Melbourne, January 18: Daniil Medvedev is happy to be considered the favourite for the Australian Open title but says Rafael Nadal remains the man to beat at Melbourne Park.
World number two Medvedev is now the top-seeded player in the competition after Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia on Sunday (January 16).
Competing in his first grand slam since winning the US Open in September, Medvedev made a solid start by seeing off Henri Laaksonen 6-1 6-4 7-6 (7-3) on Tuesday.
The Russian, who lost last year's Australian Open final to Djokovic in straight sets, will now take on either Liam Broady or Nick Kyrgios in round two.
He is aiming to become the first man in the Open Era to follow up his maiden Grand Slam title with another in his next major appearance.
Medvedev is not shying away from the spotlight, but the 25-year-old considers Nadal the real favourite for the trophy because of his incredible record.
"I like pressure but last year I started well here in Australia in the ATP Cup and I managed to be in the final here," he said.
"The tournaments in Australia are always really important for me. I like to play in Australia on hard courts. I want to do better here than I did last year but it's not going to be easy.
"But I always say whoever is the highest ranked is the favourite so this time I will go with Rafa because he has 20 Grand Slams."
The 20 major singles titles won by Nadal is equal to Djokovic and Roger Federer, who is also absent in Melbourne due to injury, as the most by a men's player.
Just one of those titles have come at the Australian Open, however, with the Spaniard – who beat Marcos Giron in his opening match on Monday – going all the way in 2009.
Nadal and Medvedev are in opposite sides of the draw and are on course to meet in the final, but many challengers await between now and then.
That path became a little clearer on Tuesday as world number eight Casper Ruud withdrew from the tournament due to an injured ankle.
Ruud had been due to face Alex Molcan in the first round, but his place will be taken by lucky loser Roman Safiullin.