How will the players fare at the Australian Open post the season-opening ATP tournaments?
A look at some of the questions that tennis fans can ponder about the chances of top players at the Australian Open after the first week of the ATP tour.
The opening week of the 2015 season saw multiple tournaments being played across Asia and Australia. Along with the Hopman Cup in Perth, all the top players have warmed up for the season to come. However, heading in to the Australian Open there are still several unanswered questions as to how the top players will fair at Melbourne Park?
Stanislas Wawrinka’s Chennai defense
Chennai was the place where it all started for Wawrinka last year. After his win in Chennai, he went on to win his first Grand Slam trophy and break the monopoly of the “Big Four” at major tournaments. The Swiss number 2 has replicated his performance from last year in Chennai and would be in contention for defending his title in Australia. However, the World No. 4 hasn’t really set the stage on fire at other major tournaments. It would be interesting to see if Wawrinka can once again start the year with a Grand Slam victory.
David Ferrer’s win in Doha
For quite some time David Ferrer has been there among the top players in the world. Despite that he has been unable to secure a trophy at a major tournament. A title win in Doha is a good start to the 2015 season. But can the Spaniard take this performance to a best of 5 sets match in a Grand Slam tournament? Well it would certainly need a Herculean effort on his part to topple the top players in the crucial rounds of the tournament.
Rafael Nadal’s return from injury
The performance of Rafael Nadal after returning from an injury has always been a matter of speculation. This time around the Spaniard lost his opening match of the season to qualifier Michael Berrer. Can we read anything in to it? How would he fare at the Australian Open? One thing is for certain despite an early loss in Doha, he cannot be counted out of contention in Melbourne.
If one may recall, Nadal lost to a lesser known name of Horacio Zebollas on his comeback from injury on clay in 2013. But he went on an unprecedented winning streak, winning multiple Masters trophies and majors in Paris and New York. As for match fitness, Nadal did win the doubles title in Doha without any injury concerns. So despite the early loss in Doha, I believe he would be a major force to contend with for the top players in Australia.
Novak Djokovic’s early exit in Doha
The World No. 1 did not play at an ATP event before the Australian Open for the last couple of years. This year however, the Serb started the season with the Qatar Open and lost out to big serving Ivo Karlovic in the quarter-final. As a player who has generally not played a lot of warm-up tournaments before a Slam and gone on to win the major, this loss wouldn’t be a major deterrent for his bid to reclaim the Australian Open trophy.
Roger Federer’s 1000th win and title in Brisbane
Roger Federer recorded his 1000th career win, beating Milos Raonic in the final of the Brisbane Open. On his way to the title, the Swiss Maestro dispatched players like Grigor Dimitrov in under an hour, suggesting the form that he is in.
But the fact of the matter is that for most of the second half of the 2014 season, Federer has been playing well, winning multiple Masters Trophies in Shanghai and Cincinnati. However, he has faltered at the business end of Majors losing to Novak Djokovic in London and Marin Cilic in New York. Can he overcome those defeats and win his 18th major at Melbourne Park? Well, if he plays like he did in Brisbane, he is certain to give the other contenders a run for their money come next week.
The next generation players
One thing that the 2014 season threw up was the rise of the next generation of players. The rise of players like Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov and their performances at Grand Slam tournaments has added to the list of contenders at major tournaments.
All the three made it to the semifinal stage in Brisbane, with Raonic proceeding further and giving Federer a tough fight in the final. It is to be seen if these players can rise up to the challenge and go on to win the Australian Open.
All-in-all the 2015 season has begun really well and has left many questions for tennis fans to ponder as they wait with bated breath for the first grand slam tournament of the year Down-Under.