The 2018 Australian Open starting on Monday is the 106th edition of the Australian Open of all-time and 50th edition of the tournament in the Open Era and will take place between January 15-24.
The tournament will be played on hard courts over a series of 25 courts, including the three main show courts: Rod Laver Arena, Hisense Arena and Margaret Court Arena and equipped with retractable roofs due to extreme weather.
This year, the total prize money for the Australian Open was increased by 10% to a tournament record A$55,000,000 (£31,853,862.86) which means the winners of the two singles events will take home A$4,000,000 (£2,316,168.78) with the losing finalists getting A$2,000,000 (£1,157,987.23).
Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori
Serena Williams, Victoria Azerenka, Timea Bacsinszky and Svetlana Kuznetsova
Why some big names are sitting out:
Serena Williams and Andy Murray are two of the biggest stars in the sport that will not be competing in this year’s Australian Open. Williams who won the title last year when seven weeks pregnant and gave birth to her daughter in September, felt she was not ready to return to the Tour after a long absence. She pulled out of the tournament 24 hours after Andy Murray bowed out to return to the UK and seek for medical help on his injured right hip.
Murray pulled out of the Australian Open to fully focus on recovering from an ongoing hip injury.The three-time Grand Slam champion has not played a competitive match since Wimbledon and pulled out of the warm-up tournament in Brisbane earlier this month.
World number 22 Kei Nishikori announced his decision to withdraw from this month’s Australian Open to continue his rehabilitation following long-term injury.The Japanese player suffered a wrist problem last summer, which included a torn tendon, ruling him out of the second half of 2017. He was hoping to be back in time for the first grand slam of the year, but has decided he is not yet prepared for the rigours of five-set matches.
Azarenka, who won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, has been involved in a custody dispute involving her son Leo, who was born in 2016. She hasn’t competed anywhere since Wimbledon, where she lost in the fourth round on July 10, 2017. The two Grand Slam winner played only six matches in 2017.
Without these notable names this year, Roger Federer still faces tough competition from Rafael Nadal who flew to Australia under an injury and has still not played a competitive match since withdrawing from the ATP World Tour Finals in November because of a knee injury.
Nadal will look forward to avenging his defeat in the final last year. Also Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka whose return after a six month lay-off could mark a great account in the tournament. Both men waited until less than 48 hours before the opening matches on Monday to confirm their participation. They admitted it will take a while before they are back playing at their best.
The door for a Grand Slam title could be opened for home grown talent, Nick Kyrgios after admitting he needs to be level-headed and matured during the tournament. The Australian is known for his bad-boy nature with lots of controversies.
In the women’s tournament, Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe are all coming off strong performances at the U.S. Open and might want to build on their success in New York. On the other hand, Angelique Kerber and Maria Sharapova who are the only two women in the draw to have won an Australian Open title could steal the show in Melbourne.
British hope Johanna Konta, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki all have a chance to claim their first ever Grand Slam title while Venus Williams who lost last year’s final to her sister Serena, could finally get hold of the trophy that has eluded her.