Defending Champions Return [Archive] -

Defending Champions Return

12-12-2003, 08:19 AM
Andre Agassi and Serena Williams will be back to defend their titles at Australian Open 2004 with Serena out to pick up where she left off before injury forced her to miss the latter part of the 2003 season and relinquish her No.1 ranking.

Agassi faces a huge task if he is to win an amazing fifth Australian Open title with three first-time Grand Slam winners in world No.1 Andy Roddick, Roger Federer (2) and Juan Carlos Fererro (3), all out to add to their success in 2003.

Also hungry for victory will be local heroes Lleyton Hewitt and Mark Philippoussis, who would each dearly love to add their home Grand Slam title to the recent Davis Cup final victory.

The men’s singles also sees the potential return from injury of top ranked players such as 2002 semi-finalist Tommy Haas, former US Open finalist Greg Rusedski, and 2002 winner Thomas Johansson who, with Guillermo Canas and Bohdan Ulihrach, gain entry on protected rankings.

Such is the strength of the men’s field that currently just outside the cut are former French Open finalist Alex Corretja, 1998 Australian Open finalist Marcelo Rios, and Australian favourites Scott Draper and Davis Cup hero Wayne Arthurs.

For the men, the 128 singles draw comprises 104 direct entries based on ranking, 16 qualifiers and up to eight wildcards.

Of the wildcards, one has been allocated to the winner of the Asian Tennis Championships, one in a reciprocal agreement with the French Tennis Federation and a third to the best performed player on the Uncle Tobys Tour which this year was Canberra’s Alun Jones. In addition, one maindraw wildcard will go to the winner of the playoff to be held next week at the Australian Open Training Camp currently underway at Melbourne Park.

Winners of this year’s Asian Tennis Championships held in Tashkent were Vadim Kutsenko of Uzbekistan.