Nick Kyrgios (Australia)

Age: 22

World Ranking: 17

Loading article content

The world has grown tired of waiting for this eccentric native of Canberra to make good on his undoubted potential but just perhaps 2018 is the year. Blessed with the game to trouble the best players on the planet – he has taken the scalp of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic – Kyrgios is fresh from his first tour title since 2016 at Brisbane and will not struggle for home support. Starts against Brazil’s Rogerio Dutra de Silva.

Grigor Dimitrov (Bulgaria)

Age: 26

World Ranking: 3

The Bulgarian is another man who is now stranger to these lists. Seemed to be turning the corner when he won the Nitto ATP Tour finals in London in November, but getting over the line in the Grand Slams is a different matter. His chances may never have been better but a defeat to Kyrgios in Brisbane highlighted a few chinks in the armour.

Juan Martin del Potro (Argentina)

Age: 29

World Ranking: 12

Suddenly one of the fittest of the big hitters in the draw, the tower of Tandil makes for a menacing presence. Has a Grand Slam win on a hard court on his resume, even if it was a while ago now, and appeared to be in decent form as he reached the latter stages of the ATP Tour event in Auckland this weekend.

Denis Shapovalov (Canada)

Age: 18

World Ranking: 50

The Canadian teenager, famed for defaulting in a Davis Cup tie against Great Britain when he smashed the ball off the umpire, is primed for a big 2018. He was named the tour’s best young player and most improved player during 2017, making the fourth round of the US Open. Having said that, he has work cut out just to get out the first round here, against another fine young player, Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who is a former junior World No 1 and Wimbledon winner who will draw on support from Melbourne’s Greek community.

Andrey Rublev (Russia)

Age: 20

World Ranking: 32

The fast-rising young Russian is actually seeded against David Ferrer, the evergreen Spaniard, in what promises to be another popcorn match-up in the first round at Melbourne Park. Much interest will also reside in the efforts of another of the top of young guns, new Aussie wonderkid Alex de Minaur, who drew the praise of Andy Murray for his efforts in Sydney and will hope to take that into his first-round meeting with Tomas Berdych.