Family man Federer living the dream

John Isner thinks he can win a Grand Slam

He beat world No.5 Dominic Thiem over two sets at the Kooyong Classic and lost to Lleyton Hewitt in a mini-match at the Tiebreak Tens event that same night.

Williams withdrew after having given birth last September, Murray with the hip injury that short-circuited his 2017 season last July at Wimbledon, and Nishikori with the wrist that has made him inactive on the ATP Tour since last August in Montreal.

For a man who has enjoyed such domination in the sport, holding the top spot in the rankings for over four years, it will feel a tad odd entering this particular Grand Slam some way down the list of favourites. However, the current season will be made more hard by the return of Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka, who missed the 2017 campaign through injury.

He could not give a definitive answer to whether he will absolutely play in the year's first grand slam next week, but said all signs are now positive.

Yet few would be surprised if the tournament ends in a repeat of last year's final with Federer up against his great Spanish rival and top seed Rafa Nadal.

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The top seeds of the men's and women's singles draws at the Australian Open were handed mixed fortunes as Rafael Nadal managed to avoid Novak Djokovic in his half while Simona Halep was given a brutal path.

Take the two men that contested last year's final, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, they are considered by many as the frontrunners once again.

Djokovic, 30, enters the 2018 Australian Open as the 14th seed, the first time he has been ranked outside the top 10 at the year's first Grand Slam in a decade, after missing much of 2017 with an elbow injury, reports Xinhua news agency.

While Angelique Kerber has slid down the rankings, and is seeded just 21 for this tournament, as a multiple Grand Slam champion and former Australian Open victor, she should not be losing in the early rounds.

Only at Wimbledon (eight) has he lifted a grand slam trophy on more occasions, while the Swiss can point to his Melbourne Park record with confidence heading into this year's event. Dimitrov did engage Nadal in a brawl of a 2017 Australian semifinal, falling only 6-4 in the fifth set, and did win the ATP Finals in London in November. "After a few good results previous year my confidence is much better now (against the top players) and I feel that I can play with them, but now I need to be more consistent to give them a good fight". A handy consultant last season, four-time champion Andre Agassi is said to be now planning a late dash Down Under to re-join the team after a snowboarding mishap back home. "I'm just going to go out there, try to weather the storm, and try to play my game", De Minaur said. A year ago he admitted he had no love for the game, saying it is just a job and he felt "trapped".