That might seem like what Novak Djokovic is indicating in the picture above, but in fact he was just joking with photographers who were allowed into a closed-roof Rod Laver Arena to watch him practice with Stan Wawrinka on Thursday afternoon.

Still, there’s no doubt the men’s top seed is the overwhelming favourite – even more so than women’s No. 1 Serena Williams – to emerge as champion and win his sixth Australian Open title.


On Friday the two defending champions arrived for the draw ceremony and posed for a photo with some of the 380 ballkids working at this year’s event.

The 2016 draws are fairly balanced on the men’s and women’s sides – although Maria Sharapova slipping to No. 5 in this week’s rankings and drawing a potential quarter-final against Williams is not exactly what the 28-year Russian would have hoped for – especially because that match-up was the final a year ago.

Williams, who insisted she is fit after a knee problem forced her to withdraw from Hopman Cup last week, starts off against the free-swinging Camila Giorgi. Genie Bouchard defeated the 24-year-old Italian 6-3, 6-2 in the Hobart quarter-finals on Thursday.

Djokovic’s starter test is Hyeon Chung, a promising 19-year-old from Korea who is the only male player besides Hyung-Taik Lee from his country to reach the Top 100.

Most notable on the men’s side, Djokovic could face third-seeded Roger Federer in the semifinals while No. 2 seed Andy Murray would be up against No. 4 Stan Wawrinka should everything proceed according to form into the final four.

Fifth-seeded Rafael Nadal, the most dangerous of the No. 5 to No. 8 group of seeds, came out in No. 4 Wawrinka’s quarter – much to the liking of No. 1 Djokovic and No. 2 Andy Murray, but probably most of No. 3 Federer.


Above is a shot of Wawrinka and Djokovic talking during a break in practice on Thursday.

Milos Raonic, seeded No. 14, is also in the Wawrinka-Nadal quarter and will start off against No. 73-ranked Lucas Pouille. Just last week in his quarter-final match in Brisbane, Raonic defeated the 21-year-old Frenchman 6-4, 6-4. In the second round Raonic would face either Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo or Malek Jaziri of Tunisia. No. 21 seed Victor Troicki is his potential third-round opponent before things get much more serious with Wawrinka in the round-of-16 and then possibly Nadal in the quarter-finals.


Following his victory at the Brisbane International last weekend, beating Federer in the final, Raonic has been relaxed in practice at Melbourne Park. On Wednesday, he attempted a playful between-the-legs shot (above) while working out in Rod Laver Arena.

The second Canadian in the main draw, Vasek Pospisil, will face No. 14 seed Gilles Simon of France in the first round. Pospisil, currently ranked No. 39, beat Simon in Cincinnati in 2013 by the score of 6-3, 1-0 RET – but it may be difficult to infer very much from that result.

Simon has been struggling with a shoulder issue since September, which affects his serve, but otherwise he is reported to be in good form. Pospisil, who reached the third round at Melbourne Park in 2015, won a round in Auckland this week, defeating Ivo Karlovic before bowing out to his doubles partner Jack Sock.


Looking at the only Canadian in the women’s draw, Genie Bouchard, she will take on Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia in the first round. Krunic, 22 and ranked No. 121, is best known for her upset of reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova at the 2014 US Open. Only 5-foot-4, the diminutive Krunic and Bouchard will be meeting for the first time.

Should Bouchard prevail, she would likely face a tough test against No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round. In their only previous meeting, on clay in Madrid in 2014, Radwanska beat Bouchard 7-6(3), 6-2.

The 26-year-old Pole won the WTA event in Shenzhen, China, last week before pulling out of this week’s Sydney tournament. But word is that she is not really injured or ill, she just preferred a week off to make sure she was fit for the Australian Open.

If Bouchard reaches the third round, things would likely get easier against either No. 25 seed Samantha Stosur and then probably No. 13 seed Roberta Vinci or No. 24 Sloane Stephens in the round-of-16.

It was also announced that the top half of both men and women will play on Monday, meaning that Bouchard and Pospisil play that day, while Raonic’s first match will be Tuesday.  

Carlos and Milos


The new coaching association between Milos Raonic and Carlos Moya made its Grand Slam debut on Thursday as the 39-year-old Spaniard arrived in Melbourne.

Moya, the 1998 French Open champion and a former world No. 1, has some coaching experience and was the Spanish Davis Cup captain in 2013 and is obviously very familiar with the game. He is also a frequent competitor at various senior tour events.

Raonic and Moya got to know each other better while Raonic was playing the International Premier Tennis League in December for the Singapore Slammers.

In the above picture Moya is talking to Raonic while coach Riccardo Piatti stands on the right.


It was interesting to watch their first session on Court 17. It has obviously been designed as a space where fans can observe players hitting. Against all common practice in tennis, there’s a see-through wall at the back of the court. Above, Moya is hitting a forehand to Raonic positioned at the far end.

There’s some skepticism about the Moya-Raonic relationship because their gamestyles are so different. But Raonic did spend several formative years in Spain with former coach Galo Blanco and is well-acquainted with the tennis mentality in that country.  

Canadians in Aussie Open qualifying


It was not Canada’s year in the qualifying for the 2016 Australian Open – four players entered and four players exited after the first round.

Frank Dancevic (above) started well in his match with Bjorn Fratangelo of the U.S. He led 4-2 in the opening set but then the 22-year-old American broke back on a Dancevic double fault to level at 4-4.

Having played aggressive tennis to that point marked by successful trips to the net, Dancevic became increasingly passive. The set went to a tiebreak and Fratangelo’s mini-break to 4-2 proved to be decisive and he won it 7-5.

On a day when the thermometer in Melbourne reached 42 degrees Celsius, Dancevic, who famously passed out in the heat in a first-round match against Benoit Paire two years ago at Melbourne Park, was not in a good position after dropping the first set. The chances for a comeback were slim and didn’t materialize – final score 7-6(5), 6-1 for Fratangelo.


Peter Polansky, playing in his seventh Australian Open qualifying – he qualified in 2009 and three times lost in the final round – definitely had his chances against James Ward of Britain. Trailing 5-1 in the opening set, Polansky rallied to 5-all and there looked like he had a possibility of winning by retirement when Ward took an injury timeout leading 6-5. He lay flat on the court for treatment and looked decidedly uncomfortable when he got up.

In the tiebreak that eventually followed, Polansky had two set points leading 6-4 but lost four points in a row, ending with a double fault. The second set was competitive but Ward broke to 4-3 and eventually served out the match to prevail 7-6(6), 6-4.

If Polansky had converted either set point in the opening set, it’s hard to imagine the dispirited Ward would have been in any frame of mind to battle back. 


Aleksandra Wozniak is still finding her way after right shoulder surgery in September 2014. This year’s Australian Open qualifying was only her sixth event in the past 16 months. The rust showed as she was beaten in the first round on Thursday – 6-3, 6-1 by Kristina Kucova, a 25-year-old Slovak ranked No. 144.

Consistency was a major problem for the 28-year-old Wozniak, who hopefully will find her game before long because she could be one of the singles players when Canada faces Belarus in a World Group II Fed Cup opening round in Quebec City February 6-7.

Wozniak, who ranked as high as No. 21 in 2009, is currently No. 854. She has an injury-protected ranking that she can use for entry to tournaments until next August.


Lack of match play was also a problem for Heidi El Tabakh. She suffered an Achilles injury in November that interrupted her training. She had really only been playing pain-free for a few days when she decided to make the trip to Melbourne for the Aussie Open qualifying.

El Tabakh served for the opening set at 5-4 against 19-year-old Elise Mertens of Belgium but wound up losing it 7-5 with some tentative hitting.

Matters didn’t improve in the second set as Mertens stepped up her game and El Tabakh’s vulnerability was exposed by the world No. 164.  

Making it to the show

Young Frenchman Maxime Janvier is playing his first Grand Slam qualifying via an exchange wild card from Tennis Australia. The thrill and excitement of it all for the 19-year-old is pretty obvious in this Tweet from Wednesday.