Australian Open lookahead: Nadal, Gauff in Day 1 action

Jan 14, 2023, 4:21 AM | Updated: 6:22 pm
Spain's Rafael Nadal plays a forehand return to during a practice session ahead of the Australian O...

Spain's Rafael Nadal plays a forehand return to during a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — A glance at the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tennis tournament of 2023:

SURFACE

Hard courts

SITE

Melbourne Park

SCHEDULE

Play in the two-week tournament begins Monday morning in Australia (Sunday night EST) and there are day and night sessions. The women’s singles final is Saturday, Jan. 28; the men’s singles final is Sunday, Jan. 29.

LOOKAHEAD TO MONDAY

The Australian Open begins at Melbourne Park on Monday morning (Sunday night EST) with 18-year-old American Coco Gauff in action in Rod Laver Arena against Katerina Siniakova. The most attention-worthy match probably is the one later in the day in Laver that features 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal facing off against fellow left-hander Jack Draper. Nadal has lost six of his past seven matches dating to last season, including an 0-2 mark so far this year. Nadal is the defending champion in Australia. Other past major champions in action on Day 1 include Daniil Medvedev — who was the runner-up in Melbourne to Nadal in 2022 and to Novak Djokovic in 2021 — against Marcos Giron of the U.S.; Iga Swiatek against Jule Niemeier; Emma Raducanu against Tamara Korpatsch; Sofia Kenin against Victoria Azarenka in a matchup between two women who own a combined three Australian Open trophies; along with Stan Wawrinka, Bianca Andreescu, Elena Rybakina and Jelena Ostapenko.

MONDAY’S FORECAST

Cloudy. High of 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 Celsius).

SEEDINGS

Iga Swiatek is seeded No. 1 in the women’s bracket, her first time in that spot at the Australian Open, where she reached the semifinals a year ago. Nadal is the No. 1 seed in the men’s draw, moving up a spot because top-ranked Carlos Alcaraz withdrew from the tournament with a leg injury. Novak Djokovic is seeded No. 4 as he makes his return to Melbourne.

2022 WOMEN’S SINGLES CHAMPION

Ash Barty, Australia

2022 MEN’S SINGLES CHAMPION

Rafael Nadal, Spain

LAST YEAR

Barty became the first Australian in 44 years to win a singles trophy at the nation’s Grand Slam tournament by beating Danielle Collins 6-3, 7-6 (2) in the final. That gave Barty the third major title of her career — after the French Open in 2019 and Wimbledon in 2021 — and extended her stay at No. 1 in the WTA rankings. Less than two months later, she announced her retirement from tennis at age 25. Nadal earned his 21st Grand Slam trophy via an epic comeback, turning things around to beat Daniil Medvedev 2-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5. It was the first time in 57 years that a man won an Australian Open final after dropping the first two sets. Before the tournament began, all eyes were on Djokovic, who flew to Australia despite being unvaccinated against COVID-19, then had his visa revoked, was deported and couldn’t participate in a tournament he has won nine times.

WHO IS MISSING

This is the first Grand Slam tournament since Serena Williams and Roger Federer — owners of a combined 43 major singles championships — announced last year they were ending their playing careers. Also now retired: Barty. Other key players who are not in the field include Alcaraz, Venus Williams, Marin Cilic, Paula Badosa and Ajla Tomljanovic (all injured), Naomi Osaka (out of action since September, she recently announced she is pregnant and will take 2023 off) and Simona Halep (serving a provisional doping ban).

KEY STATISTICS

22 — Grand Slam singles titles for Nadal, a record for men — one more than Djokovic, two more than Federer — and one away from the overall Open era mark held by Williams.

PRIZE MONEY

Total prize money for the 2023 Australian Open is $76.5 million Australian dollars (about $53 million). The women’s and men’s singles champions each will be paid $2.975 million Australian dollars (about $2 million), a drop of 37.5% from last year’s checks of 4.4 million Australian dollars (about $3.15 million).

___

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Australian Open lookahead: Nadal, Gauff in Day 1 action