AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2021: Nadal seeks men’s-record 21st major

Men to watch at the Australian Open:

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NOVAK DJOKOVIC

Ranked: 1

Country: Serbia

Age: 33

2020 Match Record: 41-5

2020 Singles Titles: 4

Career Singles Titles: 81

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 17 — Australian Open (8: 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020), French Open (1: 2016), Wimbledon (5: 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019), U.S. Open (3: 2011, 2015, 2018)

Last 5 Australian Opens: 2020-Won Championship, 2019-Won Championship, 2018-Lost in 4th Round, 2017-Lost in 2nd Round, 2016-Won Championship

Aces: Resumes bid for Grand Slam title No. 18 — and record-extending ninth at Melbourne Park, third in a row — after losing to Rafael Nadal in the final of the French Open in October and being defaulted at the U.S. Open for accidentally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball swatted in anger while walking to the sideline. … Assured of tying Roger Federer’s record for total weeks atop ATP rankings on March 1, no matter what happens in Australian Open.

Matchup to Watch For: Could face 2019 quarterfinalist Frances Tiafoe in the second round.

Words: “The more you win, obviously, on the court, the more confident you feel coming back to it.” — Djokovic, discussing his success at Rod Laver Arena

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RAFAEL NADAL

Ranked: 2

Country: Spain

Age: 34

2020 Match Record: 27-7

2020 Singles Titles: 2

Career Singles Titles: 86

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 20 — Australian Open (1: 2009), French Open (13: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020), Wimbledon (2: 2008, 2010), U.S. Open (4: 2010, 2013, 2017, 2019)

Last 5 Australian Opens: 2020-QF, 2019-Runner-Up, 2018-QF, 2017-Runner-Up, 2016-1st

Aces: Seeking men’s record 21st Grand Slam singles title after tying Federer’s mark of 20 by winning a 13th trophy at Roland Garros in October. … Sat out opening match of ATP Cup, citing a sore lower back. … Member of ATP Top 10 since April 2005, breaking Jimmy Connors’ record with more than 800 weeks in that group.

Matchup to Watch For: Could face combustible Fabio Fognini, the 16th seed, or speedy Alex de Minaur, the 21st seed, in the fourth round.

Words: “I just can congratulate the country for an amazing effort that Australia did to contain the virus here. Is one of the best examples in the world about how to do the things well in this particular case.” — Nadal, about the pandemic

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DOMINIC THIEM

Ranked: 3

Country: Austria

Age: 27

2020 Match Record: 25-9

2020 Singles Titles: 1

Career Singles Titles: 17

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 — U.S. Open (2020)

Last 5 Australian Opens: 2020-RU, 2019-2nd, 2018-4th, 2017-4th, 2016-3rd

Aces: After losing to Djokovic in last year’s final in Melbourne to fall to 0-3 in Grand Slam title matches, earned his first major trophy at the U.S. Open in September. … Member of Top 10 since June 2016, the second-longest active run behind Nadal’s stay that began 11 years earlier. … 9-3 over the past two seasons against Djokovic, Nadal and Federer.

Matchup to Watch For: Could face crowd favorite Nick Kyrgios in the third round.

Words: “I’m never the guy who has the greatest starts to a new season or after a long time off. There’s many, many things to improve and to adjust, still.” — Thiem

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DANIIL MEDVEDEV

Ranked: 4

Country: Russia

Age: 24

2020 Match Record: 28-10

2020 Singles Titles: 2

Career Singles Titles: 9

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 0 — Best: RU, U.S. Open (2019)

Last 5 Australian Opens: 2020-4th, 2019-4th, 2018-2nd, 2017-1st, 2016-Did Not Play

Aces: Ended last season on a 10-match winning streak, with seven of those victories coming against players in the Top 10. … His title at the season-ending ATP Finals included wins over Djokovic, Nadal and Thiem, making him the first player since 2007 to beat each of the men ranked 1-3 at one tournament.

Matchup to Watch For: Could face No. 7 seed Andrey Rublev in an all-Russian matchup in the quarterfinals.

Words: “He’s like a chess master to me. He’s basically my favorite guy to watch now, because he just plays, like, ‘old school,’ a little bit. He’s strategizing. He’s thinking ahead.” — John McEnroe on Medvedev

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STEFANOS TSITSIPAS

Ranked: 6

Country: Greece

Age: 22

2020 Match Record: 29-14

2020 Singles Titles: 5

Career Singles Titles: 1

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 0 — Best: SF, Australian Open (2019), French Open (2020)

Last 5 Australian Opens: 2020-3rd, 2019-SF, 2018-1st, 2017-DNP, 2016-DNP

Aces: Pushed Djokovic to five sets in the semifinals at Roland Garros last October. … Lost to Nadal in the Australian Open semifinals two years ago after beating Federer in the quarterfinals. … Picked up wins against each member of the Big Three before his 21st birthday.

Matchup to Watch For: Could face 17-year-old Carlos Alcaraz of Spain in the third round.

Words: “Right now I’m good physically, I’m good mentally. I’m willing to just go out there and give everything I have.” — Tsitsipas

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ALEXANDER ZVEREV

Ranked: 7

Country: Germany

Age: 23

2020 Match Record: 28-11

2020 Singles Titles: 2

Career Singles Titles: 13

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 0 — Best: RU, U.S. Open (2020)

Last 5 Australian Opens: 2020-SF, 2019-4th, 2018-3rd, 2017-3rd, 2016-1st

Aces: Has shown steady progress at Melbourne Park. Now can he take the next step? … Produced the two best Grand Slam showings of his career in 2020, reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open, then reaching the U.S. Open final before blowing a two-set lead and losing to Thiem in a fifth-set tiebreaker.

Matchup to Watch For: Could face Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

Words: “I’ve been working extremely hard in the off-season. I’d like to think that I did everything I could to be as well-prepared as I can be.” — Zverev

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