Edmund, Konta & Watson carry British hopes in Melbourne


Kyle Edmund has been struggling with an ankle suffered at the Brisbane International tournament earlier this month
2018 Australian Open
Dates: 15-28 January Venue: Melbourne Park
Coverage: Watch highlights on BBC Two, the BBC Sport website and app. Live commentary on the best matches on BBC Radio 5 live, 5 live sports extra and online.

Kyle Edmund will carry British hopes when the Australian Open starts on Monday, with most of the leading names lining up for 2018’s first Grand Slam despite a number of injury doubts.

Edmund himself has had an ankle problem but says he is fully fit to take on 11th seed Kevin Anderson at 00:00 GMT.

Ninth seed Johanna Konta begins against American Madison Brengle on day two.

Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka have all declared themselves fit after ending 2017 with injuries.

However, British number one Andy Murray is absent after having hip surgery last week and American defending champion Serena Williams is not yet ready to compete just four months after giving birth.

At 36, Roger Federer remains the favourite to land a 20th Grand Slam title in the men’s draw, while world number one Simona Halep, second seed Caroline Wozniacki and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza are just some of the names expected to contend for the women’s title.

Hopes of a first home singles champion for 30 years are on the rise thanks to the encouraging form of men’s 17th seed Nick Kyrgios and Ashleigh Barty, who is seeded 18th in the women’s draw.

“It was nice to do well last week and get a few matches under my belt,” said Barty, who reached the Sydney International final on Saturday.

“This is the best time of the year for all Aussies. I’m just really excited to get under way.”

British hopes hit by Murray absence

Andy Murray posted a picture of himself in hospital with coach Jamie Delgado at his bedside

With Murray injured, Dan Evans serving a doping ban and Aljaz Bedene having reverted to Slovenian nationality, Edmund is the only British man in the singles draw.

“My approach doesn’t change because I’m the only British guy in the draw,” said the 23-year-old, ranked 49th.

“It’s more of a shame than anything that Andy isn’t playing. I don’t really think any differently, it’s just the reality. I can just go on the court and play my tennis, that’s all.”

Edmund showed good form in Brisbane at the start of the month, before losing to world number three Grigor Dimitrov, and the ankle issue he picked up along the way has since settled down.

He will face a tough test against Anderson, who reached the US Open final last September and has started 2018 strongly.

The 6ft 8in South African won their only previous encounter, a gruelling five-setter on the French Open clay last year.

“Eight months on, I’d like to say I’m a bit more experienced and hopefully I can learn from that and do better,” said Edmund.

“My serve’s improved and putting some more balls into play on the return is definitely going to be good for me against Kevin.”

Konta and Heather Watson complete the British contingent in singles, with both women scheduled to play their first-round matches on Tuesday.

Naomi Broady fell in the final round of qualifying against Bibiane Schoofs of the Netherlands on Saturday.

Jamie Murray and Brazilian partner Bruno Soares have begun the season encouragingly and the Briton has high hopes of repeating his 2016 triumph in Melbourne.

Slow start to 2018 could benefit Nadal

Rafael Nadal (left) lost to Roger Federer in last year’s final

Nadal and Wozniacki are the highest seeds in action on day one, with men’s number one Nadal up against Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic and women’s second seed Wozniacki taking on Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu.

Nadal will play his first match of the season when he opens the night session at 08:00, after choosing not to play a warm-up event as he nursed his knee back to health.

“We decided to start later because we needed some more practice – start slow, to be fresher, a little bit more fresh mentally and physically – and do things the right way,” said the 31-year-old Spaniard.

Wozniacki, 27, heads into her 43rd Grand Slam still looking for a first major title, but finally back among the contenders following an impressive 2017 season.

The Dane brushed aside any suggestion that the quest for a Grand Slam victory brings more pressure as each year passes.

“I don’t put more, I don’t put less pressure,” she said.

“It’s just the same. It’s a new tournament, a new year. I’m healthy. I have the opportunity to play here. I’m just going to enjoy that, see where it takes me.”

Kyrgios will capture much of the local attention as he takes on Brazilian Rogerio Dutra Silva on Hisense Arena at 07:45.

The 22-year-old from Canberra raised expectations around him further by winning the warm-up event in Brisbane.

“I feel for me there’s pressure wherever I go,” said Kyrgios.

“I’m expected to win a lot of matches. No matter if I’m here, Wimbledon, US Open, it’s the same for me.”

Rusedski’s predictions: Who will win the Australian Open?
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