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Our best hopes: a look at British tennis in the 2021 Australian Open

Several British tennis players will be vying for success when the 2021 Australian Open begins on Monday.

With no Brit having won a singles title down under since Virginia Wade in 1972, fans are desperate to see some form of success.

By far the biggest British absence as we enter the year’s first Grand Slam is former world number one Andy Murray.

Murray, a five-time runner-up at this event, has struggled with a hip injury for most of his career and misses out after he contracted COVID-19. 

The Scot has now missed three of the last four Australian Opens, marking five years since he last progressed past the fourth round.

Britain’s best hope in the men’s singles rests on Dan Evans’ shoulders.

At the start of his career, Evans was touted as being one of the rising stars of world tennis, but has largely failed to live up to the hype. 

However, the British number one has historically performed well at the Australian Open.

He defeated seventh seed Marin Cilic in the second round in 2016 in one of the tournament’s biggest upsets, and then defeated Bernard Tomic in straight sets in the third round, before losing to Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in the fourth.

He faces fellow Brit Cameron Norrie in the first round, but the world number 67 has never won a main draw match at Melbourne Park and is yet to surpass the third round of a Grand Slam.

This could be the South Africa-born left-hander’s best opportunity yet to produce the goods.

British number two Kyle Edmund is absent after failing to recover from a lingering knee injury.

He has had the best recent performance by a British tennis player at the Australian Open, as he reached the semi-final of the 2018 tournament, beating third seed Grigor Dimitrov on the way, before bowing out in straight sets to Marin Cilic.

British women’s number one Johanna Konta takes on Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan in the first round.

The world number 14 will hope to bounce back after struggling with a knee injury which blighted her 2020 campaign.

At the 2016 Australian Open, Konta became the first British female player to reach a singles Grand Slam semi-final in 32 years despite being unseeded, beaten by eventual winner Angelique Kerber.

In 2017, Konta made the Wimbledon semi-final before losing to Venus Williams, and claimed her highest world ranking of number four.

Two years later, she lost a tight semi-final at the French Open to Markéta Vondroušová when many thought at that stage she would win the title.

Seeded 13th at this Australian Open, Konta will be hoping to break the barrier to her first Grand Slam final this time around.

World number 58 Heather Watson will be playing 70th-ranked Kristyna Pliskova, while Katie Boulter, who is using a protective ranking to make a special entry into the tournament, takes on world No.71 Daria Kasatkina.

Youngster Francesca Jones will also be playing in the main draw of the Grand Slam for the first time in her career, as she faces US No.10 and world No.60 Shelby Rogers.

Seven-time Grand Slam doubles champion Jamie Murray will be looking to improve on last year’s men’s doubles performance at the Australian Open, where he suffered an early exit with partner Neal Skupski.

The 2016 champion exited at the second round stage after a shock defeat to American pair Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson.

Murray has reunited with former Brazilian partner Bruno Soares, with whom he won the 2016 tournament with, as well as the 2016 US Open doubles title.

Murray also made the final of the mixed doubles last year, but he and Bethanie Mattek-Sands lost to Nikola Mektic and Barbora Krejcikova.

Meanwhile, Joe Salisbury will be looking to defend his 2020 Australian Open doubles crown when he returns to Melbourne with Rajeev Ram next week.

The pair beat wildcards Max Purcell and Luke Saville in the final, to win their first and only Grand Slam title to date.

Finally, both Dom Inglot and the Skupski brothers will also compete for the doubles title in Melbourne.

In the men’s wheelchair singles British duo Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid are among the favourites, alongside defending champion Shingo Kunieda.

The women’s singles see British number one Lucy Shuker face a tough challenge, with world top three Diede de Groot, Yui Kamiji and Aniek Van Koot all present.

Japan’s Yui Kamiji and Britain’s Jordanne Whiley will defend their women’s doubles title, with Hewett and Reid looking to do the same in the men’s doubles.

In the quad singles, expanded from four to eight players, world number two Andy Lapthorne is Britain’s main hope.

The full draw can be found here.

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