Doesn’t time fly? It seemed like only yesterday we were looking forward to the Masters Cup in London’s O2 Arena and worrying how we would cope with the withdrawal symptoms of the off season. Now we are a few days into 2011 and the new tennis season has already begun. Melbourne is only a few short weeks away and everybody is getting some much needed match practice in anticipation of a good run at the Aussie Open.
Lets take a look at the big hitters this year and see if we can make some big predictions! With Serena still absent, Wozniacki and Clijsters are the favourites for not only the Australian Open but for the other slams aswell.The Ivanovic renaissance has not gone unnoticed and has already stated she wants to make the 2nd week at Melbourne Park. Vera Zvonareva has made great progress since her Wimbledon final last year and the hard courts down under should suit her game, hopefully she can push on and win a slam this year.Of the younger players coming through Azarenka and Radwanska seem to be the most promising and both will be hoping for Masters success and possibly even a slam.
The womens tour has almost come full circle with the majority of the Top 20 being made up of twenty somethings whereas even 5-6 years ago we had a lot of teenagers. Players such as Schiavone and Stosur, Henin and Jankovic have been around the block and will all hope to be in the reckoning come slam time. Justine Henin has declared herself fit but states she wont achieve full fitness til June or July . Amazingly outside of Wimbledon Venus Williams has not won a slam in ten years! An incredible fact. As she enjoys the indian summer of her career I wonder can she pull another slam out of the bag, especially now that lil sis is out of the way.
Even Kuzzy and Sharapova must not be discounted, though the chances of either keeping their games together for the 7 games of a slam is not great. All in all, there are a lot of possible slam winners in the women’s game, some would say that makes it more exciting. In the mens game we have Roger and Rafa and then everyone else. I wouldnt back against Rafa to win all 4 this year but then again Roger hasnt been playing badly at all. Djokovic has been playing some great tennis of late, but one thing for sure is he will have to be at his absolute best to beat Roger and Rafa in a slam.
Andy Murray is preparing for the season by playing the Hopman Cup with Laura Robson in Perth. Having made last years final, both will be keen to go one further and lift the trophy. Andy is desperate to lift a slam trophy, and if we discount his poorest surface of clay he has 3 chances this year to do it. I along with the whole of Scotland, England and Wales would love to see him do it but like Novak, Murray must sustain his best tennis over the fortnight. It seems like Robin Soderling and Tomas Berdych have come as far as they can. On any given day they can beat the top 4 but to stay within the top 4 consistently seems a bridge too far. Berdych has struggled with the pressure of success and the guy that got Soderling where he is has now left his team.
The like of Cilic, Verdasco, Ferrer, Tsonga, Gasquet, Roddick, La Monf all have Grand slam pedigree and will be knocking on the door this year again but I will be surprised if any of them make it to the top step on the Grandslam podium. And finally The Tower of Tandil makes his comeback this month from a 9 month injury timeout. Juan Martin Del Potro is a huge talent and shown in the past that he can beat Roger and Rafa. Barring any ill effects from his wrist surgery he should be a slam contender come Paris and should be in the top 4 at least by mid summer.
The results from these first couple of weeks in Chennai, Doha, Wellington, Brisbane and Perth will make for very interesting reading indeed.