17 Jan 2012

Djokovic gets set to launch Australian Open defence

12:03 pm on 17 January 2012

The defending Australian Open tennis champion Novak Djokovic has much to live up to after his spectacular feats last year, and he begins the unenviable task of trying to match or even better his 2011 season on Rod Laver Arena today.

The 24-year-old, who is also the Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion, began last season with a 41-match winning streak that included his run to a second title at Melbourne Park.

After beating Andy Murray in emphatic style in the final, Djokovic won 10 tournaments in total, including five Masters titles, and banked $US 12.6 million in prize money.

His opponent today is unheralded Italian Paolo Lorenzi and there seems little chance of Djokovic becoming the first defending men's champion to bow out in the first round since Boris Becker in 1997.

Serena Williams also begins her campaign on the second day of the tournament, seeded only 12th after playing just twice in five months but second favourite behind Petra Kvitova with the bookmakers.

Williams opens her bid for a sixth Australian Open title against Austrian Tamira Paszek in the final match on Rod Laver Arena while Czech second seed Kvitova opens the day on the same court against Russian Vera Dushevina.