Melbourne | Norrie leads British AO challenge

The organisers of the Australian Open, scheduled to start in Melbourne on the 16th January, have revealed their entry list for the first major of 2023 which includes five Brits, Cameron Norrie, Dan Evans, Kyle Edmund, Andy Murray and Jack Draper who will be making his debut down-under.

Heading the list are Rafa Nadal who will be defending his title, Novak Djokovic chasing his 10th AO title and Carlos Alcaraz, the current world No.1, hoping to pocket his first.

Nadal beat Daniil Medvedev for his third title down-under and the 21st of his career which he later extended to a record 22 when he picked his 14th at Roland Garros. It has left his rival Djokovic (who won Wimbledon for his 21st) eager to get back on terms following his undignified deportation from Australia last year because of his stubborn stance to remain unvaccinated against Covid.

Novak Djokovic practicing in Melbourne last year before being deported.

Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

They will certainly be watched closely over the fortnight as many believe the title will end up with one of them, though there is the potential of an upset by the 19-year-old Alcaraz, the current US Open champion who took the tennis world by storm to end the year at the top of the world rankings – the youngest player to do so.

But there can be no doubt that all three will face some stiff opposition for the Norman Brooks Challenge Cup from the likes of Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas looking for their first grand slam title.

Both are in the world’s top five with Ruud reaching the fourth round in 2021 and Tsitsipas the semi-finals three times, the last time 11 months ago.

Nick Kyrgios will carry home hopes

Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Australians will be looking to Alex de Minaur and the controversial Nick Kyrgios to provide them with the home success they haven’t enjoyed since 1976 when Mark Edmondson became champion by beating fellow Aussie John Newcombe in the final. Lleyton Hewitt came closest in 2005 but lost to Marat Safin in the final round.

Kyrgios made the final at Wimbledon this year and with Thanasi Kokkinakis won the AO Doubles championship last January so of the home-grown talent, he is the more likely to go all the way in Melbourne.

But no one should discount Felix Auger-Aliassime, Medvedev, Andrey Rublev, Hubert Hurkacz and Taylor Fritz who all have the game to cause an upset, as does Holger Rune and Alexander Zverev who is returning to the fray having finally recovered from a bad ankle injury picked up in the semis of the French Open.

Cameron Norrie of Great Britain in action during a practice session ahead of the Diriyah Tennis Cup Riyadh 2022 on December 05, 2022 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by )

Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images for MatchMaker

Also in the last category falls Norrie, Britain’s top player who ended the year world ranked 14 and has set his eyes on becoming world number one. He will be making his fiffh appearance and will certainly hope to improve on his best result to date of a third round achieved in 2021.

Murray of course has the best results of the British contingent having made the final four times in his 14 previous visits but at 35, and with his metal hip, he will be happy to just go deeper than last January’s second round.

Evans is always a threat but he has yet to progress past the fourth round in the six years he has played the event while Kyle Edmund, who has virtually not played for over a year, appears in the draw courtesy of a ‘Protected Ranking’ but it would be surprising if he could emulate his semi-final appearance of 2018 with so little match play behind him on what will be his seventh appearance having missed the last two editions.

Whoever wins, it will set the scene for a fascinating year.



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