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Novak Djokovic tiene su mirada puesta en un sexto trofeo en Melbourne Park.

5 Things To Watch For At The 2016 Australian Open

We dive into five compelling questions on the eve of the season's first Grand Slam

ATPWorldTour.com looks ahead at the Melbourne fortnight:


Novak Djokovic is coming off one of the best seasons the sport has ever witnessed, a dominant 82-6 campaign that saw him claim three of four majors, a record six ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles, win a record fourth straight title at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and finish at No. 1 in the year-end Emirates ATP Rankings for the fourth time in the past five years. After a heavy defeat to his longtime rival in Doha to open 2016, Rafael Nadal said he had never seen anyone play at that level, and that goes for the Spaniard’s storied match-ups with Roger Federer.

Djokovic himself asserted that it was as if the ball was as big as a watermelon; that the 6-1, 6-2 win over Rafa was “as close to perfection as it can get.” But the World No. 1 isn’t quite ready to claim he’s superhuman. “Nobody is invincible,” he said. “But I'm playing the tennis of my life, and I will try to nurture and cherish these moments on the court.” He’s the runaway favourite and for good reason. The Serb is now tied with Hall of Famer Bill Tilden on the all-time honour roll with 10 Grand Slam titles and Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver (11) are in his sights. Anyone doubt he can get there?


Four trips to the Aussie Open final in the last six years and a runner-up finish on each occasion. Had it not been for a couple of guys named Djokovic and Federer, we might be looking at Andy Murray’s career in a different light. But the 28 year old, who rose to a career-high year-end No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings in 2015, clearly enjoys the hard courts of Melbourne Park, where he traditionally plays some of his most inspired ball. The question is, will the one man ranked above him ever bend on a stage upon which he’s grown accustomed to raising the trophy? He says he’ll hop a flight back to the U.K. if his expectant wife, Kim, should go into labour. Will the imminent birth of the couple’s first child prove a distraction? Stay tuned.


Lleyton Hewitt’s days as a Top-5 force are long behind him. In fact, the 34-year-old former No. 1 hasn’t ventured beyond the Round of 16 at a Grand Slam in seven years. So a feel-good second-week run from the still-fiery Aussie veteran would be a big ask. But that doesn’t mean the final outing of Hewitt’s 17-year pro career isn’t must-see TV. Where better to bid farewell to one of the sport’s most dogged competitors than in front of his home fans at the Australian Open? And as the luck of the draw would have it, the two-time Slam champ will open against countryman James Duckworth. Just try to find an open seat for that one.          


He comes in as the No. 5 seed after an admittedly off year, surrounded by question marks. Yet Rafael Nadal sounds as confident as he’s been in months. He went at it hard in the off-season, ramping up his return game, cranking up his second serve and stepping into the court more. Most importantly, he says, he is finding joy on the court again after a year that saw him come up empty at the majors for the first time in more than a decade. There are those who aren’t buying the baseliner’s bravado; who believe the Mallorcan’s best years are behind him. But didn’t we learn anything from 2013, when he returned from a seven-month injury layoff to win 10 titles and reach a career-high 14 finals, becoming the first player to retake No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings after a three-year absence?


Brian Baker is no stranger to comebacks. He’s made more than a few during his days on the ATP World Tour. Now 30, the one-time teen phenom probably feels like he's clocked more hours under the knife than on the court. During one five-year stretch he underwent no less than five surgeries (left hip, right hip, sports hernia, elbow reconstruction).  Now he’s poised to make another comeback attempt after knee surgery. Using his protected ranking, the American gained main-draw entry in Melbourne and will open against Italy’s Simone Bolelli. His is a feel-good story, a tale of the every-man athlete who while chasing his dream just can’t catch a — pardon the pun — break. It would take a miracle for Baker to escape a quadrant of the draw that includes Top-10 regulars Murray and David Ferrer, but for a guy who hasn’t played a Grand Slam match since the 2013 US Open, merely re-taking the court should be victory in itself.