Nadal preparation may cost repeat of Federer epic

Nadal preparation may cost repeat of Federer epic

He missed warmup events in Abu Dhabi and Brisbane but appeared untroubled in an exhibition match win over Austrian world number five Dominic Thiem at Melbourne Park on Friday.

The Austrian spent four days in bed with a virus after pulling out of a tournament in Doha last week and, also suffering from jet lag, was thrashed 6-1 6-4 by Novak Djokovic in the Serbian's return to action at Kooyong on Wednesday. Now, having reached his first Grand Slam final last September, Anderson has added experience to go with the muscle.

An unlikely victor at Melbourne Park in 2017 before going on to capture Wimbledon, the evergreen 36-year-old - who enjoyed a renaissance last season having been struck down by injuries in 2016 - is trusting his tried and tested preparation, having featured at the Hopman Cup in Perth just like he did last year.

Now, under new rules by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), any Grand Slam player who withdraws after 1200 local time yesterday before the tournament draw will still receive 50 percent of first round prize money.

World number six Cilic won the opener but found his game not quite up to competitive level as Ebden sneaked out the second set and then won a tight third.

The pair split the four grand slam trophies between them previous year, with Nadal, at 31, finishing the season as the ATP rankings' oldest world number one.

If fit and firing, 2009 champion Nadal will be hard to beat but needs to bring something new to the court if he ends up facing Federer, who won all four of their matches past year.

Take the two men that contested last year's final, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, they are considered by many as the frontrunners once again.

Five-time champion Federer, meanwhile, will begin his title defence against the 51st ranked Aljaz Bedene.

Federer is now favourite for the 2018 event in Melbourne, with former world No 1 Andy Murray pulling out with a hip injury and six-time champion Djokovic struggling with an elbow problem.

Despite many pundits, including John McEnroe, writing off Federer's Grand Slam chances, Annacone also believes his intelligence has been a crucial factor in his return to the top, with the Swiss tweaking his game to stay amongst the top stars. As for the men's draw I am going to give Juan Martin del Potro the "dark horse" label.

"It even beats Wimbledon and all the other tournaments I won past year".

"I played better than I thought might happen [on Wednesday] and most importantly I played without pain".

"Roger with the year he had last year and Nadal, I don't think I'll be the favourite".

"It was a fantastic test for me to see what we have done as a team in the off-season, whether it works or not on the court", said the Serb.

The Spaniard, after a couple of barren years in 2015 and 2016, contested three of the four grand slam finals in 2017.

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