Always an event to savour, the Australian Open can often throw up some surprises. One thing is for sure, it is bound to be an exciting action-packed event! Love Tennis Blog have awoken our Experts from winter hibernation and asked them for their predictions for the Aussie Open.
One man who is bound to feature prominently amongst the tipsters is Novak Djokovic. There is good reason for this: the Serb had an outstanding season in 2011, picking up three of the four grand slams. However, I think it is well-nigh impossible for him to repeat those heroics, given the fierce competition of the game and the fact that he is due an off-day. Who else could then win the tournament? Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer are expected to meet each other in the semis, and while this is a close call, I think that Rafa may just have the edge psychologically as he generally has had in the grand slams (certainly since the Wimbledon final in 2008). I think he’d meet a man in form in the final: Andy Murray. The Scot enters the tournament in blistering form and, somewhat surprisingly, relatively under the radar. A win in Brisbane will mean that his confidence is sky-high, and he won’t have to deal with the pressures that playing in Wimbledon yield. He has been gearing his entire winter towards the event (even skipping the Sports Personality event to continue his warm weather training in Miami). His serve and stamina have improved immeasurably since his debut as a precocious teen at Wimbledon in 2005. These weapons, allied with his great defensive strengths, make Andy Murray my tip to win the title.
Turning to the women’s side of the draw, it would be easier to pick out who can’t win as opposed to who can win. An obvious pick would be Caroline Wozniacki, the world number one, who is perhaps overdue a major title. She is a model of consistency, and will never stop until a match is well and truly over. Petra Kvitova is another rising star of the game, the Wimbledon champion and surely a future world number one. The lefty serve is always hard to deal with and she is more than capable of delivering the decisive groundstrokes too. There are plenty of major winners in the draw: Na Li, Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters and Maria Sharapova to name but a few. It is a tough call, and I’m going to go out on a limb as many pundits would struggle to pick a winner here. My tip for the title is Vera Zvonareva. She has come close in grand slams, having previously made the final at Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows in 2010. These experiences will mean that, should she make it to the ultimate match, nerves shouldn’t be a factor. She is usually a very focused and consistent competitor, and, given that this is a tournament which can throw up a surprise winner, we could see a new major winner crowned in Melbourne.
As so often the case, the ladies draw is wide open. The players on form at the moment seem to be Kvitova who had a good run in Sydney and at the Hopman Cup , Li Na seems to be approaching her best form and the feet seem to be moving well again. Wozniacki for all the criticism she receives has shown decent form this year, going down in 3 in the Hopman Cup and going deep in Sydney. This could sadly be Kim Clijsters last Open, the 2011 champion hasn’t shown anywhere near her best form yet but the Melbourne Courts and the cheers for Aussie Kim always seem to bring the best out of her. Serena Williams could threaten but she lacks match practice and is increasingly injury prone. Sharapova is also a good bet, she had her best year in 5 or 6 seasons in 2011 and I would expect her to feature well into the second week. Brit Heather Watson faces a tough first rounder in Azarenka and Laura Robson faces another former #1 in Jelena Jankovic. Kvitova seems to be everyones favourite for the tournament and I too agree that she can win this. Im going for Victoria Azarenka . Fresh from her triumph in Sydney and comfortable on the blue courts of Melbourne, Vika has the game to win, like Li Na, Kvitova and Sharapova she can defend really well and attack when the opportunity presents itself.Vika all the way.
The men have been slightly more formulaic of late and 2012 is no exception. The ranking system seems to be doing its job. If I look at who can win the tournament first rather than who will. Andy Murray is this year powered by Ivan Lendl, he seems to be going for more lights out forehands on that side and taking the game to his opponents. A twice beaten finalist, the Scot is a very genuine title contender; however he has been paired with Djokovic in the semis and faces the toughest draw of the top 4. Roger and Rafa have ok draws early on which should enable them to ease their way into the event. Rafa made a strange move recently by announcing he will be taking February off indicating his shoulder needed a rest, a strange comment before a major. Roger on the other hand looks good, he is hitting well as shown in our video of his practice session on Laver. The biggest obstacle to Federer doing well at this event could well be his back, the Swiss has been complaining of a sore back since Doha. Tsonga is the biggest form player outside the top 4, he has been playing blistering tennis of late and he can win big as shown by his run to the final a few years back. Milos Raonic is a name often mentioned, as too is Ferrer and ofcourse Delpo. But there’s one guy who we have failed to mention. Novak Djokovic played with an incredible all court fast and loose style. He seems to have rekindled that style of late and I cannot see him being beat, he’s too strong off both sides and on the return, 3rd Aussie Open title to the Serbian.