With all four of the major tennis tournaments finished for the year, our favorite players can take the opportunity to recharge their batteries and get some much-needed rest ahead of the new season. For the rest of us, we start to turn our attention to the beginning of next year and the always entertaining Australian Open. Qualifying kicks off at Melbourne Park on the 10th of January with the main draw starting on the 15th.
The event continues to grow in popularity each year and, in 2017, it broke the highest attendance record for any of the major tennis tournaments with 728 763 people making their way to Melbourne to catch a glimpse of their heroes in action. It broke the previous record of 721 059 which was held by the US Open back in 2009.
Spectators from all over the globe attend the competition nowadays and often combine it with a relaxing holiday in the south of Australia. No doubt there will also be thousands of local fans heading down to check out the action also, to cheer for their beloved tennis idols.
One of the fantastic things about Melbourne Park is that, after the recent refurbishments to Margaret Court Arena, all three of the primary courts now have retractable roofs. This means there is no chance for bad weather to come along and spoil the day which makes for non-stop tennis without delays for the entire duration of the tournament.
The big question is now who is looking good to take out the 2018 event, and start the next term with a Major Grand Slam under their belt?
The Swiss won last year’s event when he overcame his fiercest rival Rafael Nadal in a five set thriller at the Rod Laver Arena. It was Federer’s 18th major singles title and his fifth at the Australian Open. It started off a successful year for the seasoned pro and he went on to clinch his eighth Wimbledon title becoming the oldest male to win the trophy in the Open era. Even at the age of thirty-six, he is still such a dangerous and explosive player on the court and he will be a threat to all other players as he looks to defend his title. Roger is a regular crowd favorite down in Victoria and the Melbourne regulars will be there to cheer him on as always.
Unfortunately for Novak, there were some niggling injuries that caught up with him this year and forced him to have some time off from the international circuit. During his Wimbledon quarterfinal match with Tomas Berdych, the Serbian had to retire after an elbow injury finally became too much for him to endure.
However, according to reports, he has been using a wide range of different rehabilitation and healing processes, and it looks as though he will be ready to hit the courts at the start of the year. That’s great news for tennis fans and he’ll be looking to add to his Australian Open tally after winning the event on six previous occasions.
Surprisingly enough, he will enter the tournament as the favourite even after not playing for several months. This just shows how much people respect the raw talent of the player on the fast and hard surfaces.
The clay-court magician has not been that lucky in Australia over the years and has only won the event on one previous occasion back in 2009. Last year, he had one hand on the trophy only to be denied by Federer in the final over five grueling sets. He will be hungry to go one better this year and is definitely one to watch out for over the tournament. He is playing some good tennis currently and earlier this year won a record tenth French Open. The hard courts are always a little more challenging for the Spaniard though, and it will be interesting to see how he fairs this time around.
Similar to Djokovic, Murray played his last tennis of the year at Wimbledon. He’s taken some time out to heal a chronic hip injury that the star player said has been troubling him for several years. Andy said that having six months free of competition would hopefully give him a chance to return to his best.
He plans to play the Brisbane International which begins on January the 1st as preparation leading into the Australian Open. The tournament has been somewhat unattainable for the Brit during his career and he has made it to the final on five occasions only to finish runner-up each time.
Undoubtedly, he would like to take it one step further this time and, after a solid stint of rehabilitation, this may be the event where he is back to full fitness, and we could be in for quite a refreshed and dominant performance from the 30-year old.
Another player that had a tough time of it during 2017 was Stan Wawrinka. He had to pull out of the US Open in August due to a knee injury, denying himself the chance to defend his title, which he won in 2016 against Djokovic. He adds to the list of players that called it quits for the rest of the season, stating that it was the only solution to make sure he was able to compete at the top level for many more years to come.
There were no specifics as to exactly what the injury was or the treatment he would undergo but, throughout the French Open, it is was clear that his left knee was bothering him and he constantly iced it during changeovers.
He has won the tournament on one previous occasion back in 2014, and the 32-year-old Swiss could be back to his best after dealing with his troublesome knee. He was playing some fantastic tennis last year and fans will be hoping he can hit the ground running when he returns to the courts in Australia.
With so many players returning from injury, this is definitely shaping up to be a fascinating Australian Open. As mentioned previously, Djokovic is currently the favorite at +350 with Federer right behind him at +400. The Swiss was heavily favored by betting tips site Oddschecker to win the US Open and, after his shock defeat, it’s going to be interesting to see if he can bounce back in Melbourne.
Rafael Nadal is sitting on +450 with Murray at +500 and, as you can see, it is extremely tight between the top four. For Novak and Andy, their time off may or may not work in their favor depending on how well they have used their break from the circuit.
This doesn’t mean there won’t be other competitors ready to take up the challenge though, and players such as Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic will be there to take advantage of any mistakes the big guns make. The Canadian is yet to fulfill his potential and is starting to approach his prime as a tennis player. This could give him the opportunity to step into the spotlight and finally claim his first major title.
Aussie youngster Nick Kyrgios is another to watch out for and he will have the home crowd on his side as they look to him to cause a few upsets. The young dynamo has loads of talent and if he can learn to deal with his temper he is absolutely going to be a superstar in the future. He is currently around +22000 with most bookmakers which is great value and an extremely good choice if you’re looking to get behind an underdog.
Playing in familiar surroundings and with family and friends to support you can sometimes make all the difference, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him go further than his 2015 quarter-final appearance this time round.
Nobody knows who will lift the coveted trophy come the end of January. However, one thing is for certain; it’s going to be another fantastic tournament down there at Melbourne Park and we’re in for some spectacular tennis to kick start the new season.