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Murray and Konta lead six-strong British challenge in Australian Open

December 9, 2016

The British challenge in next month's Australian Open will feature at least six players in the singles, as well as Jamie Murray in doubles action.

Kyle Edmund, Dan Evans, Heather Watson and Naomi Broady will also be in the singles draw, it was confirmed at this week's official launch of the tournament.

Speaking at the event, tournament director Craig Tiley said the field will be at its very strongest in both the men's and women's draws.

He remarked: "All the top players have confirmed they’ll be back in Melbourne in January.

"We are incredibly fortunate to be really the only sporting event in the country where we get the chance to see the very best in the world compete right here in Melbourne."

Reigning singles champions Novak Djokovic and Angelique Kerber were both present at the launch to speak of their excitement at the prospect of trying to defend their titles.

Djokovic will also have the incentive of trying to regain the world number one spot, but it is the new world number one Murray who has a grand chance to win his first Australian Open title after losing in five finals. The fifth of these came this year, when Djokovic beat him for the fourth time - the only other final defeat was against Roger Federer - and the Serb has now won the title five times. Another Murray-Djokovic final might be easy to predict, but the outcome may be very different this time.

Mr Tiley also spoke of the excitement that will be generated by the return of Federer after injury, the success Juan Martin del Potro has made of his comeback in recent months, and the emergence of a crop of exciting youngsters who will be increasingly expected to challenge for their big titles as both Murray and Djokovic turn 30 this year.

Fans booking corporate hospitality for the Aegon Championships at the Queen's Club in June may think the same, as it was there this year that Milos Raonic reached the final, a feat he emulated at Wimbledon the following month - his first Grand Slam final appearance - on his way to a year-end career-high ranking of third.

Kyle Edmund will hope he emerges as one of the rising stars of 2017, just as Konta did when she reached the semi-finals last year. While Kerber is now world number one, Serena Williams is still going strong at 35 and will be pushing hard for an open era record Grand Slam. Even so, the rise of Kerber in 2016 - when she won both her Grand Slams to date - is an example of how new stars can emerge from the pack.

Having just missed out on the WTA Tour Finals, Konta will certainly be looking to push on from her current ranking of tenth. However, she must find the right coach to help her with this challenge after her recent decision to part company with Esteban Carril.

While Murray and Konta will be eyeing up singles success, Jamie Murray and his partner Bruno Soares will be hoping to successfully defend the men's doubles title in Melbourne. That was one of two grand slams the pair won together - the other at Flushing Meadows - as their partnership clicked from the off. Now ranked the best doubles partnership in the world, Murray and Soares will definitely be the ones to beat yet again.

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