Federer to launch Australian Open defense against Istomin

Federer to launch Australian Open defense against Istomin

Asked if he ever doubted about his comeback, Wawrinka - who underwent a double surgery in August 2017 - said: 'I did think a few times that I may not be able to come back to my old self, old level.

But defending champion Federer is especially good on the hard courts Down Under.

Federer is hunting a record-extending seventh Australian Open title in Melbourne next week.

Three-time grand slam victor Andy Murray has a tough clash with 22nd-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut as he returns from a hip injury.

Men's second seed Rafael Nadal opens against Australian James Duckworth, fourth seed Alexander Zverev starts against Slovenian Aljaz Bedene, and last year's runner-up Marin Cilic plays another local in Bernard Tomic.

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Aiming for a third consecutive Australian championship, a 21st Grand Slam crown and a 100th career singles title, Federer will open against Denis Istomin.

Last year's semi-finalist Kyle Edmund, seeded 13th, looms as a possible fourth round match-up for the Spaniard, who could then face big-serving South African Kevin Anderson in the quarter-finals if the draw follows the seedings, and potentially Federer in the semis. But being so close, I'll give it a go.

The Spanish 22nd seed defeated Novak Djokovic on his way to the title in Doha last week while concerns about Murray's fitness grew as he struggled through a practice match against world number one Djokovic at Melbourne Park on Thursday.

"To finally get that (title) here was so special, it's the happy slam".

British number two Heather Watson takes on 31st seed Petra Martic from Croatia while Katie Boulter, playing in her first slam main draw outside of Wimbledon, meets experienced Russian Ekaterina Makarova. Among those looking to halt Serena's charge: world number one Simona Halep, defending champion Caroline Wozniacki and US Open victor Naomi Osaka. "I've had a great off-season and I feel very well prepared". "I'm just enjoying every minute of it".

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