Can Federer do it again — Australian Open preview

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Ranked eighth in the world, American Sock was accused of tanking in his limp straight sets loss to unheralded German Peter Gojowczyk in Auckland this week. However, her inconsistency in recent months will be her undoing and will be a big miss for a tournament lacking star names.

"Possibly, but this time we're a long way away in the draw", he added. Again, there isn't much of a gap that separates the contenders from the dark horses. This time around he benefits from a No. 2 seeding and a slightly injured Nadal. His draw isn't uncomfortable and he is overflowing with confidence.

Six-time Melbourne champion Djokovic has been sidelined with a right elbow injury since Wimbledon in July. He is clearly the man to beat. The odds are particularly in his favor if the playing conditions in Melbourne are quick, as they were last year when he won the title by surprise after a six-month layoff. It's hard to imagine anyone knocking him off, especially in a field watered down by injuries.

Serena Williams will not defend the women's title having had her first child last year but 2008 champion Maria Sharapova, who failed a drugs test at the tournament in 2016, is back unseeded after a ban and will face Germany's Tatjana Maria.

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Following an off-season rule change, players who are forced to pull out after the draw is released will receive 50 per cent of their Round 1 prizemoney.

The former world number one, who will be chasing a record seventh Australian Open crown next week, had pulled out of a warm-up Abu Dhabi tournament, raising concerns over whether he would be fit enough to play at Melbourne Park.

The big features of the women's draw is that the top seed and world No.1, Simona Halep still hasn't won a Grand Slam title.

Only three players stand out to me as genuine dark horses: Bautista Agut, Raonic and Schwartzman.

"On the other side of the coin, it's probably more intriguing because you have 20 players that can win a grand slam".

"I had all these great five-setters and at the end the epic match against Rafa".

"The thing with great athletes is we take for granted what they do".

Nick Kyrgios of Australia will be the highest seed amongst the Australians after being seeded 14th.

If the ailing Swiss competes, he's going to be the rustiest player in the draw.

This year, Federer is expected to have another strong campaign with his injured back fully healed.

"It's no point to say I could have done it or not".

Del Potro could run into two-time Australian Open semifinalist Tomas Berdych in the third round, should the Czech take down fleet-footed Australian wildcard Alex De Minaur.

"I don't want to be overconfident, but I'm very, very happy with how it went today", added the 30-year-old. "Hopefully if I can reach the last few rounds, I will feel more comfortable".

Nadal hasn't played competitive tennis since withdrawing from the season-ending ATP World Tour finals due to a knee injury.

Federer's defeat of Nadal last year was his 18th major triumph of a glittering career.