It was at the same event last year where he bottomed out, admitting boredom in a straight-sets first-round loss to Mischa Zverev. It was the Frenchman's first win over the Spaniard in 16 attempts on the Tour (although he did beat him in a 2003 Challenger).
A short while ago it seemed an overwhelming inevitability that Federer and Nadal would lock horns once more in the final but with Djokovic now lurking in the background that theory is far from certain. Djokovic, who some thought may not be in playing shape, looked fantastic against Thiem in the decisive win.
"It was a great start, it feels really good to be back on the court", a beaming Djokovic said in an on-court interview after his first competitive set since Wimbledon last year. "It would be ideal if I got another tournament under my belt before the Australian Open but my elbow wasn't ready but I'm going to take whatever I can", he said.
Five-time grand slam winner Maria Sharapova is seeded 47th and will face former champion Angelique Kerber in third round if she starts with a couple victories in Melbourne.
Be sure to join The Roar for live coverage of the 2018 Australian Open draw announcement from 7pm (AEDT) and don't forget to add your own comments below. He holds the record of most titles won in Melbourne, six.
Second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki shares a quarter with French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, and the pair are possible semi-final opponents for Svitolina or Williams. The top 104 in the world are given direct entry, while eight wildcards are handed out. Djokovic fell to Zverev in their only prior clash in the final of last year's Masters 1000 in Rome. "During the match the pain has been there".
But in the match against Hewitt, the Australian was able to attack Djokovic's serve with aggressive play.
Will the real Next Gen please stand up? But can they do it over seven rounds in the sweltering Melbourne sun?
Top-ranked Simona Halep opens against Australian wild card Destanee Aiava, has a potential second-round match against 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard, and is in the same half as Garbine Muruguza, the Wimbledon champion. Since the 2005 Australian Open, only three men outside the Big Four have won a Slam title - Marin Cilic, Juan Martin del Potro and Wawrinaka. "Tennis is full of variables every single week: temperature, humidity, racket tension, balls, court surface, court speed, and then because the sport is so much more physical, you have to train harder".
But all that became a thing of the past with his exhibition match with Dominic Thiem this week.
Federer, who is present at Thursday's draw, will open his title defence against Slovenian world No 51 Aljaz Bedene.