Emma Raducanu was left unable to do simple tasks after three surgeries last spring, but the 21-year-old believes the enforced break from tennis could be the making of her.

Coping with the instant global fame and expectations that accompanied her remarkable US Open victory in 2021 proved very difficult for Raducanu, who had slipped outside the top 100 when she revealed she needed operations on both wrists and one ankle.

The recovery has not been straightforward, with the Kent player finally able to make her comeback last week in Auckland after eight months on the sidelines.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Emma. (@emmaraducanu)


She cut a noticeably more relaxed and happy figure, and she told the PA news agency: “I would say I would take the place that I’m in now mentally and physically and trade it for the past eight months on the tour.

“Missing that time, it obviously was really difficult in the moment, and seeing the tournaments go on, but I would have done it again if I had to.”

Raducanu spoke on Friday about feeling like she was carrying around a “backpack of rocks” as she tried to build on her history-making success.

“It was like it was glued on,” she added. “I think now it’s completely off, I feel good, I feel better and ready to take this second chance at being on the tour again.”

Now able to look back and reflect on the decisions she has made since lifting the trophy at Flushing Meadows, Raducanu’s one regret is not giving herself more time.

A swift loss in her opening match in Indian Wells at her next tournament set the tone for a year and a half of struggle.

“I probably would have taken some more time off to rest and then to train because I feel like I had a lot of things straight after the US Open and then Indian Wells was right around the corner, so I kind of rushed straight into it with minimal practice and it was a bit of a spiral from there,” she said.

Coincidentally, Raducanu’s grand slam return at the Australian Open on Tuesday will be against American Shelby Rogers, whom she beat in the fourth round in New York.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Emma. (@emmaraducanu)


Rogers is also coming off a period of inactivity after knee surgery, an abdominal injury and a December wedding.

The 31-year-old is not surprised that time away has helped Raducanu’s mindset, saying: “I think sometimes it’s difficult to keep that perspective week to week.

“Especially if you don’t have your identity rooted somewhere outside of tennis, you’re sort of living and dying with wins and losses. It can be really difficult.

“It’s really nice to hear that she’s feeling refreshed and has that perspective again. I think it’s really important for especially the younger players to keep that.”

Accompanying Raducanu in Melbourne is new coach Nick Cavaday, who she originally worked with a decade ago.

Raducanu has returned to the tour with a determination to play her aggressive game style having felt she had unintentionally moved away from that.

Much has been made of the frequent changes in her coaching set-up, and she said: “I think it’s different styles of training, different styles of coaching. I think I play my best when I’m instinctive and free, and to be able to do that I need to put the time in on the practice court.

“I felt like I was chasing my tail a bit from tournament to tournament, and I wasn’t really doing the blocks of work in between, so I think just pausing and doing those physical things and on the practice court is something I’m going to do more of this year.

“With Nick, we both are very much aligned with how we see my tennis and my potential but potential is one thing so we have to do the work. I’m looking forward to doing it with him to get there. I need to be aggressive but find a balance, not just being a bull in a china shop.”

Coaching instability and Raducanu’s commercial activities have been central to the criticism that has rained down on her post-US Open.

Raducanu’s career continues to attract significant attention from far beyond the tennis world, and she said with a smile: “I guess I should feel flattered that they’re speaking about me.

“I think it affected me more straight after when I was a bit younger. Now I think I’m getting more and more immunised to it the more it goes on.”

The first British player in action on Sunday will be Jodie Burrage, who is making her debut in the main draw and will face German Tamara Korpatsch.

Novak Djokovic is optimistic his wrist problems are behind him as he prepares to start his bid for an 11th Australian Open title.

The world number one was hampered by a right wrist issue during an uncharacteristic loss to Alex De Minaur playing for Serbia at the United Cup earlier this month.

But he has been practising this week at Melbourne Park, and said ahead of a first-round clash with Croatian teenager Dino Prizmic on Sunday: “My wrist is good.

“I had time from the last match against De Minaur in the United Cup to my first match here to recover. I’ve been training well. Practice sessions pain-free so far. It’s all looking good. Let’s see how it goes.”

Djokovic is no stranger to injuries in Melbourne, with an abdominal problem almost derailing him in 2021, while he played through last year’s tournament with a hamstring issue.

He still won the title on both occasions, and he said of the wrist: “It’s not as bad as some other injuries I had here – 2021 and last year I had worse injuries that I had to deal with.

“I can’t predict whether it’s going to come back. Once I start playing more matches, stress levels go higher. I don’t know. We have to find out.”

At 36, Djokovic remains as dominant as ever, falling only one match short of a calendar Grand Slam in 2023.

This year once again offers the chance for a Golden Slam, with a first Olympic gold medal in Paris an obvious target, while another victory in Melbourne would make him the first player ever to win 25 slam singles titles.

“It’s no secret that I verbalise my goals and I say clearly that I want to win every slam that I play in,” said the Serbian.

“It’s no different this year. I’m just hoping I can start the season in a way that I have been starting my seasons, most of my seasons, throughout my career: with a win here in Australia, in Melbourne.

“My favourite place, no doubt. The court where I’ve done great things and achieved my greatest grand slam results.

“I hope that I’m going to be able to, if not play at the level that I did last year, then be very close to that, because that was one of the best tennis levels that I’ve ever played, here in Australia last year.

“The season is so long. Grand slams, Olympics, those are the big goals. I have to see how it goes here and think about everything else when it comes around the corner.”

Djokovic continues to hold back the next generation single-handed, with only Carlos Alcaraz managing to get the better of him at the slams last year in a brilliant Wimbledon final.

The Spaniard, who missed last year’s Australian Open with a leg injury, leads Djokovic’s likely challengers along with fellow young gun Jannik Sinner.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Carlos Alcaraz Garfia (@carlitosalcarazz)


Alcaraz is already eyeing a potential final battle against Djokovic, saying: “It’s an extra motivation for me. I’m an ambitious guy. Obviously it’s a good test, playing against him in the places or in the tournament that he’s almost unbeaten.

“I’m looking for reaching the final and hopefully playing a final against him. It would be great, obviously.”

Alcaraz will have to do it, though, without his long-time coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, who is back home in Spain recuperating from knee surgery.

Alcaraz, who plays veteran Richard Gasquet in round one, is being guided here by Ferrero’s former coach Samuel Lopez, and he said: “It’s tough not being with him. Obviously he travels to almost 100 per cent of the tournaments. It’s going to be difficult to approach a big tournament without him.

“I have Sam with me that is a great coach as well. I trust him. I believe in him. Juan Carlos as well. I think I can learn a lot from him.”

Coco Gauff has set herself a target of winning at least 10 grand slam titles during her career.

The 19-year-old goes into the Australian Open as tennis’ newest major winner after lifting the trophy at the US Open last September.

Asked if she had a number in mind, Gauff said: “I would say recently I feel like I wanted to get double-digits. That’s cool.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Coco Gauff (@cocogauff)


“I don’t know if it will happen, but I think that’s a high goal. I think setting my goals high pushes me beyond what I think I can do.”

Players often struggle in the period after a major breakthrough, but Gauff began her 2024 season by defending her title in Auckland and will be one of the favourites for success in Melbourne.

“During the off-season we did celebrate a little bit just because after the US Open everything was so fast,” said the world number four, who plays Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the first round.

“Now, going into another slam, it really feels like so long ago. Some players’ goal is to win a grand slam. Once they reach that, it’s kind of what’s next.

“For me, I always knew I wanted to win multiple. It was kind of easy to forget about it. Not ‘forget’. I think that’s the wrong word. Maybe just put it in the past and look forward to the future instead of dwelling on the past.

“I think for me the only thing I will try to remember from that slam is just the way that I won. It wasn’t my best tennis. It was more the mental fire.”

Gauff credits her success to a shift in mentality, helped by new coach Brad Gilbert, after a disappointing loss against Sofia Kenin in the opening round of Wimbledon.

“I think I put too much pressure on winning a slam,” she said. “When I went on the scene at 15, I felt like I had to win a slam as a teenager because that’s what everybody thought.

“Honestly, going into US Open, I didn’t expect it. I felt like I was having a bad season, and my focus was just get through the season and focus on the Australian Open this year.

“I think putting that mindset just relaxed me a lot. At the end of the day, the worst thing that happened to me at Wimbledon was I could lose first round. That wasn’t even that bad. Obviously it sucked. The world didn’t end. The sun still shines. I still have my friends and family.

“I realised that losing isn’t all that bad, and that I should just focus on the battle and the process and enjoy it. When it’s 5-5 in the third set, enjoy that battle instead of thinking, ‘What if I lose?’ I found myself being able to play freer and trust myself more.”


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by ????? ????????? ??❤️ (@sabalenka_aryna)


Looking to avoid a first-round upset against former Australian Open winner Kenin this time will be top seed Iga Swiatek, who is bidding for a first title in Melbourne.

Aryna Sabalenka broke her grand slam duck here last year and went on to reach at least the semi-finals at each of the grand slams and become world number one.

The Belarusian, who will take on German teenager Ella Seidel in the first night session on Sunday, said: “I had an incredible season last year, improved a lot as a player and as a person. I did really a great pre-season. We worked a lot. I felt like we improved a lot. I feel really great and feel like I’m ready to go.”

Cameron Norrie admits he is concerned about the wrist injury he suffered ahead of the Australian Open.

The British number one was forced to pull out of his quarter-final at the ASB Classic in Auckland, the city where he grew up, on Thursday after feeling pain in his left wrist following a second-round victory over Luca Van Assche.

Norrie is due to play his first match at Melbourne Park on Tuesday against Peruvian Juan Pablo Varillas, and he said: “There was not a particular moment where I felt something happen or anything.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Cameron Norrie (@norriee)


“The next day I was a bit sore, wasn’t able to play, obviously. I did a scan. It didn’t show anything too much. So I’m here and it’s feeling a bit better.

“I couldn’t play Auckland, so I’m obviously concerned. But we’re managing it with my team. It was better today, which is positive. Luckily I’m scheduled to play on Tuesday, so I have a few more days. I’m looking forward to practice tomorrow.”

The injury is badly timed for 19th seed Norrie, who struggled during the second half of last season and admitted he felt a little burned out.

He was rejuvenated after a strong pre-season, where he worked with new coach Stephen Huss, and claimed an excellent win to start 2024 against in-form Alex De Minaur at the United Cup.

Australian Huss will work alongside Norrie’s main coach Facundo Lagones, with the focus being on training weeks, and Norrie said: “He was so good, such a good influence on everyone in the team.

“He speaks really clearly on what he wants to see and what his ideas are, which I liked. He came in with some really good ideas. Great fit for the team. It was an unbelievable two weeks with him there.

“Great for Facu as well. Facu learnt a lot. I think it was exactly what we needed to talk about a bit more, tactics. I really liked him. There was no ego involved. He came in and he was really excited. He was loving the sessions and the quality we were bringing.

“I’m just pumped to be back on the court playing, competing the way I was there in the United Cup and the match in Auckland. I just want to keep evolving, keep getting better. A lot to learn from last year, but I want to look forward.”

There are also question marks over the fitness of British number two Dan Evans.

The 33-year-old played his first tournament this week in Adelaide after suffering a calf injury in October but admits he is still short of where he needs to be.

“The amount of people who say it’s an old person’s injury, pulling a calf, is astonishing,” said Evans with a wry smile.

“I had to be really cautious with it because all the doctors and physios said to do it again is not what you want. It was my tendon, as well, which is pretty important. My leg is fully fit. Obviously, you have to work the rest up.”


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Dan Evans (@danevo.official)


Evans will take on Italian Lorenzo Sonego in his first match, while second seed Carlos Alcaraz is likely to be waiting should he win that.

“Definitely I can win my first round,” said Evans. “It’s how my body holds up and how it will recover. It was sore last week. I just haven’t had as much practice and training as I would really like.

“But you can have as much practice as you like, if you’re playing Alcaraz, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win anyway.”

Jack Draper will bid for a first ATP Tour title at the Adelaide International after beating Alexander Bublik in the semi-finals.

The British number four saw off the eccentric Kazakh 7-6 (2) 6-4 to go one better than last year when he fell in the last four.

It represents a second straight ATP Tour final for the 22-year-old, who was beaten by Adrian Mannarino in the trophy decider at the Sofia Open in November.

Draper was twice a break up in the opening set against Bublik, who is one of the most unconventional players on tour.

He dragged Draper around the court with repeated drop shots and one game in the second set featured a rally where both players played lobs between their legs before Bublik sent over an underarm serve and won the point with a volley played with his racket handle.

But there were also nine double faults and a host of unforced errors and Draper maintained his high level to set up a final meeting with Czech Jiri Lehecka.

“It was a really tricky match,” said Draper. “Alexander’s a great player and someone who’s a very unorthodox player. It’s always tricky to play against him.

“He’s actually a really good guy and a good friend as well. We have a lot of fun when we’re competing against each other. I was really happy that I was able to come through and get the win today and be in another final.”

Victory for Draper on Saturday would elevate his ranking back into the top 50 ahead of his Australian Open opener next week.

Emma Raducanu believes she is “too good” not to get back to the top of the game – if she can stay fit.

The 21-year-old will play a grand-slam match for the first time in a year when she takes on American Shelby Rogers in the opening round of the Australian Open.

Triple surgery on both wrists and one ankle put Raducanu off the tour for eight months but she gave a reminder of what a high-class tennis player she is in her comeback tournament in Auckland last week.

The biggest question mark remains the robustness of Raducanu’s body, and she pulled out of two exhibition matches this week with soreness following a long practice session on Monday.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Emma. (@emmaraducanu)


Any fears about her participation in Melbourne have since been allayed, and she said: “Physically I feel good. I did a lot of good work in the off-season.

“But I think that, regardless of how good I may feel on the court on a particular day or in practice, I think to get that level of consistency is going to require more time.

“I’ve been doing the right work, doing it consistently. I just need to keep going more and more. But I feel good on court and in the gym.”

Raducanu is currently ranked down at 299 as a result of her long break, although she can enter tournaments using her protected ranking from before surgery of 103.

“I think success to me in the long-term is, for the rest of the year, to play a full season, to be healthy throughout, to be able to train consistent weeks,” she said.

“I know my level is there, I just need to keep working on it to make it more consistent. I think that will come with time in the gym, time on court, being able to play the calendar, not thinking about ‘Will I have to pull out from this one, does that hurt’?

“I think my level, to be honest, is just too good not to come through if I put consistent work together.”

Raducanu practised with British duo Katie Boulter and Jodie Burrage on Friday and earned rave reviews from both.

“I think it’s absolutely incredible what she’s doing,” said Boulter. “To come back with that level already, it’s inspirational.

“You know how long it took me to get back (from injury). It really isn’t easy, trust me. It’s not something that you can just pick up like that. It seems like she’s playing very, very well. I’m sure it’s going to be a great year for her. I’m expecting big things.”

Without a coach for most of her recovery, Raducanu is in Melbourne with Nick Cavaday, who she previously worked with between the ages of 10 and 12.

Raducanu hopes it will prove a good fit, saying: “We’re just taking it how it goes. It’s been working really well so far.

“I, of course, hope to continue with him because I feel very comfortable with him. I know his sister (former British player Naomi Cavaday) really well because, like, everyone is from Bromley.”


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Emma. (@emmaraducanu)


Cavaday previously coached Dominic Inglot and Aljaz Bedene before heading up the Lawn Tennis Association’s national academy in Loughborough.

There is no indication Raducanu will look to add a full-time fitness trainer or physio to her team, with the former US Open champion keen to keep a tight circle around her.

She cuts a much happier figure than for most of the period post her New York triumph, and she said: “I feel a lot lighter now than I did for a long time after US Open. I feel like I’m not playing with a backpack of rocks. I feel pretty light and happy.

“Reflecting on the past, I think people are very important. I think surrounding yourself with competent and knowledgeable people is of course really important, but also the type of person and their character is big-time, just making sure we really get on and intentions are really good.”

Katie Boulter is enjoying being part of the “circus” surrounding Australian boyfriend Alex De Minaur.

De Minaur is the newest member of the world’s top 10 and the home country’s great hope for a grand slam champion at Melbourne Park in a fortnight’s time.

His relationship with Boulter has generated a lot of attention, with the pair playing mixed doubles together at Wimbledon last summer, and she is happy to share his moment in the spotlight.

“I am a very private person,” she said. “I like to keep myself to myself, my team close, the things that matter most to me away from everything.

“I think it’s definitely been fun to be a part of because it’s been a little bit of a circus, but a good circus. I think it’s awesome that he’s getting the attention that he really does deserve and he’s put the work in for it.

“He’s playing some of the best tennis of his life and it really does fill me with a lot of pride to actually watch him at this moment.

“I feel like I’m sharing him with everyone, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s definitely a lot. But he’s handled it a lot of his career and he knows how to deal with it and I’m right there next to him.”


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Katie Boulter (@katiecboulter)


With Nick Kyrgios still sidelined through injury, De Minaur will carry home hopes virtually single-handed, but the 24-year-old sees only positives.

“I’m living my dream,” he said. “I can wake up in the morning and know that I’ve achieved a massive milestone, which was very tough to get to. I didn’t know if I was going to achieve it.

“Now I can look at myself and say that I’ve done it, that I’m a completely different player to what I was last year. It’s exciting because I’ve got bigger and better things to come hopefully.”

Boulter and De Minaur have been together since 2020 but the last 12 months have seen both hit new heights in their career.

Boulter enters the Australian Open ranked 57 and heads into a first-round clash with China’s Yuan Yue full of confidence after a great start to 2024.

At the United Cup in Perth, Boulter claimed the biggest victory of her career over world number five Jessica Pegula and has her sights set on another sizeable leap this year.

“It was huge,” she said of her win over the American. “I’m sure it wasn’t the best match of her career but I felt like I was right there.

“She’s one of the top players in the world and it gives you belief that that can be you and I strongly believe that if I keep working the way that I do that I can do that.”

She continued: “Top 100 has not been my number. I think I did that five years ago and now I really want to keep pushing. Even 50, I’ve ticked that off as well.

“And now it’s time to start getting up to the real business side of tennis and I think the work that we’ve been putting in has given me a great platform this past year to really push on and give these girls a go. Now it just takes a little bit of belief and a lot more hard work.”

Nostalgia and memories of past glories have accompanied Naomi Osaka on her return to the Australian Open but the two-time champion is determined to be patient with herself.

Osaka is playing her first grand slam tournament since the US Open in 2022 after giving birth to daughter Shai last summer.

The winner at Melbourne Park in 2019 and 2021, the 26-year-old is feeling her way back into life on tour having made her comeback at the Brisbane International last week.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by 大坂なおみ???? (@naomiosaka)


“Just going into the locker room and having the same locker as before, I think little things like that really make me happy,” said Osaka.

“Just being able to hit on Rod Laver, I guess, look up at the sky and kind of realise, I’ve been able to win twice here. I would love to do it again.

“Definitely it is hard because I do think of all the amazing memories that I’ve had. I also think, in my head, who am I to just come back in the second tournament and expect so much from myself, especially against the best players in the world?

“Even hitting today with Ons (Jabeur), I caught myself getting a little disappointed in myself when I would make some mistakes. But I’m hitting against Ons. I think it’s just one of those things where I now think to myself that I have to give myself a lot of time and patience.”

Osaka cuts a notably happier figure than the player who struggled with her mental health during 2022 and contemplated stepping away from the sport completely.

Time and a new perspective as a mother has given Osaka, who is also a two-time winner of the US Open, a different outlook on her career.

“I’ve taken a lot of breaks throughout the years,” she said. “I think this one was the one that finally clicked in my head. I think I realised, being an athlete, that time is really precious. (Before) I was young and I felt like I could kind of roll back into it whenever I needed to.

“I guess after having Shai, going through the struggle of trying to get myself back to where I want to be, it was incredibly tough.

“I have a much more positive mindset and a much more grateful mindset. I think overall I’m just happy to be here because I remember last year I was watching people playing Australian Open, and I couldn’t participate myself.”

Osaka has not travelled to Australia with Shai, who has stayed back home in the USA.

“It’s definitely been really hard,” she said. “She’s learning things while I’m gone. I’m hoping she doesn’t learn how to crawl before I come back. She’s doing her little plank thing and scooting forward and back. I think it might be a little inevitable.

“I’m definitely sad, but I feel like it’s a selfish sad because I want her to be here. But I think, for her health, her whole environment is at home. I don’t want to put her out of that while she’s still so young. I FaceTime her often.”

Osaka, who joins fellow former champions Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber as mothers making their Australian Open returns, has a tricky first-round draw against 16th seed Caroline Garcia.

She is happy how her body has reacted to playing matches again, saying: “There has been stiffness and soreness but honestly not as bad as I was expecting. Even without having gone through post-pregnancy, I’m normally very sore on the first tournament back.

“But it ended up really fine. I think my body’s quite adaptable. I think I’ve been doing pretty well. I’m pretty confident with where I’m at right now.”

Andy Murray is happy to see tennis finally addressing its late night habit – although he is not ruling out more long days at the Australian Open.

The ATP and WTA announced earlier this week a new scheduling policy restricting the number of matches played per day at tournaments and setting a deadline of 11pm for contests to start.

Murray was involved in one of the latest finishes in grand slam history last year when he completed a five-set win over Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round of the Australian Open at 4.05am.

The Scot strongly criticised the scheduling afterwards, and the tournament’s response has been to move to a 15-day event, spreading the first round over three days.

There will be a minimum of two matches rather than three in the day session on Rod Laver Arena and Margaret Court Arena but the night session will still feature two matches starting at 7pm.

“I don’t think the Sunday start will change the late finishes,” said Murray. “I think on centre court they’re having two matches in the day, two matches in the evening.

“I think that will reduce the possibility for late finishes on Rod Laver just because it’s unlikely you’re going to have issues with the day session running into the night, then having that gap where they have to clear out the stadium and get the night session fans in.

“My understanding is that on the other show courts that’s not changing, so there still is the possibility for that to happen.”

Murray welcomed the tours’ new rules, saying: “It’s really good. I’ve spoken about it, I’ve heard lots of players and the media, obviously, discussing it for a long time. It just makes sense. It’s a very obvious thing that needs to change.

“I haven’t heard anyone really disagree with that. So it’s positive that there’s going to be some changes made. It will be good for, I think, everyone. It will definitely help with recovery for following day’s matches and things like that.

“I certainly think, for fans and the tournament, it just probably looks a wee bit more professional if you’re not finishing at three or four in the morning.”

Murray is making his 16th appearance in the main draw at Melbourne Park and will take on 30th-seeded Argentinian Tomas Martin Etcheverry in the first round on Monday.

He cut a very frustrated figure at the end of last season and goes into this tournament short on wins but insisted he is feeling happier about his game.

“I definitely feel like I’m enjoying it better,” he said. “I think part of that is the mental side of it. Tennis is a difficult game in that respect. When you’re struggling, you’re obviously out there on your own, it can be difficult at times.

“Also the way you’re playing. When you know you’re capable of doing more than what you are, if you’re not happy with the way you’re hitting forehands and backhands and serving and those sorts of things, there’s the technical aspect as well.

“Fixing some of those problems has helped me feel better on the court. Definitely some focus on the mental side, as well. Reframing the way you look at things definitely, definitely helps.”

Murray and Etcheverry met twice last year, sharing the spoils in two long matches.

“I made most of my matches quite physical last year,” said Murray with a smile. “I know that last year, when I wasn’t serving well, you end up getting into lots more long rallies and everything. Hopefully that’s not the case in a couple of days.”

Emma Raducanu will make her grand slam return against American Shelby Rogers at the Australian Open.

Rogers was one of the players Raducanu, who is playing her first major tournament for a year following surgery on both wrists and one ankle, beat on her way to the US Open title in 2021.

Raducanu made a positive return in Auckland last week, pushing Elina Svitolina in the second round before tiring, but alarm bells began ringing when she pulled out of first an exhibition match at Melbourne Park on Tuesday and then another exhibition at the Kooyong Classic on Thursday.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Emma. (@emmaraducanu)


However, Raducanu’s team insisted both were precautionary after she felt some soreness following a practice session on Monday and she practised for two hours at Melbourne Park on Thursday.

Raducanu looked relaxed and happy hitting with fellow British player Lily Miyazaki under the guidance of coach Nick Cavaday, with no strapping or obvious signs of discomfort.

Rogers is a kind draw on paper with the 31-year-old also coming off a long break having not played since Wimbledon and ranked down at 156.

All the British women avoided seeds in the first round, with Katie Boulter drawing China’s Yuan Yue and Jodie Burrage taking on German Tamara Korpatsch.

An intriguing women’s draw was headlined by top seed Iga Swiatek taking on 2020 champion Sofia Kenin, with the winner to play either another past winner in the returning Angelique Kerber or former finalist Danielle Collins.

Four-time grand slam champion Swiatek is the only one of that quartet who is yet to reach the final in Melbourne, although she will be a strong favourite to come through.

Naomi Osaka, who like Kerber is returning after having a baby, makes her grand slam comeback against 16th seed Caroline Garcia while reigning champion Aryna Sabalenka faces a qualifier.

Caroline Wozniacki’s first match in Melbourne since her retirement here in 2020 will be against 20th seed Magda Linette, with the Dane having returned to the sport last summer, reaching the fourth round of the US Open.

Andy Murray was the only British player to draw a seed, with the five-time former finalist taking on 25th-rated Argentinian Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

Should the Scot make the third round, he would expect to find himself up against top seed Novak Djokovic, who will open against a qualifier.

Cameron Norrie, the only British seed at 19, faces Peru’s Juan Pablo Varillas, with Jack Draper meeting American Marcos Giron and Dan Evans playing Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

Fourth seed Jannik Sinner was drawn in the top half as a potential semi-final opponent for Djokovic while Carlos Alcaraz and third seed Daniil Medvedev are in the bottom half.

Coco Gauff's emergence as arguably the biggest star of American tennis since Serena Williams is great for the women's game, says former British number one Laura Robson.

Gauff captured the imagination of the American public by winning the US Open last September, the 19-year-old fighting back to beat Aryna Sabalenka in a memorable final at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

That made the teenager the first American – male or female – to win the tournament since Williams, who won the event for the sixth time in 2014. Gauff, Williams and her sister Venus are the only American women to claim the trophy in the 21st century.

Gauff will look to back up that success at the Australian Open when the first major of the year begins on Sunday, and Robson is delighted to see her thriving after being criticised earlier in 2023.

"I love what she's done in the last three months in particular, because over the clay courts and the grass-court season, everyone was writing her off," Robson told Stats Perform.

"She just went back to the drawing board, got a new team around her, played unbelievably at the Cincinnati Masters and came into the US Open with confidence. 

"You could tell, with the way that she played the longer matches, she just felt so good about her game. You could see how she was moving out there. 

"She is definitely the fastest out on tour at the moment on the women's side. I'm just super pumped for her. 

"To be in the stadium and to feel the energy when she won the US Open was crazy.

"I'd say 99.99 per cent of the stadium was going for her and it's going to be a huge boost for women's tennis to have an American superstar like her."

Asked whether Gauff was the natural successor to Williams – who finished her glittering career one major title shy of Margaret Court's record of 24 – Robson said other players' efforts to push American tennis forward should not be overlooked.

"I definitely feel like Jessica Pegula and Madison keys and people like that don't quite get enough credit for how much they've pushed American tennis," Robson continued. 

"Even going into the US Open, Pegula was the number one American, but Coco definitely had more attention on her, which is great because their different profiles are being raised, but at the same time they were still pushing each other along and playing doubles together almost every week. 

"It's just fantastic to see and the fact that there's now another name that you're throwing into the mix just makes everyone feel better."

Gauff currently sits a career-high third in the world rankings, though she has plenty of ground to make up on the top two, with Iga Swiatek currently edging out Sabalenka. 

Robson expects that duo to trade places often as they battle to dominate the women's game, saying: "You definitely struggle to see Swiatek losing at Roland Garros, with the way that she goes on clay.

"I think it's going to be quite nice because they each have different strengths. You would almost say Sabalenka goes slightly better on a hard court and Iga is better on clay.

"I can see it almost swapping back and forth over the next few years, but Iga is going to be right in there, for sure."

Coco Gauff has every chance of adding to her 2023 US Open triumph by winning further grand slam titles in the coming years.

That is the view of former world number four Johanna Konta, who also believes it is "only a matter of time" before the American rises to the top of the WTA rankings.

Having lost the French Open final to Iga Swiatek as an 18-year-old in 2022, Gauff went one step further on home soil last September, becoming the first American teenager to win the US Open title since Serena Williams in 1999.

Gauff is looking to add to that triumph when the Australian Open begins on Sunday, and she is considered one of the favourites to claim the trophy after making a flying start to 2024.

The teenager captured her second straight Auckland Classic title on Sunday, fighting back to beat Elina Svitolina and make it seven wins from eight tour-level singles finals in her career.

Konta believes last year's US Open victory was just the start for Gauff, telling Stats Perform: "She's already a grand slam champion. So, she's got every possibility to win multiple grand slams. 

"Once you're winning those tournaments, then it's only a matter of time before you get to world number one."

Gauff is up to third in the world rankings – the highest position of her career – though she has work to do to overhaul world number one Swiatek, who has won three of the last seven grand slams and is targeting her first Australian Open success after going out in the fourth round last year.

Konta, who failed to win a major during her own career despite reaching the last four at Melbourne Park, Roland Garros and Wimbledon, thinks the 22-year-old will be a force to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future. 

"I think she's an incredibly consistent player, the level is just very consistent," Konta said of Swiatek.

"I think she will be one of the ones that will be there for a long time if she's just able to sustain that. I think she'll be one of the top handful."

Boris Becker would have loved to commentate with Nick Kyrgios at the Australian Open, but has revealed the Eurosport pundits will be on opposite sides of the planet over the next fortnight.

It was confirmed earlier this week that injured former Wimbledon finalist Kyrgios will be part of Eurosport’s punditry team for the first grand slam of 2024.

This raised the prospect that Kyrgios, who was sidelined for most of last year with knee and wrist issues, could come face to face with six-time major winner Becker in Melbourne after their online exchange last month.

Kyrgios and Becker traded insults on X, formerly known as Twitter, over a succession of days in December with the recent jail sentence served by double Australian Open winner Becker referenced, but he has now confirmed they will be – unintentionally – kept apart during their media duties.

“I would have liked to see a match where we are both commentating next to each other. I think that would be more watched than the tennis match actually,” Becker said.

“Look, he joined the team of Eurosport International out of Melbourne and I joined the Eurosport German team out of Munich. So, unless we get connected into the cube where they beam you into the studio, I don’t think there is anything happening there.

“Ultimately we both love the game, we love tennis, we like to commentate on a good match and that’s the bond we have.

“We have a difference of opinion, but that’s normal. We agree we want to see great matches, we want to see a great tournament and this is why we do the job.”

Becker will not be in Australia for the first major of the year, but has a vested interest after he took up the role of Holger Rune’s coach in 2023.

While the German has backed the 20-year-old to do well at Melbourne Park, he cannot look beyond defending champion Novak Djokovic, another player he has coached in the past.

He added: “I have to mention my player Holger Rune, who reached the fourth round last year, he was also comfortable, he started the year well with the final in Brisbane. He had a good practice week and I am sure he is ready by Sunday.

“Holger is a very intense, very dynamic and a very explosive young player. He reminds me a little bit of a young Novak Djokovic.

“For me, the clear-cut favourite is Novak Djokovic. He won the tournament 10 times. Let me repeat, he won it 10 times. This is a really outstanding achievement.

“He is the clear-cut favourite but he is 36, he had a small injury on his hitting hand. I saw him practicing yesterday and today, he seemed fine but we have to watch this space because he is not getting any younger.

“Having said that, when the tournament starts, he is the number one player in the world, he is the defending champion and he is the top favourite.”

Becker is back on the tennis scene after he spent part of 2022 in prison for hiding £2.5million of assets and loans to avoid paying debts.

The 56-year-old, a three-time Wimbledon winner, believes he is a better coach for his recent battles with bankruptcy.

“I don’t want to go into details to what happened to me and how I came out of it, but I think I am a better man now than I was five years ago,” Becker reflected.

“Hopefully my family would agree with that but also because of the things I have experienced, I might even be a better coach. All the top guys, the difference is often their mentality, their attitude, how they deal with disappointment.

“This is my strong part. I can really talk to a player about overcoming adversity at any given time and I am much more credible now than I was five years ago.”

Novak Djokovic is the greatest male tennis player of all time, according to Marcos Baghdatis.

Djokovic is the most decorated player in the history of the men's game, boasting 24 grand slam triumphs over a magnificent career. Even with Djokovic turning 36 in 2023, the Serbian won three of the four majors on offer throughout the year.

Rival Rafael Nadal, who has the second most grand slam titles among male players with 22, recently conceded Djokovic is the greatest ever.

Baghdatis agrees with Nadal that Djokovic's numbers make him the best of all time, with the 2006 Australian Open runner-up telling Stats Perform: "I think that yes, Rafa is right. He's the GOAT [greatest of all time].

"I mean, statistically, he has the best history written in tennis. Of course, he has written more history than any other player.

"It's tough to say who is the best and who's not. I can say, the three players from Rafa, Roger [Federer] and Djokovic, I think he [Djokovic] is the most complete, if you understand what I mean.

"He's still there, he's still winning matches, still winning Grand Slams.

"So yeah, he's the best of all time because of the stats, but it's very hard to just get the other two out."

Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are often referred to as the 'big three', and Baghdatis believes the trio helped to move tennis forward. However, he also says Andy Murray deserves greater recognition despite failing to match his rivals' grand slam accomplishments.

"I cannot take Andy Murray out of there," Baghdatis said. "Because, you know, he was always taking them to their limits too.

"I think it's a package that these four people changed the sport for the better. Yeah, they helped each other improve themselves, but at the same time, they helped so many other players improve themselves and be better at what they do. So they left a legacy behind."

With Federer retired and Djokovic and Nadal in the latter stages of their careers, Carlos Alcaraz is seen by many as the next potential legend of the sport, having already claimed US Open and Wimbledon glory.

While Baghdatis feels Alcaraz is a great talent, he also believes other youngsters deserve credit, saying: "I'm not saying that Alcaraz cannot [become a legend], of course he has a shot at it. 

"He's young. I think he's great for tennis, he has great energy on the court, a great personality.

"I think maybe right now he's the best of his generation, let's say, but Jannik Sinner, Holger Rune are coming up, [Daniil] Medvedev is still there.

"But it's going to be very tough. I think he has a shot. It's going to be very, very tough to achieve what they [the big three] have achieved."

Emma Raducanu will no longer take part in the Kooyong Classic on Thursday.

The former US Open champion was set to take on 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva in the Melbourne suburbs but is not featured on Thursday’s schedule of play.

She withdrew from a charity match earlier in the week and was reported to have been feeling “sore” following practice on Monday.

Raducanu will continue to prepare for the Australian Open, which will be just her second tournament back from wrist and ankle surgery which decimated her 2023 season.

The Brit, currently ranked 299 but using a protected ranking for the first grand slam of the year, made her comeback in Auckland last week, losing in the second round to Elina Svitolina.

Raducanu has had a raft of injury problems since her breakthrough win in 2021 and ended last week’s match with Svitolina with strapping on her right leg.

The 21-year-old has since trained at Melbourne Park ahead of next week’s tournament, where she is in the main draw.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.