Aussie Open Preview

The draw is out and the first balls will be hit at Melbourne Park in a little over 48 hours.

So who are the players worth watching in Melbourne?

The Men’s Front Runners

#1 Andy Murray

A five time runner up, no one has come closer to the title in Melbourne but failed to take it home. It’s now or never for Murray, after an incredible 2016, and holding the No.1 ranking – a close 3 set loss to Djokovic in Doha shouldn’t deter him, and may even ease some of the pressure.

#2 Novak Djokovic

By his standards, Novak Djokovic has had a poor six months since becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four major trophies at once, he still reached another major final in that time.

#4 Stan Wawrinka

Wawrinka has won a major each of the past three seasons, including in Australia in 2014, recent form has never been much indication but as the holder of the most recent major contested it would be foolish to discount the Stanimal’s chances. But he could just as likely lose in the first round.

Ones to watch

#3 Milos Raonic

Raonic has never really convinced on the biggest stages, but after reaching his first major final at Wimbledon last year, and in keeping with the pattern of gradual progression in his career, he’s a serious contender down under. He’ll win a slam one day, but I’m not sure he’s quite ready.

#9 Rafael Nadal

A fourteen time Major winner is almost all you need to say here. He last reached the Australian Open final in 2014, is coming off a rough couple of years (it’s nearly 3 years since he last won a slam) but he’s still putting in the work and if it doesn’t pay of here ‘la decima’ in Paris may prove his redemption.

#14 Nick Kyrgios

The time may not be quite right for Kyrgios to win a major, but that time will come soon, he’s too talented and enjoys the big matches too much. Unfortunately for him he’s landed in the same half as his nemesis Andy Murray.

#15 Grigro Dimitrov

Dimitrov has suffered from over-hype, he has only one major semi-final to his name, three years ago now, but his title run in Brisbane was encouraging.

#17 Roger Federer

Federer is on this list because everyone will be watching to see how the 17 time major winner performs on his return, but it’s too soon for him to make a serious run, if he even has one left in him physically now.

The  Women’s Front Runners

#1 Angelique Kerber

The WTA No.1 player had an incredible season last year – catapulting herself into instant tennis hall of fame contention with two majors and an olympic silver medal. Yet, she’s gone 1 and 2 in her first two tournaments this year, hasn’t won a title since gaining the No.1 ranking in September and is facing the daunting pressure of defending a grand slam title for the first time. Kerber grafted too hard and is too seasoned a player to have a big letdown in 2017, it’s tough to see her defending her title, but the defending champ always deserves a mention.

#2 Serena Williams

The 22-time major winner comes into this year’s Australian Open more under the radar than for many years, thanks in part to some unusual losses in the latter rounds of the majors last year. Historically, Williams has been at her most dangerous when counted out, but at 35 and after a poor loss in her first tournament back since the US Open in Auckland last week there have to be some doubts. As a six time Australian Open winner, and having reached the final for the last two years it would be foolish to count her out, but much will depend on if she can shake the rust off.

#5 Karolina Pliskova

The big hitting Czech made a fantastic start to the year by winning the Brisbane title in dominant fashion, last Summer she also won the last big US Open tournament in Cincinnati and rode that momentum all the way to a break up in the final set over Kerber in the US Open final before the German came back to win. The surprising decision to split with her coach at the end of her breakout season may just have turned out to be a stroke of genius, subsequently teaming up with Petra Kvitova’s ex-coach David Kotyza, who guided her compatriot to two major titles, the results have been immediate. Pliskova can be inconsistent at times, and prior to last year’s US Open she had never been past the third round of a major, but as a former Junior Champion (beating Britain’s Laura Robson back in 2010) she feels comfortable at Melbourne Park. Probably the marginal favourite for the title amongst pundits.

#7 Garbine Muguruza

Muguruza has had a torrid time since winning her first major title in Paris last summer, but she has started to show greater fight and desire in her run to the semifinals in Brisbane, although her right thigh injury picked up there may be a cause for concern. She’s played well in her previous trips down under, pushing Serena Williams to the brink in 2015. The bottom line is, if Muguruza is fit and healthy she has the game and mentality to go all the way.

Ones to watch

#6 Dominika Cibulkova

The dimunitive Slovak may not have had the best start to 2017, going 2 and 2 in her first two tournaments, but she is coming off an incredible comeback season culminating in her improbable run to the WTA Tour Championships Title. A former finalist in Melbourne,  her chances can’t be dismissed.

#9 Johanna Konta

Konta has started the 2017 season incredibly well, capped with an incredibly dominant win over Radwanska in the Sydney final, but having gone deep in back-to-back weeks a deep run in Melbourne may be asking too much, and Konta has yet to beat the big players on the four biggest stages.

#11 Elina Svitolina

Long touted as one to watch, Svitolina has started getting the results in the last year, beating both Williams and Kerber, and has had a good start to 2017. The lack of a killer shot may still hamper her on the biggest stage.

#8 Svetlana Kuznetsova

A two time major winner and former Australian Open semifinalist, the ever inconsistent Kuznetsova posted strong results to end 2016, if she survives the first week she could be dangerous.

 

Final Predictions

Murray defeats Nadal

Williams defeats Muguruza

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