Nick Kyrgios believes he has the game to break a four-decade Australian drought and join a very exclusive club at this year’s Australian Open.
Seeded 14, Kyrgios begins his quest for grand slam glory on Monday against Portugal’s world No.81 Gastao Elias – and is keen to add his name to a list of some of the most illustrious names the sport has ever seen.
Just 11 players in professional tennis history have snared junior grand slam crowns before graduating as a men’s major winner.
That exclusive club features a veritable who’s who of modern-day greats led by Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg and all-time grand slam leader Roger Federer.
World No.1 Andy Murray, three-time major winner Stan Wawrinka, along with Andy Roddick, Marin Cilic and Pat Cash are the only others since 1968 to have landed junior and men’s grand slam titles.
Kyrgios won the Australian Open boys’ championship in 2013.
Australia has not had a singles champion in Melbourne since Mark Edmondson in 1976, but Kyrgios is confident he can challenge for the trophy.
“My expectations are high,” he said on Saturday. “I feel like I can do some major damage and get to the second week and really cause some upsets.
“I know what my game is, I know how to play it. I know I can beat anyone on the day.
Kyrgios and Tomic, the 27th seed up against Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci, are among eight Australians in action on Monday.
Big-serving Sam Groth is finally fit again and might sneak a win or two while promising youngster Jordan Thompson will get a chance to prove his worth if he makes it through to a second-round meeting against hugely promising Dominic Thiem of Austria.
Aussies in action on day one
14-Nick Kyrgios v Gastao Elias (POR)
27-Bernard Tomic v Thomaz BelluccI (BRA)
Alex De Minaur v Gerald Melzer (AUT)
James Duckworth v Paolo Lorenzi (ITA)
Sam Groth v Steve Darcis (BEL)
Ashleigh Barty v Annika Beck (GER)
Destanee Aiava v Mona Barthel (GER)
Jaimee Fourlis v Anna Tatishvili (USA)
The tournament will open in bright sunshine with a forecast top of 31 on Monday, before heating up on Tuesday to a scorching 38. A late cool change will see the temperature drop to 22 on Wednesday, with some rain likely on Thursday and Friday with tops of 24 and 22 respectively.
The men’s contenders
Friday’s draw confirmed one thing: if Roger Federer is to win an 18th grand slam, he will have to do it the hard way.
The 35-year-old missed the second half of 2016 due to a knee injury and dropped to 17th in the rankings.
The result? An extremely difficult draw that potentially pits him against Tomas Berdych (third round) and Kei Nishikori (fourth round) and, if he makes it, a quarter-final against world No.1 Murray.
It is a gargantuan task for a player who has not won a grand slam since 2012, but there is an upside: Novak Djokovic looks a little vulnerable and Federer has often had the better of Murray, who has lost five finals at Melbourne Park.
Djokovic starts with a dangerous clash against Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco but will take heart from a gutsy win over Murray in Doha last week, a result that ended the Scot’s 28-match winning streak.
The only man apart from Djokovic to have won the tournament since 2010, Switzerland’s Wawrinka, is also considered a strong chance, while Rafael Nadal, Milos Raonic and Nishikori will all be in the mix.
The women’s contenders
Serena Williams will once again start as favourite in the women’s singles despite winning just one of the last six events at Melbourne Park.
The American, who opens against Swiss Belinda Bencic, remains a six-time winner of the tournament and has no shortage of motivation, as another success would give her an Open-era record for grand slam singles titles.
She currently has 22 and is level with German legend Steffi Graf.
Williams’ conqueror last year, German Angelique Kerber, is considered her biggest threat after a breakout 2016, in which she won two grand slams and made the final at Wimbledon. She begins against Lesia Tsurenko.
Karolina Pliskova, Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep will all fancy their chances of making a run, too, but another battle between Williams and Kerber appears likely.
1 Andy Murray (GBR)
2 Novak Djokovic (SRB)
3 Milos Raonic (CAN)
4 Stan Wawrinka (SUI)
5 Kei Nishikori (JPN)
6 Gael Monfils (FRA)
7 Marin Cilic (CRO)
8 Dominic Thiem (AUT)
9 Rafael Nadal (ESP)
10 Tomas Berdych (CZE)
11 David Goffin (BEL)
12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
13 Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP)
14 Nick Kyrgios (AUS)
15 Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)
16 Lucas Pouille (FRA)
17 Roger Federer (SUI)
18 Richard Gasquet (FRA)
19 John Isner (USA)
20 Ivo Karlovic (CRO)
21 David Ferrer (ESP)
22 Pablo Cuevas (URU)
23 Jack Sock (USA)
24 Alexander Zverev (GER)
25 Gilles Simon (FRA)
26 Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP)
27 Bernard Tomic (AUS)
28 Feliciano Lopez (ESP)
29 Viktor Troicki (SRB)
30 Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP)
31 Sam Querrey (USA)
32 Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER)
1 Angelique Kerber (GER)
2 Serena Williams (USA)
3 Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
4 Simona Halep (ROU)
5 Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
6 Dominika Cibulkova (SVK)
7 Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP)
8 Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)
9 Johanna Konta (GBR)
10 Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP)
11 Elina Svitolina (UKR)
12 Timea Bacsinszky (SUI)
13 Venus Williams (USA)
14 Elena Vesnina (RUS)
15 Roberta Vinci (ITA)
16 Barbora Strycova (CZE)
17 Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
18 Samantha Stosur (AUS)
19 Kiki Bertens (NED)
20 Shuai Zhang (CHN)
21 Caroline Garcia (FRA)
22 Daria Gavrilova (AUS)
23 Daria Kasatkina (RUS)
24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)
25 Timea Babos (HUN)
26 Laura Siegemund (GER)
27 Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU)
28 Alizé Cornet (FRA)
29 Monica Puig (PUR)
30 Ekaterina Makarova (RUS)
31 Yulia Putintseva (KAZ)
32 Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)
How to follow it
The Seven Network will broadcast the tennis, with Bruce McAvaney, Lleyton Hewitt and Jim Courier heading up a star-studded commentary team.
Seven will have tennis running on their primary channel and 7TWO and 7mate, while the network’s app – 7TENNIS – will broadcast action from 16 different courts. Fox Sports do not have any TV rights this year.
The New Daily will be at Melbourne Park throughout the tournament, providing comprehensive coverage and colour from the first grand slam of 2017.