Rafael Nadal's campaign for a 21st grand slam at the Australian Open is well underway.
The Spaniard stormed through his first-round match against Marcos Giron with an impressive 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 victory before a similar performance in round two saw him breeze past Yannik Hanfman 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 to make the last thirty-two.
Nadal's vigorous energy from the baseline, and fast reactions at the net, were too much for his opponent to handle. Taking a leaf out of Federer's book, points were kept brief and efficient, being even more aggressive early on to finish the rally. The booming Nadal forehand was also put to good use cross court.
However, Nadal faces significant danger in the rest of the field.
Other players have made promising starts that could topple his chances of making tennis history. On Tuesday, Daniil Medvedev won his first-round match against Henri Laaksonen 6-1, 6-4, 7-6. Deadly drop shots, flat balls and hard serves were met by errors from Laaksonen.
Medvedev's hardcourt credentials are substantial, winning the US Open in 2021. Stefanos Tsitsipas demolished Mikael Ymer in his opening round 6-2, 6-4, 6-3. Good depth on his forehand, and the trademark one-handed backhand, pushed Ymer behind the line and into defence. The Greek was dominant in coming forward and finishing points at the net without hesitation.
But one player outside the NextGen could cause significant problems for Nadal and younger players. Gaël Monfils crushed Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-4 in the Adelaide International 1 tournament.
His usual athleticism and relaxed power are looking deadly on the courts of Australia. Monfils can make a deep run in this year's Open and block some top 10 players from reaching the final. He defeated Federico Coria 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 in the first round and will move onto Alexander Bublik in the second.
Elsewhere at the tournament, British players are enjoying great success. Andy Murray, Emma Raducanu, Dan Evans and Heather Watson all progressed into their second-round matches.
After an active tournament schedule in 2021 with 16 events, the two-time Wimbledon champion returned to Melbourne again, defeating Nikoloz Basilashvili in a nail-biting five-set thriller 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7, 6-4.
In the match's final stages, Murray stayed tight to the baseline, taking away time from Basilashvili and breaking his serve in the process. He will face Japan's Taro Daniel in the next round.
Further Difficulties for Djokovic
More problems have surfaced after Novak Djokovic was expelled from Australia. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke revoked the hotly contested visa before a legal challenge from the Djokovic camp failed to overturn the decision. Under current rules, another visa cannot be granted for three years.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has suggested that the government could make an exception under the “right circumstances”. Despite this window of hope, Djokovic could face another issue later in the tennis calendar.
A recent French health mandate has made vaccination compulsory for sporting events. The gap between Djokovic's personal beliefs on vaccination and French policy could see him unable to defend his title at Roland Garros and mirror Nadal in a 21st major bid.
Similarly, the US has banned all visitors who have not received two doses, raising further concerns over Djokovic's participation in the US Open. The ban could also jeopardise his chances of arriving at key Masters 1000 tournaments like Indian Wells and Miami, causing significant disruption to Novak's schedule.
Does Nadal's performance in Australia show what he's got to win the title? And what should Djokovic's next steps be after the visa debacle? Let me know in the comments.