Novak Djokovic shuns cameras in Melbourne hit-out

The triple grand slam champion has been practising in Melbourne for a week and will ramp up his Open preparation in a first-to-10 points clash with Austrian Dominic Thiem on Margaret Court Arena tonight. "I don't like usually going to draws because they freak me out".

Wawrinka, 32, won the Open crown in 2014 and came close again previous year, falling in a five-set semi-final epic to Swiss compatriot Roger Federer.

"I'll be over the moon if I can play, which I'm planning to".

In a statement on Snapchat, she wrote: "After performing in my first match after giving birth I realised that although I am super close I'm not where I personally want to be".

Venus will open against Belinda Bencic, a tough go for her first matchup.

Danger lurks at nearly every corner, with former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic and a resurgent Juan Martin Del Potro, the man who beat Federer for the 2009 U.S. Open title, looming as threats before the quarter-finals.

It was a blast from the past when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal took centre stage at the Australian Open previous year.

Federer is now favourite for the 2018 event in Melbourne, with former world No 1 Andy Murray pulling out with a hip injury and six-time champion Djokovic struggling with an elbow problem. Former victor Stan Wawrinka, who hasn't played since Wimbledon but said he has recovered sufficiently from a knee injury, is seeded at nine.

Federer though is heading into the season's first Grand Slam with a lot of confidence after leading Switzerland to season-opening Hopman Cup earlier this year.

The Serena Williams pregnancy story is already wonderful - but if the 23-time grand slam winner's 2018 plays out as hoped, the story is going to be completely remarkable.

"It's not always the best when you are an athlete so I'm looking forward to it, enjoying the crowd".

Organizers defended the decision to invite Sharapova to appear as the representative for the women's draw, with tournament director Craig Tiley saying the sanction was over and the 30-year-old Russian was there as a former champion. His poor performances explain why he is only third favourite to win a tournament that he has dominated.

"The drive, I still have it. Because obviously I'm playing well under pressure and in pressure situations", said Kyrgios, whose talent has often been undermined by petulant outbursts.

"I'm not 100 per cent fit physically yet but that's normal".

Vanessa Coleman