Saturday, 17 January 2015
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi
Australian Open Grand Slam Set To Go
Ah January is almost over. You know how you can tell? The opening Grand Slam of the tennis season is about to start in the land down under. The 2015 Australian Open will begin tomorrow (Monday for those in the Southern Hemisphere of course). The Aussie Open is one of my favorite Grand Slams of the season. We usually see some big upsets as many athletes are just beginning their season and have not had lots of play time yet. We unfortunately also usually see many retirements in matches due to injury or heat fatigue. In North America, we often refer to the crowd at football events as being the 13th man, the extra motivator or detractor in a game. Well, in Australia, the temperature and soaring heat index often acts as the "13th Man" over the two weeks of competition. Who can overcome the play of their opponents and not succumb to the pressures of the sun? Here is my Men's Preview:
Sidenote: For my preview of the women's action, visit HERE
Novak Djokovic (1 seed/ 1 ranked) - Hard to bet against the number 1 player in the world, especially given his cushy draw this year. He avoids his biggest threats in Federer and Nadal until the final, if they both even make it that far. Novak is a 4-time winner in Melbourne and would like nothing more than to erase the QF loss last year.
Roger Federer (2/2) - Even at the age of 33 (considered old in the sport of tennis), how can one not consider RFed a favorite? He has won this event 4 times. He has 17 Grand Slam titles. He is considered by most (myself included) as the GOAT, Greatest of all Time! RFed hasn't won a grand slam since his 2012 Wimbledon triumph and there was talks over the past few years that he is on the downward swing of his career. He proved everyone wrong last year though with his Wimbledon runner-up finish, SF appearances at the Aussie Open and US Open and his return to #2 in the world. Never count out the GOAT!
Watch Out For
Stan Wawrinka (4/4) - Stan the Man. The Stanimal. Call him what you want but I think everyone should be calling him the defending champ right now. Stan played inspirational tennis last year in his run to the title. Marin Cilic referred to Stan's win as the motivation he needed throughout the season and in his run to winning the US Open last year. Stan took on the Big 4 and pushed them aside in winning his first grand slam title. Repeating the task will be a tall order as he will not fly under the radar like last year. How will he handle all the attention that comes with being the defending champ is to be seen. He cannot complain about his draw at least.
Milos Raonic (8/8) - Everyone keeps waiting for the Canadian to break through at the grand slam. He has been dubbed the future of tennis and a future multiple grand slam champion. He has not exactly lived up to those expectations on the big stage but has still been putting together a nice career at a very young age. His serve is the best in the game and almost unstoppable. Expect a ton of tiebreaks in his matches though. Not always the most exciting to watch but he goes into another gear when he plays a tiebreak. The grass of Wimbledon is more suited to his big serve game but he has the potential to be dangerous in the sun down under.
Editor's Note: It is weird to not include Rafael Nadal in this section. I just feel with his recent injury and lay off from the game, this will not be the event we see him in full 100% form. He is always a threat yes, but with his draw and lack of playing since coming back, it may be a tough event for him. But rest assured he will be ready for the French Open!
The Dark Horse
Grigor Dimitrov (10/11) - "Baby Fed" is starting to find his game over the past year. He has a ton of expectations on him, similar to Raonic. If he can keep his emotions in check, maybe learn a bit about being stone cold on the court like his girlfriend, Maria Sharapova, he could go a long way in this tournament. Expect to see him well into the second week and who knows what could happen?
I was going to mention Juan Martin del Potro here as well but unfortunately he just withdrew from the tournament as he continues to overcome his wrist injury. It is too bad we will not see him as I think all fans of the sport would agree he is great to watch and great to cheer for. Let's hope this is a minor set-up to his anticipated return to competitive action.
(1) Novak Djokovic over Dominic Thiem
(8) Milos Raonic over (17) Gael Monfils
(4) Stan Wawrinka over (16) Fabio Fognini
(5) Kei Nishikori over (9) David Ferrer
(7) Tomas Berdych over Bernard Tomic
(14) Kevin Anderson over (3) Rafa Nadal
(10) Grigor Dimitrov over (6) Andy Murray
(2) Roger Federer over (23) Ivo Karlovic
(1) Djokovic over (8) Raonic
(5) Nishikori over (4) Wawrinka
(7) Berdych over (14) Anderson
(2) Federer over (10) Dimitrov
(1) Djokovic over (5) Nishikori
(2) Federer over (7) Berdych
(1) Novak Djokovic over (2) Roger Federer in 4 sets - This is the class championship match we all want to see. We hoped for it at the US Open but it never happened. Let's hope we get it here. This would be a great way to start the 2015 Grand Slam season. This final could easily go either way but I think Novak will be untested more in the early rounds and will have more energy in the tank come the final.
Want a way to add extra excitement to cheering on your favorite players at the Australian Open? Join the Talk About Tennis Suicide Pool. I have been participating in this for over 7 years now and it is always fun. You pick the player you think will win that day, knowing that once you pick him, you can never pick him again. You battle against yourself, the odds, the other players and, ultimately, the draw itself. For more information and to sign up, visit HERE