Novak Djokovic looks ready to rock but revamped service action is untested

first_img Andy Murray has hip surgery and aims to return before Wimbledon Rafael Nadal Share on Facebook Topics Roger Federer Novak Djokovic The first skirmishes of the season have been wreathed in angst and speculation and, three days before the start of the Australian Open, the tournament organisers are waiting nervously for unequivocal confirmation that any or each of Stan Wawrinka, Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal will play.The Swiss, in the same quarter as Djokovic (and the same half as Roger Federer), could be a 60-40 chance, the Serb is perhaps 80-20 and the Spaniard is moving cautiously towards the starting line on the other side of the draw.Talk swept Melbourne Park on Friday that Wawrinka, who has not played since having two operations on his left knee in the summer and pulled out of an exhibition match this week, is considering joining the pre-tournament casualties, Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori, as a reluctant spectator. Since you’re here… … we have a small favour to ask. 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We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Share on Twitter The 2014 champion was not spotted on site on a rainy day, cancelling a training hit, and he is said to be delaying a decision “until the last minute”. A year ago, Wawrinka’s compatriot Federer lifted his status further into the stratosphere when he won his 18th slam in Melbourne after seven months away.The latest news for Nadal (whose bad back contributed in part to his defeat by Wawrinka in the final four years ago) is more upbeat after a string of late pullouts at the end of last season as well as recently in Brisbane.He is hugely frustrated after winning two slams in 2017, beating Wawrinka to secure his La Décima at Roland Garros then the US Open against Kevin Anderson, and has endured the recurrence of his own long-term knee problems. Nadal was afforded the privilege of a practice match on Margaret Court Arena on Friday against Dominic Thiem (they shared a set apiece). Both looked in good shape and the impression is building that Nadal, who lost to Federer in last year’s final, is in the mood to go all the way this time. But this is not an era of any certainty.Djokovic, reaching for a record seventh Australian Open title but inactive since his early, pained exit from Wimbledon six months ago, has oozed contentment since arriving fresh but untested. The world No14 has been mobbed by fans and says, guardedly, he is confident of competing on level terms. Read more Share on Pinterest Share via Email Stan Wawrinka Share on WhatsApp Read more Andy Murray features Australian Open 2018 Share on LinkedIn Support The Guardian Australian Open However, it will not be the old Djokovic. The 30-year-old rubber man of tennis has radically changed his service action, shortening his backswing and his ball-toss to ease the pressure on the right elbow that laid him low last summer. Whether the revamped swing holds up under pressure even he probably does not know.A late withdrawal by any or all of them would disturb the draw even more, as Murray’s did at Flushing Meadows last September, giving chances to lucky losers eyeing the bulletins as anxiously as the tournament director, Craig Tiley.As for absent friends, the sight of Murray walking home from dinner through the streets of Melbourne with family and team members less than a week after gambling on a career-changing hip operation was at least encouraging for the former world No1.He said shortly after going under the knife at St Vincent’s hospital last week to repair his chronically painful right hip he probably would stay in Australia for the duration of the tournament but may not be on site to watch any play. Much shopping for his wife and daughters back home beckons, perhaps – or a lot of TV in his hotel bedroom.The operation was a success. Now Murray has three months or more of rehab before going back on court and then deciding if he is fit enough to re-enter the fray at Queen’s before Wimbledon.At some point in 2018 they may all share space in a tournament again. Billie Jean King leaves Australian Open organisers reeling over new controversy Share on Messenger Reuse this contentlast_img

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