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Rafael Nadal, the greatest Grand Slam winner in history, and Novak Djokovic, nine-time Australian Open champion, seek to enlarge their legend in Melbourne, although they will have to stifle the incipient revolution of young talents on the circuit.

Although the prince of this new batch of talents, the number 1 in the world Carlos Alcarazwill be sick leavethere are many aspirants to end the tyranny of the so-called ‘Big Three’: nadal, Djokovic and he already retired Roger Federer.

It may be the time of the Norwegian Casper Ruudnumber 2 in the ranking and finalist at Roland Garros and the US Openbut the Danish are also lurking Holger Runethe canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime or the italian Jannik Sinner.

But since 2006, only the Swiss Stan Wawrinka in 2014 he was able to question in Australia the dominance of Federer, Nadal and especially Djokovic, who returns to his favorite tournament after the dramatic deportation of 2022 for not being vaccinated against covid.

“If we talk about favourites, on the Saturday before the start of the tournament, without a doubt, Djokovic is the top favorite to win the title. But the tournaments are not won the Saturday before”, said Nadal himself.

The 36-year-old man from Manacor not only defends the title he won epically the previous year, but also the record of 22 Grand Slams, which Djokovic would equal if he won in Australia.

However, the Spaniard admitted feeling “vulnerable“, with a losing streak of just one win in their last seven matches.

“I have been losing more than usual. I need to build my momentum again, I need to build this trust with myself again through victories,” he acknowledged.

In addition, in the first round he had one of the most complicated crosses for the seeded heads, the young and powerful British Jack Draper.

“If I am able to win the first game, I will have my options,” predicted Nadal, who would not meet Djokovic until a hypothetical final.

– “Very hungry” youth –

In contrast, the 35-year-old Serbian arrives in Melbourne full of joy: winner of the ATP Finals and the previous tournament in Adelaide, euphoric to return to the venue where he keeps “the best memories” of his career.

Hamstring affected since Adelaide, Djokovic He acknowledged having suffered “with that a bit in the last seven days”, but he was confident that he would be able to play normally in his debut on Tuesday against the Spaniard. Roberto Carballes.

Djokovic, current number 5 in the world after a season excluded from the Australian and United States Opens, faces the first ‘big’ of the year with the clear objective of equaling Nadal’s 22.

“That’s why I continue to play tennis professionally, because I want to be the best, I want to win the most important tournaments in the world. It’s no secret,” said the Serb, who received a warm welcome from the Australian fans.

There are many young people who are very hungry, who want to win. They want to skin you in the big stadium. I know”. But “at this track, I have a chance against anyone,” he said.

However, the new batch is willing to accelerate the change started in 2022 which, for the first time in 19 years, ended without Nadal, Djokovic, Federer or the Scotsman Andy Murray at the top of the ATP.

“I think this year will be a new opportunity for many more new players to demonstrate their authority, to leave their mark on tennis and reach the elite of the sport,” warned the young Australian. Alex de Minaurwith a Uruguayan father and a Spanish mother.

And between both generations, other names emerge to take into account such as the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas (number 4 in the world), the Russian Andrei Rublevthe controversial local idol nick kyrgios or the german Alexander Zverevwho is returning from the chilling ankle injury in the semifinals of the French Open.

And without forgetting Daniel Medvedev who, after losing the last two finals of the event against Djokovic and Nadal, hopes to make good the saying “third time lucky” to win his second Grand Slam after the US Open 2021.

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