Australian Open: Battle of the giants begins for Federer, Nadal and Djokovic

Andy Murray breaks down during a press conference in Melbourne on January 11 ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament. — AFP

When praised by a reporter as being the first person ever to win two Olympic tennis gold medals, Murray drily responded, "I think Venus and Serena have won about four each".

Djokovic is undoubtedly back, the 31-year-old rediscovering his mojo in winning Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018 to regain the No.1 ranking and top seeding status for the Open.

Evert, for one, likes Williams' chances despite her 16th seed, noting the tournament's quick hard courts, which will accentuate her serve (her most lethal weapon), as well as her mental freshness and improved fitness. I want to do it as long as I can and give myself the best possibilities to fight for the things really I am passionate about, and to keep doing the things that I really enjoy doing.

"The decision hasn't been made on the president", Djokovic said. I had a couple of (times) of this. I felt great. When I went to Perth I was feeling good, but you never know if it's going to translate on the court. I guess everybody can understand where he comes from.

But the 2019 Australian Open, which heralds the tennis season's start in earnest as the first of the four majors, presents one more benchmark.

"There's little things day to day that are also a struggle and it'd be nice to be able to do them without any pain", he said.

Former world number one Murray is being forced out with a hip problem and a body wracked with pain - and Federer is desperate to go out on his own terms. "He would make a fantastic ambassador not just for Scottish sport but for British sport in general".

"Tennis will come to an end for us all but the friendships will last a lifetime", tweeted tennis player Grigor Dimitrov".

"When you search for examples of "emptied the bucket to be as good as they could be" there should be a picture of Andy Murray sitting under that quote", he tweeted.

"But he has a management company, he represents athletes and we have seen him in the commentary box. It doesn't feel like it to me".

"I couldn't believe he actually played. Obviously it was something that I really wanted, a big dream of mine to win a grand slam, and it was an fantastic feeling and an incredible two weeks". For others, say, Nick Kyrgios, not so much. "I can still play to a level, not a level I'm happy playing at", he said. Because of the way the last six months of competing have gone, I could win but it's likely that I won't.

Murray said he had an option of another operation on his troublesome hip, but it was more about his quality of life after hanging up his racquet. He will be a very important loss for us, for the world of tennis, for the tour, for the fans, even for the rivals that he has been part of a great rivalry between the best players for a long time, and a great competitor.

"And I think she's fitter now".

"Last year after Australia it took a while until I won a match again, so there are always those sort of silver linings, you could say".

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