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Australian Open starts today

Alcaraz aims to end Djokovic reign, Sabalenka’s eyes on title defend


By AFP
Published : 13 Jan 2024 09:29 PM
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Carlos Alcaraz says the challenge of toppling 10-time champion Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open gives him “extra motivation” as he aims to end the Serbian’s long reign in Melbourne.

The Spanish world number two missed the Grand Slam last year with a leg injury but is seeded to meet Djokovic in the final in Melbourne.

The pair have met five times -- all in semi-finals or finals -- with the veteran leading 3-2.

Djokovic, 36, is unbeaten at the year's opening major since 2018 but Alcaraz, who came out on top in a thrilling Wimbledon final last year, said that only increased his desire to win.

“It’s an extra motivation for me," the two-time Grand Slam champion said on Saturday. “I’m an ambitious guy.

“I always want to play against the best players in the world to see what my level is. Obviously it's a good test, playing against him in the places or in the tournament that he's almost unbeaten.

Alcaraz is aiming to become just the fourth man to win three majors before turning 21 after Rafael Nadal, Bjorn Borg and Mats Wilander.

The 20-year-old chose not play a warm-up tournament before the Australian Open, which starts on Sunday, saying he had to recharge his body and mind.

“We have no time if I wanted to play a tournament before the Australian Open. In the end we preferred to come here to the Australian Open, straight to a Grand Slam. I think I'm a guy who doesn't need so much competition before a big tournament.”

Agencies add 

Last week in Brisbane, Aryna Sabalenka was asked about defending her title at the Australian Open.

“Just having this kind of thought in the background of your mind, ‘I actually have title to defend,’ makes it actually not easy,” she said. “Especially with the Grand Slams, it can get super emotional.

“But I think I did a great job in the preseason, and I think I’m ready to do it.”

The last one to do it was Victoria Azarenka, in 2012-13. Sabalenka looked terrific beating Azarenka in the Brisbane semifinals, but that was before she was scalded 6-0, 6-3 by Elena Rybakina in the final.

Sabalenka’s first-round match against qualifier Ella Seidel is Sunday night in Rod Laver Arena. They have never played.