MELBOURNE'S summer of tennis has arrived with the sport's hottest players hitting town to tune up for this month's Australian Open.
Russian glamour Maria Sharapova and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic hit the courts at Melbourne Park for practice sessions yesterday, with more stars expected to arrive over the weekend.
Serbian ace Djokovic warmed up on Margaret Court Arena as he kick-started his campaign to defend his Australian Open crown.
The 24-year-old ended the 2011 season with a record $12.6 million in prizemoney and 10 titles to his name, including three Grand Slams - Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open.
He will start favourite to claim his third Australian Open title.
Sharapova, who has been practising in Melbourne all week, hit up on Rod Laver Arena as workers and cleaners busied themselves in the stands around her.
Dressed in low-key black and white, Sharapova spent time honing her serves and return shots.
She showed no signs of being hampered by the ankle trouble she cited as the reason for pulling out of this week's Brisbane International.
More than 650,000 fans are expected to pass through Melbourne Park for the opening Grand Slam of the year, which starts January 16.
Australian Open organisers said ticket sales were already tracking ahead of last year.
The $360 million redevelopment of Melbourne Park is not expected to affect spectators, who will already see plenty of changes to the precinct.
This gives me more faith that they know what they are doing. Tbh I think its because she got next to nothing done during off-season.