As every year at the end of January the tennis world focuses on Down Under, where the year’s first out of four Grand Slam is taking place. But what to expect of this year’s Australian Open?
A surprise and a close battle for the title! As every year, at least one of the finalists will be a newcomer, as in recent years Marcos Baghdatis or last year’s finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. One of those “newcomers” might this year be the British Andy Murray, who from last year’s second half of the season gradually improved his game and was rewarded with a US Open Final and a Masters Cup Semi Final. As if it were not enough he also defeated the Swiss Roger Federer in their last three confrontations. Lucky for Federer Express that number 4 seated Murray finds himself at this year’s Aussie Open in the upper part of the draw which means Nadal will have to deal with him. Murray with his recent victory in Doha is ready to rumble, but what about the other Top Ten players?
Nadal after a forced break of two months due to his knee problems seems too lack some preparation and practice, but still appears to be confident as he says: “My type of game needs rhythm. But I feel good, I trained hard. I just need some match practice to know where exactly I stand.” After the first week of the tournament he is most likely to be on top of his game again.
Djokovic arrives with two weights: His two defeats in a row at the beginning of this season and of course he needs to defend his title at the Australian Open in order to not lose any points. The fact he changed his racket might also cause him some adaptation problems, but with his self-confidence he should be able to overcome those difficulties and show us a few hours of beautiful tennis during the next two weeks.
Federer, still trying to beat Sampras’ all time record of 14 Grand Slam titles, lost gradually his feeling of invincibility during the last season. Nadal is now not his only opponent anymore, which was recently proven by Andy Murray, but Federer lost from what he benefited so much before: the fear and respect the other players had when it came to play him. He became Human again, but his talent remains and he is still capable of becoming untouchable if he has one of his magic days. On the Australian Open’s pre-tournament press conference on Sunday a cool and fit Federer said: “I want to do well, not only this year but [in] many more years to come. So I don’t feel this is my last chance …”. He also warned to not rule him out of winning this year’s Australian Open.
Let’s also not underestimate Gilles Simon who preferred to delay the start of his season in order to work on his game. With a good second half year he surprised at last year’s Masters Cup with victories against Federer and Stepanek after which he lost in the Semi Final in three sets against Djokovic, who went on to win the tourney. Same counts for recently injured Tsonga who just declared that he will be able to defend his points in Melbourne this year. He declared the day before Melbourne Park opened its doors for two weeks of world class tennis that he felt better and that he was impatient to start. Tsonga enjoys huge popularity in Down Under which is probably why he was helped by tournament’s organizers who moved his opening match to Tuesday evening so as to give him one extra day of preparation. Tsonga’s reaction to this favor: “They gave me the opportunity to play as late as possible and I am very thankful. I hope I will be able to honor this favor.”
Anyways, great two weeks of tennis can be expected and a tournament where the battle for the title hasn’t been that close for a few years…