Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Sport | By Cameron Gross

Rafael Nadal loses to Richard Gasquet at Kooyong Classic

Rafael Nadal loses to Richard Gasquet at Kooyong Classic

Dan Evans, who reached the fourth round here a year ago, is still serving a ban after his positive cocaine test, while Aljaz Bedene - who will play an eye-catching first-round match here against defending champion Roger Federer - has switched his nationality back to his native Slovenia.

Federer defeated Nadal in a memorable five-set final a year ago to win his 18th grand slam title, before later triumphing at Wimbledon.

Novak Djokovic returned to competitive tennis with a bang on Wednesday, bringing a six-month spell on the sidelines to an end with a thumping 6-1 6-4 win over world number five Dominic Thiem at the Kooyong Classic exhibition tournament.

The projected women's quarterfinals include Simona Halep vs. Karolina Pliskova, Garbine Muguruza vs.

Stan Wawrinka is hungry to return to action.

Third seed Grigor Dimitrov or eighth seed Jack Sock are possible semi-final opponents for the 16-time Grand Slam victor.

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In a women's field notably missing 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, there appear to be many chances of a new Australian Open champion this year. They find themselves in the same quarter with Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and a solid list of unseeded competitors that includes Fernando Verdasco, Steve Johnson, Hyeon Chung, Frances Tiafoe, Donald Young, and recent Doha victor Gael Monfils. The seventh seed may have to deal with any of Fabio Fognini (25), Tomas Berdych (19) or Juan Martin del Potro (12) if he is to get to the last eight in Melbourne.

The three-time Grand Slam champion hasn't played since Wimbledon, but said he has recovered sufficiently from a knee injury to feature in the year's opening Grand Slam, starting in Melbourne next Monday. So the player that does come through will all but likely have to face one of these NextGen guys. It was the first year since 2009 that Djokovic didn't reach at least one Grand Slam final.

Their replacement - a "lucky loser" from the qualifying tournament - will get the other 50 percent of the first-round prize money.

Grigor Dimitrov, the world No 3 and reigning ATP Finals champion, will take on a qualifier in the first round and could meet Australian world No 17 Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round. Chris Kermode, executive chairman of the men's tour, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), promised a shake-up, although he accepted the players' reasons for withdrawing.

In a separate rule change created to get matches started more quickly, warm-up times will be strictly enforced.

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