Novak Djokovic has learned his fate in the Australian Open draw and now it has been confirmed when he will play his first match.
The 10-time champion in Melbourne will start the defence of his title against a qualifier, with five-time Australian Open runner-up Andy Murray a potential opponent in the third round.
As the top seed, Djokovic finds himself in the top section of the draw and of the draw and should he get past the qualifier then he will face the winner of the all-Australian clash between Alexei Popyrin and Marc Polmans in the second round.
There could be a rematch of the US Open semi-final as early as the fourth round as Djokovic is projected to meet 16th seed Ben Shelton, with Jannik Sinner a possible opponent in what would be a blockbuster semi-final.
Now it has been confirmed that Djokovic will be among the players making history this Sunday, as he will play his opening match on the first day of a revamped Australian Open.
Former top ten player Barbara Schett has told Tennis365 that Djokovic’s reign as Australian Open champion will be threatened this year, with the prospect of a last four meeting with Sinner set to test his defiance to remain invincible at the age of 36.
Sinner beat Djokovic at the ATP Finals and the Davis Cup Finals in November and Schett believes a rematch in Melbourne will be a blockbuster clash.
“Sinner has taken a step forward in his career and his tennis in the way he finished the year,” Schett told us as she prepares to join the Eurosport and discovery+ team for the Australian Open.
“The way he played at the ATP Finals was just phenomenal.
“I think he has gradually improved. He didn’t burst onto the scene like Alcaraz and just needed a bit more time, but I feel he will get that improvement with a bit more time.
“It is almost like a home Slam for Jannik with Darren Cahill, an Australian, in his camp and I think he can benefit from that. He can beat anyone on his day.
“This could be the year for Jannik Sinner, but the question is can he win over five sets, for two weeks in seven matches? I think he is ready for it.
“With Carlos Alcaraz, we know what he is capable of. He has already won Wimbledon and the US Open, but he is still so young.
“He hasn’t played in Australia so much, but I don’t think it is a problem for him not having so many matches because I feel it is all about scheduling for him and not playing too much. He can beat anyone.”
Action has traditionally started on Monday in Melbourne, but tournament officials have opted to start a day earlier this year, after claiming they are keen to avoid the early morning finishes to matches that were a feature of last year’s tournament.
Cynics may be more inclined to think the extra day on the schedule is a commercial decision that will increase revenue, but it will allow players who are starting on Sunday to have extra rest time if they enjoy a deep run in the tournament.
Djokovic can be confident of enjoying the benefits of the early start, assuming the arm injury that affected him in his defeat against Alex de Minaur at the United Cup earlier this month.
The 24-time Grand Slam champion appeared to be pain-free when he took part in a charity event that raised money for Australian charities on Thursday at Rod Laver Arena.
With Djokovic in a jovial mood, he tried to play wheelchair tennis and took part in fun games with high-profile sports stars including cricketer Steve Smith.