai-Chen Chang (TPE) v. Samantha Stosur (AUS)
Novak Djokovic (SRB) v. Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA)
Rod Laver Arena 7:00 PM Start Time
Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) v. Janko Tipsarevic (SRB)
Ana Ivanovic (SRB) v. Melinda Czink (HUN)
Hisense Arena 11:00 AM Start Time
Venus Williams (USA) v. Galina Voskoboeva (KAZ)
David Goffin (BEL) v. Fernando Verdasco (ESP)
Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) v. Ashleigh Barty (AUS)
Not Before:5:00 PM
David Ferrer (ESP) v. Olivier Rochus (BEL)
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Stosur, Cibulkova Set Up Thrilling(?) French Open Semis
Stosur Wins at WTA Charleston; Schiavone in Barcelona
No Li Way as Clijsters Wins First Australian Open Title