Federer, Wozniacki try to beat heat, other players in Australian Open

Novak Djokovic

It’s been an all-too-short offseason for the top players of the WTA and ATP but they’ll need to be at the top of their game right off the bat this week as tennis returns with the Australian Open.

Airing on ESPN and ESPN2 beginning Sunday, Jan. 13, the two-week tournament will see the world’s top men’s and women’s players battling it out in the torrid heat of an Australian summer at Melbourne Park to determine the champions of the year’s first Grand Slam event.

Among the male competitors slated to participate are six-time champion Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, 2009 champ Rafael Nadal, Marin Cilic, Kevin Anderson and Roger Federer, who at 36 became the oldest man to win an Aussie title with his 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Cilic last year, thus giving him his 20th Slam title and sixth crown downunder.

On the women’s side, defending champ Caroline Wozniacki will try to fend off challenges from the likes of seven-time titleist Serena Williams, Simona Halep, Ashleigh Barty, Alex de Minaur and Timea Bacsinszky. The 28-year-old Dane won her first Slam here a year ago by dispatching top seed Halep in the final 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-4.

•While it’s already sweltering downunder, things are just beginning to heat up in the NBA with a heaping helping of midseason action on national television.

It gets going Wednesday, Jan. 16, on ESPN with a clash of two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference as Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics play host to Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors, owners of the league’s best record. Next, two West playoff contenders go at it when Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans drop in on Stephen Curry and the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

The next night, TNT’s Thursday doubleheader opens with a clash of Eastern foes as Darren Collison and the Indiana Pacers defend home court from Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers. Then in the nightcap, two Western foes collide when LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers drop in on Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The action switches back to ESPN on Friday, Jan. 18, as DeMar DeRozan and the San Antonio Spurs visit Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves in the early game, followed by the Pelicans at the Portland Trail Blazers in the late contest.

And on Saturday, Jan. 19, ABC’s afternoon twin bill tips off with the Thunder at the Sixers, followed in the nightcap by the Houston Rockets hosting the Lakers.

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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