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"I see hunger and I see boldness", 18-times major singles champion Evert said in a conference call looking ahead to the Australian Open.

The Serbian world number one and his Swiss opponent have won eight of the nine titles on the Rod Laver Arena since 2010, and 11 of the last 13 on the bright blue courts in central Melbourne. The Belarussian surged up the WTA rankings previous year, winning her first two titles and ending it just outside the top 10 and arrived in Melbourne fresh from winning in Shenzhen.

Bookmakers in Australia have installed Williams as a short-priced favorite for the title with her US Open conqueror Osaka - the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam - next in the betting.

When it comes to Williams, who is seeking a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title at the January 14-27 Australian Open, Evert believes it is her remarkable journey from the hardscrabble courts in Compton where she learned the game to the top of the tennis world that will be remembered most.

The shock diagnosis came after Wozniacki had returned to number one and taken her WTA tour title tally to 30 with victories not only in Melbourne, but also Eastbourne and Beijing.

The Dane finally broke her Grand Slam hoodoo in Melbourne 12 months ago after 12 years of trying, and is determined to prove she remains a force at the top level after dropping the bombshell that she is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

We already know Serena Williams dominates on the court, but did you know she also dominates in the nail salon?

Defending champion and third-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, who claimed her first major title past year by beating Halep in the final of the Australian Open, will start the defense of her title against Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium.

She has looked sharp at the Hopman Cup and maintained her 100% singles record even though Germany lost to Federer's Switzerland in the final.

Osaka suffered a straight-sets loss to Lesia Tsurenko in the semi-final of the Brisbane International and withdrew from the Sydney International in frustration.

"I never feel pressure to perform". Her experiences have been a learning experience for me. "I enjoy Grand Slams the most", she said.

"I always have insane big goals but I like to keep them to myself".

Murray, a five-time finalist at Melbourne Park, spent most of previous year recuperating from hip surgery and looked rusty last week in Brisbane, but declared himself pain free.