Melbourne - World number one Rafael Nadal finally kickstarts
his 2018 season on Monday as he guns for a 17th Grand Slam title at the
Australian Open, while Caroline Wozniacki spearheads the charge among the
The Spaniard insists he is feeling fine and ready to go deep
at an event that he has only won once -- in 2009 - among his string of major
This is despite a chequered lead-up with a niggling knee
injury preventing him playing a warm-up tournament for the first time ever
ahead of the opening Grand Slam of the year.
"It's a new situation for me. But I feel good,"
said the 31-year-old, who first played at Melbourne Park in 2004.
"I feel that I had a good week-and-a-half of practices.
I really hope to be ready."
Nadal, who faces the Dominican Republic's Victor Estrella
Burgos in a night match on Rod Laver Arena, lost an epic Australian Open final
last year to Roger Federer, who gets his campaign underway on Tuesday.
Fellow multiple Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic, seeded 14,
also starts on Tuesday, along with former world number one Maria Sharapova.
Tempestuous Australian Nick Kyrgios is also in action on
Monday, buoyed by winning the lead-up Brisbane International in front of his
He has the late match on Hisense Arena, against Brazil's
Rogerio Dutra Silva.
Third seed Grigor Dimitrov and American eighth seed Jack
Sock are also due on court with Melbourne's notoriously fickle weather set to
dish up a cool and cloudy day with the chance of showers.
Temperatures are forecast to jump to 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit)
later in the week.
Denmark's Wozniacki, riding high in the rankings again at
world number two, starts her quest for a maiden Grand Slam title against
Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu on Margaret Court Arena.
"I think I've improved everything," she said on
"I'm healthy. I have the opportunity to play here. I'm
just going to enjoy that, see where it takes me."
French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko is aiming for a second
major title, but her form has slumped this year and she faces a tough battle
with veteran Italian Francesca Schiavone first up.
Last year's finalist and fifth seed Venus Williams also has
a tricky first round encounter Monday against Belinda Bencic, who is fresh from
winning the Hopman Cup with Swiss team-mate Federer.
Williams' sister Serena, the defending champion, has pulled
out of the tournament after giving birth to her first child.
US Open champion Sloane Stephens takes on China's Zhang
Shuai while American big-hitter CoCo Vandeweghe, a semi-finalist last year at
Melbourne Park and Flushing Meadow, opens her account against Hungary's Timea
Top seed Simona Halep plays on Tuesday.