He's 36 but Roger Federer is still man to beat in Melbourne

Young and hungry: Five bright fire in Melbourne

In all fairness, they grew up not just watching, but also playing one of the most daunting generations in the history of the sport.

The six-time Open champion played his first exhibition matches in six months on Wednesday, and reported delight at his performance - and no pain from the hit-out.

"I practised with Rafa, I practised with Novak, with Berdych, with Monfils, with Dimitrov". "I have one more goal: to win a Grand Slam".

With Andre Agassi having boarded a flight to return to the Serb's coaching fray in time for his first-round clash with American Donald Young, there was a further addition to his coaching ranks late last season, the recently-retired Radek Stepanek. "That's my goal, was to come here, to practise three, four hours a day, to see how the knee can keep it".

Nadal was naturally rusty after his extended break but he looked free from his notorious knee problems and is by no means alone in heading to the Australian Open after injury troubles.

"I'll be over the moon if I can play", he said. But he said he feels good and his motivation remains strong. And Nadal has plenty of previous when it comes to injuries. It's a new situation for me. I've had the luxury of getting treated in my room at my hotel. "Throughout the tournament, I don't know how it's going to behave".

Barty enjoyed a career-best season as she claimed the 2017 Newcombe Medal as Australian tennis' best-performed player. I think I really, really learned a lot from it.

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Both players then ended the year ranked one and two by the ATP. At 22, I felt the same.

He is also feeling as confident as he can given how little match play he has had in the build up to the tournament.

What this age-bracket driven slicing and dicing made me achieve was a measure of just how good each of men's singles tennis" last 10 generations have been, and a rather unfortunate "outlier': The generation of men's tennis that history will most likely forget! Which should strike a chord of fear into the hearts of the tournament organisers.

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 US Open title, looming as threats before the quarter-finals.

"And it's good to see Ajla (Tomjlanovic) back, especially after the shoulder surgery, coming back, playing at the highest level again".

Djokovic, with his 12 Grand Slam titles, his record-tying six Australian Open titles and his 223 weeks at No. 1 (fifth-most in the game's history), has spent 18 months as a mystery.

Roger Federer is no stranger to performing superhuman feats on the tennis court so it wasn't a surprise when he and Milos Raonic were joined by a couple of superheroes during "Kids Day" ahead of the Australian Open.

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