Blue skies and bright sunshine set the scene for the Australian Open 2013 draw ceremony, and fans will be hoping the on-court action will be equally as hot when the tournament commences on Monday.
For the first time in the tournament’s history, the draw ceremony was open to the public as crowds took the chance to lap up a warm Melbourne morning on the banks of the Yarra.
For many, it was also a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with two of the game’s superstars.
Australian Open 2012 champions and number one seeds Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka arrived on a boat, accompanied by the shimmering silver of the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup and Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.
Fans held phones and cameras at arm’s length attempting to catch a glimpse of tennis royalty, while the international media jostled on the river bank to capture a snapshot.
A big-screen montage highlighted some of the memorable moments of 2012 including the now-infamous Marcos Baghdatis racquet demolition as well as the longest Grand Slam final in men’s history between Djokovic and Spanish warrior Rafael Nadal.
Although Nadal won’t be making the journey Down Under this January, Djokovic was able to reflect on the five hour 53 minute epic, even if the night itself remains a bit of a blur.
“It was difficult to say if I felt normal ... I just remember I got to bed about 6.30am but you just enjoy it as much as you can, a night like that,” he said.
After a short stroll along the river, the 25-year-old Serbian was joined on stage by Azarenka where the two world number ones – clearly friends off the court – entertained the crowd with a few off-season stories.
Aside from the obvious parallels ranking-wise, the pair both played exhibitions in Brazil and spent time honing their skills further in Monaco. They are also cover stars on the front page of the Australian Open program.
While Djokovic drew a few laughs when he pointed out he liked Azarenka’s photo “a lot more” than his own, he also revealed in typically cheeky fashion that the Belarusian had the superior work ethic when it came to busting a gut in the weight room.
“I see her very often in the gym. I have orange juice while watching her work out – she works out more than me,” he quipped.
All banter aside, it will be serious business for Djokovic and Azarenka as they attempt to successfully defend their titles when the tournament begins this Monday. And with Friday morning’s draw confirming a host of tantalising first-round match-ups, fans are again expected to flock to Melbourne Park for some scintillating tennis.