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Tennis pre-season roundup: Federer makes winning start, Djokovic clinches title & Nadal makes injury return

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Picture: Getty, Metro.co.uk The numbers behind Federer, Nadal and Djokovic's battle to be the GOAT
Federer, Djokovic and Nadal have already taken to court (Picture: Getty, Metro.co.uk)

It may not even be 2019 yet, but the new tennis season is well and truly underway with some of the worlds biggest stars getting themselves into gear ahead of the first Grand Slam of the new year.

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic are among the names who have all been involved in exhibition events.

There will be plenty more for tennis fans to enjoy in the coming weeks, with Andy Murray also stepping up his return from a long-term hip injury, but heres a quick round-up of whats been going on as the players begrudgingly return from their brief holidays.

Federer enjoys opening Swiss win

Federer was in great form (Picture: Getty)

Roger Federer enjoyed the perfect return to action on New Years Eve Eve as he swept Britains Cam Norrie aside on his way to a comfortable victory for Switzerland in the Hopman Cup.

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Heading into 2019 there has been plenty of speculation as to whether this will prove to be the 20-time Grand Slam champions final season on the ATP Tour but he looked as graceful as ever as he put world No. 91 Norrie to the sword in rapid fashion.

Belinda Bencic then defeated Katie Boulter in straight sets before the Swiss pair – the defending champions – beat the Brits in mixed doubles to sew up a 3-0 win.

Norrie And Boulter already have one match win under their belt over Greece, with the former impressively defeating world No. 15 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the singles, and remain in the hunt to reach the final.

Djokovic clinches exhibition title

Djokovic beat Anderson (Picture: Getty)

Novak Djokovic dominated the ATP in the second half of 2018 and picked up where he left off at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC).

The Serb defeated Karen Khachanov and Kevin Anderson to win the exhibition event – his fourth title in the warm-up tournament.

Im really happy to have a match like this, the world No. 1 said. Anderson was pumped from the beginning and he got me fired up as well. He wanted to win as much as I did.

I could feel the tension between us, two great competitors. I think it was the best match point Ive ever played!

Djokovic enjoyed a fine start (Picture: AFP/Getty)

I take a lot of positives from this match, Anderson is one of the best players in the world and has been playing with a high level of consistency.

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When you play someone like this at this level you want to win. It helps your confidence and adds to your mental strength. Definitely pleased to win today and looking forward to the season.

He heads to Doha next where he will face Bosnias Damir Dzumhur in his opening match.

Nadal makes injury return

Nadal enjoyed his return to action (Picture: AFP/Getty)

The MWTC also marked the return of Rafael Nadal.

The Spaniard ended 2018 going under the knife due to an ankle injury, while he continued to rest an ongoing knee problem.

He suffered defeat to eventual runner-up Anderson in his only match but came through unscathed and will head to the Brisbane International in confident mood.

Nadal will take on either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Thanasi Kokkinakis in his first match, having received a bye in the opening round.

Murray hitting with Osaka

Also in Brisbane is former world No. 1 Andy Murray, who is continuing his recovery from a long-term hip problem.

The Scot will face Australias James Duckworth in the first round and admitted hes still feeling pain in the troublesome hip.

I still have some pain in my hip but I need to play matches and see how it feels when I am able to play three, four, five matches in a row and take it from there, he said upon his arrival in Brisbane.

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However, he was in good spirits as he enjoyed a practice session with US Open champion Naomi Osaka.

Serena ducks US Open questions

Williams ducked the questions (Picture: Getty)

Since losing to Osaka in the infamous US Open final last September, Serena Williams has largely avoided discussing her clash with Carlos Ramos.

That continued to be the case at the MWTC after a defeat to her sister Venus Williams, where she ducked questions once more.

I dont avoid anything, she said. I just dont have time to talk about that.

I talked about it, everyone talked about it for months and months and months and its best to move on to bigger and better things.

More questions will undoubtedly follow during the Australian summer and Williams is set for an all-star clash with Federer at the Hopman Cup in Perth next.

Harriet Darts fast start

Dart is playing some great stuff (Picture: Getty Images)

One Brit enjoying a dream start to the new season is Harriet Dart.

The world No. 149 impressively came through qualifying – beating former top-10 ace Andrea Petkovic along the way – to reach the Brisbane International.

She will meet 20-year-old Australian Priscilla Hon in the first round.

Cilic injury woes

Last years Australian Open runner-up Marin Cilic was forced to withdraw from the Tata Open Maharashtra, as he faces an early fitness battle in 2019.

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The Croat faces a serious rankings slide if hes unable to replicate a deep run in Melbourne and his injury worries will be a major concern.

A furry new friend for Tsitsipas

Not the most important news of the season, but Tsitsipas is seemingly settling into Australian life well, meeting one of the native Koalas at Caversham Wildlife Park along with compatriot Maria Sakkari.

The Greek will make just his second appearance at the Australian Open in January.

More: Tennis

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