Serbia's Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, still searching for wins after a 24th major and a year off the courts due to injury, each begin their 2024 season in Australia, which could be the Spaniard's last.
Joko is still hungry
Djokovic, who enters 2023 with the 24th major in world tennis history, is still hungry for titles: he wants a Grand Slam on his calendar and, after winning singles bronze in Beijing in 2008, is aiming for Olympic gold this summer in Paris.
The world No. 1 will compete from Friday in the United Cup, a mixed tournament between nations, after losing an exhibition match in Riyadh on Wednesday against Spaniard Carlos Algaraz (4-6 6-4 6-4). Taking place in Perth and Sydney. He will have to use this tournament to defend his title at the Australian Open from January 15.
In Perth, the 36-year-old Serbian faces China and the Czech Republic in Group E. He will first face Zhang Jichen of China, who is nine years his junior in the world, on Sunday, then Czech Jiri Lehka (31st worldwide) on Tuesday.
“Djoko” lines up with Olga Danilovich in mixed doubles, notably Czech Marketa Vondrousova (7th), and Wimbledon-crowned Chinese Zeng Qinwen (15th).
If she gets past the group stage, she will meet the winner of Group C in the quarter-finals on January 3: the USA, the defending champions led by Taylor Fritz (10th) and Jessica Pegula (5th), Great Britain and Australia.
Rafa, the beginning of the end?
Former world No. 1 Rafael Nadal returns to competition at the ATP 250 event in Brisbane on December 31 after a hip injury sidelined him for an almost empty 670 in the 2023 season. At 37, he believes 2024 will be his “last year” on the circuit, but cautions he can't give a “100% guarantee”.
“I've worked hard to get back into competition, and if things and my body allow me to move forward and enjoy what I'm doing, I don't think there's any point in solving limitations,” he explained in a video posted on social networks. In early December.
“I am sure that his training and his preparation are aimed at winning Grand Slams,” Djokovic said of him.
The Spaniard, who has won 22 Grand Slams, lost in the second round of the Australian Open in January 2023 in his last official match.
Having undergone hip surgery, he said he just wanted to “be competitive” in Brisbane.
Swiatek moves forward
Ika Sviatek, who returned to world No. 1 after winning the Cancun Masters in November, also opens his season at the United Cup. Along with Poland, they face Brazil and Spain without Algaras in Group A.
In Perth, the 22-year-old Zviadek faces world number 11 Beatrice Haddad Mia in singles on Saturday, then Sara Soripes Tormo (48th) on Monday. He will be paired with ATP No. 9 Hubert Hurcox in mixed doubles.
He will try to win a fourth Grand Slam title in 2023 after reaching the semi-finals in Melbourne.
On Australia's other side, Naomi Osaka will return to competition during the Brisbane tournament, which has given the Japanese a call-up, having been out of the circuit for more than a year to give birth last July.
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