Novak Djokovic talked up Rafael Nadal's chances at the Australian Open, despite the Spaniard's own doubts.
Rafael Nadal feels he cannot win the Australian Open, but world number one Novak Djokovic is adamant the Spaniard will challenge for top honours at Melbourne Park.
Nadal "a 14-time grand slam winner" talked down his chances prior to blitzing Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets on Monday, claiming he is not ready to win as he works his way back from appendix surgery.
The 2014 runner-up pinpointed Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray as favourites to triumph in the first grand slam of the year.
However, Djokovic expects Nadal to be among the usual contingent gunning for glory in Melbourne.
"I don't know what his intentions are, how he feels," Djokovic said.
"But he is definitely always one of the top favorites in every tournament that he plays. There is no question about it.
"We always talk prior to the big tournaments, during the first days of the Grand Slams, about who the potential players are for winning the trophy.
"You know, more or less the same names have been going around for the last seven or eight years.
"So I don't think there is any difference in terms of main favorites for this tournament even this year in the Australian Open. There are a few other players that are able to challenge the best."
Djokovic was speaking after his first-round 6-3 6-2 6-4 win over Slovenian qualifier Aljaz Bedene.
The Serb made a rough start to proceedings, saving two break points as Bedene regularly pushed his highly fancied opponent.
But Djokovic finished strongly to advance to the second round.
"Obviously the start was a bit slower performance, weaker performance, from my side," said Djokovic
"He had a couple of break points. The match could have gone a different way in the first set. Never played him. Watched him only once.
"He did surprise me. I had a difficult time to read his serve. He's a good player obviously. He qualified, reached the finals in Chennai, qualified again here. He felt confident. He had nothing to lose.
"On the other hand, I managed to stay tough, overcome some kind of challenges that I faced in the beginning of the match. I played much more comfortably in the rest of the match."