Australian Open '18: Can Federer-Nadal revive vintage final?

Men to watch at the Australian Open, where play begins Monday:

RAFAEL NADAL

Seeded: 1

Age: 31

Country: Spain

2017 Match Record: 66-11

2017 Singles Titles: 6

Career Singles Titles: 75

Major Titles: 16 — Australian Open ('09), French Open ('05, '06, '07, '08, '10, '11, '12, '13, '14, '17), Wimbledon ('08, '10), U.S. Open ('10, '13, '17).

Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-Lost in Final, '16-1st Round, '15-Quarterfinals, '14-Final, '13-Did Not Play.

Topspin: Returned from lengthy injury layoffs last year to reach the Australian Open final, seeded ninth, and renewed his vintage rivalry with Roger Federer, who won in five sets. ... Went on to win his 10th French Open title — becoming the third man to win majors in teens, 20s and 30s — and the U.S. Open. ... Finished 2017 atop the rankings, becoming the oldest year-end No. 1 in the history of ATP rankings. ... His preparation has been hampered by a right knee injury that has restricted him to two exhibition events at the start of the season. ... Until his shocking 1st-round loss to Fernando Verdasco in 2016, had reached the quarterfinals or better at every Australian Open he had contested since 2007.

ROGER FEDERER

Seeded: 2

Age: 36

Country: Switzerland

2017 Match Record: 52-5

2017 Singles Titles: 7

Career Singles Titles: 95

Major Titles: 19 — Australian Open ('04, '06, '07, '10, '17), French Open ('09), Wimbledon ('03, '04, '05, '06, '07, '09, '12, '17), U.S. Open ('04, '05, '06, '07, '08).

Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-Won Championship, '16-Semfinals, '15-3rd, '14-SF, '13-SF.

Topspin: Taking the last half of the 2016 season off to let his surgically repaired left knee heal did the trick for him last year, which he kicked off by winning his fifth Australian title and ending a long sequence of defeats in Grand Slam finals against Nadal. ... After skipping the French, won Wimbledon for a record 8th time and become the second-oldest major winner in the Open era behind Ken Rosewall. ... With the exception of a 3rd-round exit in 2015, has reached the semifinals or better at Melbourne Park every year since 2004. ... Warmed up by combining with Belinda Bencic to win the Hopman Cup international mixed teams tournament for Switzerland.

GRIGOR DIMITROV

Seeded: 3

Age: 26

2017 Match Record: 49-19

2017 Singles Titles: 4

Career Singles Titles: 8

Major Titles: 0 — Best: SF, Australian Open ('17) and Wimbledon ('14).

Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-SF, '16-3rd, '15-4th, '14-QF, '13-1st

Topspin: Coming of his best season to date, when he finished at a career-high No. 3 and went 5-0 to win the season-ending ATP Finals. ... In 2017, started the year by winning the Brisbane International title and then making a career-best run to the semifinals at the Australian Open, where he lost in 5 sets and almost 5 hours to Nadal. ... Failed to defend his Brisbane title last week when he lost to eventual champion Nick Kyrgios in the semifinals, but he appeared to be relaxed and confident and produced one of the highlights of the tournament by leaping over the net to help injured opponent Kyle Edmund in the quarterfinals.

ALEXANDER ZVEREV

Seeded: 4

Age: 20

Country: Germany

2017 Match Record: 55-22

2017 Singles Titles: 5

Career Singles Titles: 6

Major Titles: 0 — Best: 4th, Wimbledon ('17)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-3rd, '16-1st, '15-DNP, '14-DNP, '13-DNP

Topspin: Finished behind only Federer and Nadal for most titles in 2017 in a season that earmarked him for bigger things to come. .... Produced the biggest victory of his career to beat Djokovic en route to his first ATP Masters title at Rome. ... Beat Federer in the final of the Masters tournament in Montreal. ... Reached a career-high No. 3 ranking in November, becoming the youngest players since Djokovic in 2007 to break into the Top 3. ... For all his success at Masters level, still hasn't made a run to the quarterfinals of a major. .... Helped Germany reach final of Hopman Cup in Perth, but was no match for Federer in the final after winning a tight first set.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC

Seeded: 14

Age: 30

Country: Serbia

2017 Match Record: 32-8

2017 Singles Titles: 2

Career Singles Titles: 68

Major Titles: 12 — Australian Open ('08, '11, '12, '13, '15, '16), French Open ('16), Wimbledon ('11, '14, '15), U.S. Open ('11, '15).

Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-2nd, '16-W, '15-W, '14-QF, '13-W.

Topspin: Shares the record for most Australian titles with six but was a doubtful starter after an extended break from the tour dating back to quarterfinal exit at Wimbledon because of a right elbow injury. ... His year-end ranking slid from No. 2 in 2016 to No. 12 last year after his layoff. ... Plans to confirm one way or the other after considering his form in exhibition matches in Melbourne (He beat Dominic Thiem 6-1, 6-4 in an exhibition at Kooyong on Wednesday) ... Excels on the hard courts at the Australian Open, where he is aiming to be the first man to win seven singles crowns and break a tie with Roy Emerson, who won his home title in 1961 and from 1963-67. ... Prior to a shocking 2nd-round loss in 5 sets last year to wildcard entry Denis Istomin, was on a 40-1 record and five titles in the previous six years at Melbourne Park.

NICK KYRGIOS

Seeded: 17

Age: 22

Country: Australia

2017 Match Record: 31-17

2017 Singles Titles: 0

Career Singles Titles: 4

Major Titles: 0 — Best: QF, Australian Open ('15), Wimbledon ('14)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '17-2nd, '16-3rd, '15-QF, '14-2nd, '13-DNP

Topspin: Has enormous potential but occasional lapses in motivation. ... Is the only active player to have won his first career meetings against Nadal, Federer and Djokovic — establishing his credentials when he beat Nadal to reach the 2014 Wimbledon quarterfinals as a 19-year-old wildcard entry ranked No. 144. ... Started 2018 in a positive frame of mind, beating defending champion Dimitrov in the semifinals on the way to winning the Brisbane International, his first title on home soil and first anywhere since 2016. ... Had some issues with his left knee, which needed taping in Brisbane, but doesn't expect it to bother him in Melbourne. ... Australia hasn't had a homegrown men's champion since in the national championship since 1976, so Kyrgios should have the crowd on his side.


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