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Australian Open: Nadal & Federer eye Melbourne battle

Australian Open, Melbourne
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 17-30 January
Coverage: Watch on BBC TV, Red Button, BBC Sport website (UK only) & Eurosport; listen on BBC 5 live sports extra and online; text commentary online; full details

Nadal and Federer played a recent charity match together
Nadal and Federer are tipped to meet in the Melbourne final

Reigning champion Roger Federer stands in the way of Rafael Nadal's bid to win his fourth successive Grand Slam event, as the Australian Open gets under way.

"Roger and Rafa are the two guys that have played the best tennis in the Slams the last few years," said Britain's Andy Murray, the fifth seed.

"They'd be the favourites but I think there are a lot of guys that can win against them if they play."

World number one Caroline Wozniacki is top seed in the women's tournament.

But the majority of the pre-event publicity has focused on the men, with Federer , who is targeting a 17th Grand Slam, saying Nadal's success in the last three majors could see him become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slams at the same time.

Nadal said: "It is very difficult to have one player winning everything.

"I feel less of a favourite than Federer and [equal to] Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Robin Soderling."

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Federer, who starts the defence of his title against Slovakia's Lukas Lacko on Monday, said of Nadal: "He's been dominating the Slams. That makes him favourite.

"He's been playing incredible. He had an incredible run through the French Open, Wimbledon, US Open. It was incredible to see."

Federer, who beat Murray in last year's final, is aiming for a fifth title in Melbourne, but could end the fortnight without having a Grand Slam title in his possession for the first time since 2003.

Nadal won his only previous Australian Open in 2009, defeating Federer in an emotionally charged final.

However, he has been struggling with a virus in recent weeks and after losing heavily to Nikolay Davydenko in the semi-final of the Qatar Open, he has been keen to play down his chances.

"It's very, very difficult. Tennis is a very competitive sport and there is not a lot of difference between players," he stated.

Nadal and Federer rally on water

Nadal's first match in Melbourne is against Brazil's Marcos Daniel on Tuesday and he would not meet Federer until the final.

"If I play at my best level, I can have a chance to be in the second week, and there we will see what happens," he said. "Every match will be really difficult, so I have to be ready for everything.

The 24-year-old admitted he had not fully shaken off the virus that hampered his progress in Doha.

"I'm feeling better. I think not perfect yet," he said. "But the truth is I'm better than few days ago. So that's very positive."

Any perceived weakness in the top two seeds will be seized upon by the pretenders to the Australian Open crown.

Meanwhile Murray, who plays Karol Beck in his opening match on Tuesday, concedes it would be a major triumph for Nadal to hold all four Grand Slam titles.

"It's one of the best achievements in sport. And I really hope he doesn't do it," Murray smiled.

I am a good player, I won six tournaments last year, I don't have to prove anything

Women's world number one Caroline Wozniacki

Federer, should he win his opening match, could face Gilles Simon, the winner of the Sydney International on Saturday, in the second round if the Frenchman sees off Lu Yen-Hsun.

World number three Djokovic, the 2008 champion, will take on Spain's Marcel Granollers in the second and final night match on Rod Laver Arena.

The Serb will take to the court after Belgian number 21 seed Yanina Wickmayer kicks off the night session at 0600 GMT on Monday against Australia's Jarmila Groth.

Gael Monfils, the 12th seeded Frenchman, gets play under way on the Hisense Arena at midnight on Sunday (UK time) against Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker.

He hopes to have recovered fully from a back injury he picked up in losing the Kooyong Classic title to Lleyton Hewitt on Saturday.

Former champion Maria Sharapova, seeded 14th, opens the action on Rod Laver Arena at midnight UK time on Sunday, when she takes on Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn.

Wozniacki, , who has yet to win a Grand Slam, opens her campaign against Argentina's Gisela Dulko in the second match on the main court.

The Dane has insisted she is not feeling the pressure of being favourite to lift the trophy in the absence of defending champion Serena Williams.

"You don't become number one by winning small tournaments or getting bad results," said the 20-year-old.

"I am a good player, I won six tournaments last year, I don't have to prove anything."

Her biggest challengers are expected to be second seed Vera Zvonareva, Belgian duo Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin and Serena's older sister Venus.

Venus Williams and Henin, last year's runner-up, are both in action on the Hisense Arena on Monday.

Elena Baltacha, Britain's number one, is last in action on Court 10 against qualifier Jamie Hampton of America with the winner likely to meet seven-time major winner Henin.

British number two Anne Keothavong, ranked 118th, made it through three qualifying matches and will play Russia's Arina Rodionova in her second Melbourne Park appearance on Monday.

Roger Federer

Highlights - Federer triumphs at Aussie Open



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see also
Men's singles draw
26 Aug 11 |  Tennis
Women's singles draw
28 Jan 10 |  Tennis
Mental strength gives Murray hope
17 Jan 11 |  Tennis
Keothavong nears Aussie Open spot
15 Jan 11 |  Tennis
Elena Baltacha column
16 Jan 11 |  Tennis
Federer 'can win 20 Grand Slams'
12 Jan 11 |  Tennis
Sport rallies round flood victims
13 Jan 11 |  Sport Homepage
Federer eases to title in Qatar
08 Jan 11 |  Tennis
Ailing Nadal loses to Davydenko
07 Jan 11 |  Tennis
Nadal beats Federer in Abu Dhabi
01 Jan 11 |  Tennis
Nadal win seals career Grand Slam
14 Sep 10 |  Tennis


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