Grand Slam tennis is back. It’s been nice having some our favorite players back in action for tournaments in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth but there’s nothing quite like having the whole gang back in Melbourne. Here are some of the players to keep an eye on in Australia over the next two weeks.
Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams
It should be no surprise that the top two seeds on the men’s and women’s sides are the favorites but it’s hardly going to be easy. For Djokovic he’s looking to avenge his semi-final loss to the eventual champion Stan Wawrinka and he could get his chance to do so in the same round this year. Even better for Djokovic he’s 4-0 against MIlos Raonic who will be his main competition on his side of the draw and he’ll also avoid Murray, Nadal and Federer until the final. I expect Djokovic to win his 4th title in 5 years.
Serena’s path is equally favorable but her results in both recent months and recent Australian Opens could be a cause for concern. Whether the fatigue Serena cited after her blowout loss to Eugenie Bouchard in Perth was due to the brutal Australian heat or simply an easy excuse, the rest of the field will have taken notice. Besides her poor results of late she has not won in Australia since 2010, which is an eternity for the worlds best player. All doubts aside, you should never bet against the five time Australian Open champion who also happens to be ranked the number one player in the world.
The Dark Horses
Andy Murray and Victoria Azarenka
Both players are coming off disappointing 2014’s and are hoping the Australian Open can propel their upcoming seasons. For Murray he mostly labored through 2014 after returning from back surgery and didn’t have a single semi-final appearance in any Grand Slam and only started rounding into form after the US Open. It’s odd to think of Murray as a dark horse but with the amount of talent in the draw it would be a shock to see Murray even get through to the semi-final.
Again, it may seem unreasonable to call a former #1 and two time Australian Open a dark horse but Azarenka’s 2014 was, in a word, disastrous. Currently unranked she didn’t get past the quarters in any Grand Slam last year and subsequently faces a tough draw. If the seasoned vet can somehow get past Sloane Stephens in the first round and Caroline Wozniacki in the second, expect her vast experience at this hard court tournament help her make a run.
The Hometown Heroes
Nick Kyrgios and Jarmila Gajdosova
The Australians had a tough go of it at last years Australian Open but many of them have much more favorable draws this year. The kid wonder Nick Kyrgios faces off against the unseeded Federico Delbonis and most likely the always streaky Ivo Karlovic in the 2nd round. The Aussie John Millman, who played Federer really tough in Brisbane, also has a favorable draw against the 26th ranked Leonardo Mayer when he very easily could have drawn someone in the top 15. Led by Kyrgios, the Australian men haven’t been this hyped since Lleyton Hewitt’s heyday.
Jarmila Gajdosova may not be as well known as her fellow Australian Sam Stosur, but she may be an even better striker of the ball (which is quite something when Stosur looks like this). Gajdosova is looking to build off her strong showing in Sydney, where she beat two ranked players, and her draw may her allow her to do so. She should get to the 2nd round where she will most likely face off against the 3rd seeded Simona Halep. Halep was the biggest surprise of 2013 but she withdrew from Sydney with a stomach virus so she may not be on the top of her game.
Be sure to visit the MTL Blog daily for the latest news from the Australian Open.