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Federer, Nadal or Djokovic: Who has the most at stake at the 2019 Australian Open?

ANALYST
Feature
913   //    07 Jan 2019, 13:17 IST

The Big Three of Men's Tennis
The Big Three of Men's Tennis

With the first grand slam of the year barely a week away, all eyes are on the superstars of men’s tennis – the big three of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. But who out of these three has the most at stake at the Australian Open this year?

Federer comes to Melbourne as the two-time defending champion. The 2017 Australian Open victory saw a reemergence of sort for the Swiss Maestro and he has won two more grand slams after that epic final victory over Nadal, including last year’s successful defense of his Australian Open.

But can he make a hat-trick by winning this time too? In his own words, he is only one of the top ten favourites to win the tournament.

His season-ending form was not great. So, it is difficult to see him winning this time round. But if he loses, it will not be catastrophic as he has possibly achieved more than what he probably expected of himself two years ago.

An elusive 18th grand slam title was all he and his legions of fans wanted, and in that sense, he has performed beyond expectations in the last two years. Though it will be great to see him lay his hands on one more grand slam trophy, a failure to do so will not have much impact on his career or legacy.

As for Nadal, Australian Open is his least favourite grand slam, as he has won only once here. With injury clouds hovering over him, it is extremely unlikely that he could mount a successful campaign here.

So, in terms of the realistic expectations of winning a second Australian open, there is not much at stake for him here. That will come in the clay court season, and most certainly at the French Open for him.

However, it is Novak Djokovic for whom there is a lot at stake at this year’s Australian Open. It is his most favourite grand slam as he has won six of his fourteen titles here.

Though he won the last two grand slams of 2018, his unexpected losses in the last two tournaments of 2018 and the first one of 2019 at Qatar, has raised some doubts about the level of his fitness and form.

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He has openly admitted that the Federer record of 20 grand slam titles is on his mind. If he is to mount a serious challenge for that target, he must do well at the Australian open.

With age catching up, he needs to make the most of his resurgent form. And being injury prone in recent times, and having to battle with not just the old guard, but the emerging youngsters like Zverev, Khachanov and Coric, will make his attempts at winning more grand slams more and more difficult with time.

So, it is fair to say that of the big three, it is the Serbian for whom there is the most at stake at the 2019 Australian Open.

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