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Australian Open 2019: 3 players who can challenge the Big 3 in Melbourne

Pramodh Kumar
CONTRIBUTOR
Top 5 / Top 10
788   //    08 Jan 2019, 00:30 IST

With the first Grand Slam of the year upon us, could we expect a new champion to come up? It is tempting to say yes; after years of dominance by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, this year's Australian Open may well provide a passing of the baton moment.

The Big 3 had a stellar 2018, dominating the Slams and proving to the world that age is no longer a barrier. The younger generation were impressive in bits and pieces throughout the last year, but they just couldn't maintain the consistency at the big tournaments, faltering in the pressure semifinals or finals.

The Australian Open this year has undergone many changes; for instance, there will now be a tiebreaker in the fifth set after 6-6. Marathon matches will soon be a thing of the past. With these changes, will there also be a new champion?

The Big 3 have won all the men's singles titles in Melbourne since 2004, except on two occasions. Russia's Marat Safin won in 2005 and Swiss Stan Wawrinka in 2014. We have seen only one champion other than the Big 3 in the last decade.

There are many players who possess the potential to win a Grand Slam, but they lack in a couple of aspects when compared with the senior pros:

1. Lack of pressure / big match experience; and

2. Inability to play consistently and confidently throughout the tournament.

Federer had a good Hopman Cup, which he won at Perth with Belinda Bencic, but he hasn't won a big tournament in a while. Nadal is returning from injury. And Djokovic, though he won two Grand Slams last year, lost in the summit clash at the ATP Finals last year and in the Qatar semifinal last week. The Big 3 aren't going to Melbourne in the best of form.

Though Djokovic and Federer seem to still be the favorites, they are far from being unbeatable. On that note, here's a look at the three most promising players to watch out for this year, who have a chance of causing a major upset.

1. Kevin Anderson

The 6 feet 8 inches tall South African has a game which is well suited for faster courts. A player who has a very quick serve and powerful groundstrokes, Kevin Anderson created a couple of major upsets last year.

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The most predominant of those was defeating Federer in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. He ended up reaching the final of that tournament, where he lost to Djokovic.

In 2017 he had reached the final of the US Open as well, so he is no stranger to big game experience.

Anderson's powerful forehand on display
Anderson's powerful forehand on display

Armed with a mammoth forehand and a bamboozling serve, Anderson approaches the net frequently and plays those volleys well. He has a slightly weak backhand, but he compensates for that with his quick movement on the court.

Last year after Wimbledon he didn't have very good results, but he has had a great start to 2019 by capturing the Maharashtra Open. He would hope to carry on from where he left off and capture his elusive first Grand Slam.

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