The eyes of the world have been on the bushfires in Australia. The climatic, environmental and social disaster has put environmental change front and centre of the world headlines. Next week the Australian Open begins in Melbourne. In the last week, citizens have been told to remain indoors, avoid breathing the dirty air. Tennis players have been suffering too with poor air quality. It is a huge event for Australia but the loss of life, ecological destruction and environmental damage surely surpass anything that happens on the tennis court. Should the event be cancelled or postponed? How bad does it have to get before we would ever consider cancelling such a global sporting event? Needless to say the event is due to go ahead as planned.
The Big 3 but who else?
The Australian Open draw took place on Thursday ahead of the commencement of the tournament on Monday. The men’s draw is much easier to predict given the dominance of the big 3 over the years. Novak Djokovic is a huge favourite for this event and should as the seedings suggest he play Rafa in the final. Novak has lost a set to Rafa since almost 6 years. His style matches up hugely favourably to Rafa’s. Both guys have reasonable draws.
Novak Djokovic’s Projected #AusOpen Draw— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) 16 January 2020
R1 – Struff
R2 – Ito/Qualifier
R3 – Evans
R4 – Schwartzman/Lajovic
QF – Tsitsipas/Bautista Agut
SF – Federer/Berrettini
F – Nadal/Medvedev
Rafael Nadal Projected #AusOpen Draw— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) 16 January 2020
R1 – Dellien
R2 – Delbonis / Sousa
R3 – Carreno Busta
R4 – Khachanov / Kyrgios
QF – Thiem
SF – Medvedev / Zverev
F – Djokovic / Federer
Elsewhere where does interest lye? The young guns bring an enormous amount of excitement and uncertainty to proceedings. Guys like Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Karen Khachanov are all snapping at the heels of the biggest players eager to finally make a breakthrough. It would be great to see one of these guys go toe to toe with Nadal or Djokovic and win. Who can forget the amazing match last year in which defending champion Roger Federer was ousted by Tsitsipas in a titanic tussle. These are the games that tennis fans long to see.
As Alex Corretja Eurosport correspondent and former world number 2 says
‘ it’s a good opportunity. Medvedev, Thiem, Tsitsipas are players that are going to be knocking on the door once again, but of course Nadal, Djokovic and Federer will be favourites, but I think they will find it more and more difficult to win the Slams.’
Nick Kyrgios; bad boy comes good.
The Australian is also front and centre during the buildup to the Australian Open. Ofcourse the home crowd would love to see a home winner and Canberra native Kyrgios seems the most likely to do it. Alex de Minaur is a great young talent but perhaps lacking top end performance to really do it over 7 matches. Kyrgios is a bit like the extremely intelligent guy in school, he doesn’t have to try too hard to do well, would prefer to be cool that achieve top grades but instead cannot discipline himself to hard work. De Minaur on the other hand is the guy everyone likes, hard working and honest. Unlike Kyrgios he doesn’t have as much natural talent but works very hard. Maybe both can go on a run in Melbourne.
Ash Barty is another great hope for Australia. The women’s number one has the game and temperament for the big stage. Her variety and mental fortitude really set her apart from others. As Sam Stosur, Lleyton Hewitt and other Aussies have found out the home crowd can really help and hinder players in equal measure. The expectation to succeed for a sport crazy nation like Australia is enormous. Under the media spotlight for the whole Aussie summer can be enough to break anyone.
Serena Williams is back winning again and determined to beat Margaret Court’s 24 grand slam record. Serena won the ASB Classic in Auckland her first title in years. Could it propel her to another slam title? Karolina Pliskova looks every bit the grand slam contender as she won a stacked field in Brisbane. In the semis she went against Naomi Osaka and impressively came out on top. Could she finally break her duck? Big serve and forehands will certainly help her cause.
Wozniacki to retire.
One of the most popular players on tour Caroline Wozniaki recently announced her intention to retire from the game following the Australian Open this year. The former world number one and one time grand slam champion has been at the top of the game for well over a decade but has decided to call it quits on her own terms. Last years champion Naomi Osaka is also in a good position to mount a challenge. On her game she is always tough to beat as she manages to get her body behind every ball. She would be a hugely popular champion.
One of the standout ties from the first round is Venus Williams vs Coco Gauff. You may remember the hullaballoo about 15 year Coco at Wimbledon 2019. When 15 year old Gauff made it to the forth round of Wimbledon. Beating a host of names on her way. She has made slow progress up the rankings but once again will prove a formidable opponent to forty something Venus Williams, a legend of the game.
Margaret Court achievements honoured.
The legendary Australian player Margaret Court will be honoured at this years Australian Open. She still holds the record for most grand slam victories at 24 and won 190 singles tour titles. Unfortunately, her comments on the LGBT community have enraged many including many of her compatriots which has certainly tarnished her tennis legacy.
Further evidence of a two tier tennis player divide.
Kris Soutar in his Facebook page pointed out that it was disappointing and dangerous that qualifiers had to play in appallingly bad air quality. Had a big name had to play in such conditions they probably would have been able to delay the match.
Given the environmental crisis engulfing large swathes of Australia it seems morally and ethically unjustified to host such a big sporting event such as the Australian Open. When will we reach a point when we decide to put the environment first ahead of a sport? The wet and stormy weather has helped quell some of the fires and as a result the air quality has improved markedly since last week. The Australian Open will run as planned.