With the Novak Djokovic vaccination and visa saga still continuing, and with just a handful of days left before the start of the Australian Open, no one knows for definite if the world No 1 will be walking out at the Rod Laver Arena this year.
Despite this uncertainty he remains, for the time being at least, the favourite to secure a 10th Melbourne title, as Dan Weston discusses in his pre-draw preview.
Another victory this year would make it four in a row for the 34-year-old, and he’d become the first player to achieve this feat since Roy Emerson claimed five straight Aussie Open titles between 1963 and 1967.
Back then the championship was played on grass at Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club, which is located around five miles from the tournament’s current home.
Despite remaining the player to beat in the men’s game, Djokovic is not quite as invincible as he was last July.
After winning at Wimbledon, which secured a 20th Grand Slam title, he was still on course to claim a ‘Golden Slam’. This consists of all four Slam titles, plus the Olympic gold medal, in the same calendar year.
But after winning in Melbourne, Paris and London, his dream of achieving a first-ever Olympic gold medal came crashing down in Tokyo where an angry Djokovic was beaten at the semi-final stage by eventual champion Alexander Zverev. The German won in three sets.
The Serbian then proceeded to lose the bronze medal play-off match too and, one month later, he was defeated in the final of the US Open by Daniil Medvedev. The Russian outplayed Djokovic to secure victory in straight sets.
Check out the latest betting for the men’s singles event in Melbourne
So who are the main contenders in Melbourne, other than the defending champion?
Felix Auger-Aliassime: The 21-year-old is starting to fulfil his huge potential. Reached the Last Eight at Wimbledon, and followed this up by getting to the semi-finals in New York.
Daniil Medvedev: World No 2 and the first of the younger generation to beat one of the established Big Three (Federer, Nadal or Djokovic) in a Grand Slam final.
Rafa Nadal: Can’t be ruled out despite playing just six competitive matches since last year’s French Open. He started 2022 by winning a low-key tournament in Australia.
Andrey Rublev: Has quietly made his way up to No 5 in the world and reached the quarter-finals in Melbourne last year.
Jannik Sinner: The 20-year-old Italian has quickly established himself as a leading player thanks to four titles on the ATP Tour last year.
Stefanos Tsitsipas: Runner-up at Roland Garros last June, the 23-year-old from Greece has hopefully recovered from a painful elbow injury and is ready to chase a first Slam trophy.
Alexander Zverev: With an Olympic gold medal in his collection, he is now ready to secure a maiden Grand Slam title.
Click here to view 10-year form at Melbourne Park
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