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Edmund, Konta & Watson carry British hopes in Melbourne

From BBC - January 14, 2018

Kyle Edmund will carry British hopes when the Australian Open starts on Monday, with most of the leading names lining up for 2018's first Grand Slam despite a number of injury doubts.

Edmund himself has had an ankle problem but says he is fully fit to take on 11th seed Kevin Anderson at 00:00 GMT.

Ninth seed Johanna Konta begins against American Madison Brengle on day two.

Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka have all declared themselves fit after ending 2017 with injuries.

However, British number one Andy Murray is absent after having hip surgery last week and American defending champion Serena Williams is not yet ready to compete just four months after giving birth.

At 36, Roger Federer remains the favourite to land a 20th Grand Slam title in the men's draw, while world number one Simona Halep, second seed Caroline Wozniacki and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza are just some of the names expected to contend for the women's title.

Hopes of a first home singles champion for 30 years are on the rise thanks to the encouraging form of men's 17th seed Nick Kyrgios and Ashleigh Barty, who is seeded 18th in the women's draw.

"It was nice to do well last week and get a few matches under my belt," said Barty, who reached the Sydney International final on Saturday.

"This is the best time of the year for all Aussies. I am just really excited to get under way."

British hopes hit by Murray absence

With Murray injured, Dan Evans serving a doping ban and Aljaz Bedene having reverted to Slovenian nationality, Edmund is the only British man in the singles draw.

"My approach does not change because I am the only British guy in the draw," said the 23-year-old, ranked 49th.

"It's more of a shame than anything that Andy is not playing. I do not really think any differently, it's just the reality. I can just go on the court and play my tennis, that's all."

Edmund showed good form in Brisbane at the start of the month, before losing to world number three Grigor Dimitrov, and the ankle issue he picked up along the way has since settled down.

He will face a tough test against Anderson, who reached the US Open final last September and has started 2018 strongly.

The 6ft 8in South African won their only previous encounter, a gruelling five-setter on the French Open clay last year.

"Eight months on, I'd like to say I am a bit more experienced and hopefully I can learn from that and do better," said Edmund.

Slow start to 2018 could benefit Nadal

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