MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Two days before the Australian Open begins, a stream of top players fronted news conferences Saturday to talk about their chances in the first Grand Slam tournament of the year. Here are excerpts of what they said:
- Novak Djokovic handed out dairy free, gluten free healthy sweets at the end of his opening news conference, something of a tradition of his at the Australian Open. Here's Djokovic on his confidence at the Australian Open, where he's won six of his 12 major titles:
''Nobody is invincible. I never thought of myself as a superior player on the court, even though, of course, at times, I was very confident. I was winning a lot of matches. But knowing how it feels on the court if you get overconfident, that's why I don't want to get into that kind of state of mind. I still want to put myself in a position where I'm quite even to other players, fight for this trophy as anybody else, even though I'm defending champion.''
- Serena Williams on her first-round match against Belinda Bencic, a former top-10 player:
''I didn't come here to lose in the first round, or the second round, or at all. If I can play the way I've been practicing, it will be fine. I know she's been playing well, so it will be good for both of us.''
- Serena Williams on her recent engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian:
''It's almost a little unreal right now because I haven't taken it in. I'm being rather selfish and focused on my career.''
- Belinda Bencic on how she first discovered she'd be opening against Williams, against whom she has a 1-1 record:
''My Twitter was blowing up. I was like, `What's going on?' That's when I saw it. My first reaction was actually really happy. I think I'm super pumped, excited I get to play on the big court.''
- Roger Federer on his physical readiness to play 5-set matches at a slam again after his lengthy injury layoff:
''I guess it's slightly the unknown. I trained as hard as I possibly could, so I will be ready for it. I did numerous sessions where I trained over 2 +, three hours. I feel I'm ready.''
- Andy Murray on how hard he'll have to work to retain the No. 1 ranking he took from Djokovic at the end of 2016:
''I do think it is a mindset thing, because I think it could be quite easy that once you get to No. 1 that you think, `Well, actually, I just need to keep doing what I'm doing.' The reality is, in sport, that things obviously keep moving on, the game will get better. I'll obviously get older, the young guys will continue to improve, and also Novak (Djokovic) and Roger (Federer) and Stan (Wawrinka) and Rafa (Nadal) and all the guys at the top are still going to be wanting to get there. ... I need to continue to improve. I for sure need to keep working hard.''
- Kei Nishikori on whether he can break through and win his first Grand Slam title:
''I hope I can get a Grand Slam title sometime. But I haven't got a big title yet, even the Masters tournaments. That's something I need for my confidence and experience. Yeah, my goal this year is to win a big tournament.''
- Milos Raonic on hiring former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek as his coach in the off-season:
''It's really to help me be more efficient going forward. I believe you have these two guys (Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic) that are phenomenal right now at the top of the game covering the baseline. It's really hard to get by them, especially with the way they move. I can't expect to move like they do. I've got to be at least 20, 25 pounds heavier than them. It's going to be about moving forward.''