Djokovic-Tsitsipas rematch likely at Oz Open, but before that time for a little cricket with Smith

The Serbian tries his hand in cricket while the Aussie captain shocks the 'Joker' with his return shot in tennis

By Agencies

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Serbia’s Novak Djokovic plays cricket during a charity event on Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on January 11, 2024 ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship starting on January 14. - AFP
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic plays cricket during a charity event on Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on January 11, 2024 ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship starting on January 14. - AFP

Published: Thu 11 Jan 2024, 8:37 PM

Last updated: Thu 11 Jan 2024, 8:46 PM

Top seed Novak Djokovic was drawn Thursday against a qualifier or lucky loser to begin his bid for an 11th Australian Open crown, and could meet fellow Grand Slam champion Andy Murray in the third round.

The Serbian, who has won 24 majors, defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in last year's final then added the French and US Open titles to his collection.

But the 36-year-old will begin his defence under an injury cloud after a wrist problem hampered him at the United Cup, where he lost to Australian Alex De Minaur.

Greek seventh seed Tsitsipas has a tough task to repeat his 2023 feat with former top 10 Italian Matteo Berrettini his opening opponent and Djokovic a potential quarter-finalist.

Djokovic plays basketball during a charity event on Rod Laver Arena. - AFP
Djokovic plays basketball during a charity event on Rod Laver Arena. - AFP

Spanish world number two Carlos Alcaraz, the only man to beat Djokovic at a Slam last year to win Wimbledon, gets his campaign under way against French veteran Richard Gasquet.

Like Djokovic, third seed Daniil Medvedev, a Melbourne finalist in 2021 and 2022, drew a qualifier in the first round.

The Russian could face 27th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in the third round, with the Canadian facing a stern opening test against former world number three Dominic Thiem.

Meanwhile, there was a sight to behold for sports lovers worldwide as Djokovic and Australian star cricket Steve Smith were seen trying their hands at each other's sports.

In a video posted by the official handle of Australian Open, Smith was seen playing tennis with Djokovic. Smith's shot left Djokovic wondering, following which he funnily bowed down to the cricketing great.

In another clip, Djokovic was seen playing cricket. While he failed to time his shot well with the bat, Djokovic made a switch to his tennis racquet and sent the ball flying into the stands of the tennis stadium.

Smith has been promoted as the new Test opener following David Warner's retirement, for Australia ahead of a Test series of two matches against the West Indies starting from January 17.

Poland’s Iga Swiatek hits a shot during a practice session on Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on January 11, 2024. - AFP
Poland’s Iga Swiatek hits a shot during a practice session on Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on January 11, 2024. - AFP

On the women's side of the Australian Open, Polish top seed Iga Swiatek will open her account with a blockbuster rematch of the 2020 Roland Garros final that she won against Sofia Kenin, who went into that match as the Australian Open champion.

There will be no let-up for whoever wins, with a second round clash looming against either 2016 Australian Open winner Angelique Kerber or 2022 Melbourne Park finalist Danielle Collins.

Two-time champion Naomi Osaka also faces a daunting task after being pitted against French 16th seed Caroline Garcia in her first major since having a baby.

Another bumper showdown will see third seed Elena Rybakina, last year's runner-up, take on former world number one Karolina Pliskova.

Second seed and defending champion Aryna Sabalenka should have an easier time, she was drawn against a qualifier.

Three-time major winner Kerber will start against Collins, who beat Swiatek in the semifinals here in 2022 on her way to the final. That was three-time French Open winner Swiatek’s best run at the Australian Open so far. Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko are also seeded players in Swiatek's quarter.

Wozniacki, the 2018 champion, will meet 2023 semifinalist and 20th-seeded Magda Linette in the first round, while defending champion Aryna Sabalenka opens against a qualifier.

Third-seeded Elena Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon champion who lost the Australian Open final to Sabalenka last year, has a challenging opening match against former No. 1-ranked Karolina Pliskova.

Possible women's quarterfinals could be: No. 1 Swiatek vs. No. 7 Marketa Vondrousova, and Rybakina vs. No. 5 Jessica Pegula on the top half; No. 2 Sabalenka vs. No. 6 Ons Jabeur, and No. 4 Gauff vs. No. 8 Maria Sakkari on the bottom half.

As well as the potential 2023 final rematch between Djokovic and No. 7 Tsitsipas, other men's quarterfinals could be: No. 4 Jannik Sinner vs. No. 5 Andrey Rublev in the top half; No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz vs. No 6 Alexander Zverev, and No. 3 Daniil Medvedev vs. No. 8 Holger Rune on the bottom half.

Two unseeded past Wimbledon finalists returning from injuries could be challenging obstacles for Top 10 players in the first round, with Tsitsipas against Matteo Berrettini and local hope, No. 10 Alex de Minaur, against big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic.

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