The 2013 Australian Open (Tennis Championship) reels off Monday (Jan. 14) as the first of four major grand slam events of the year gathers top-ranked world tennis players to compete with each other. At stake is the trophy and Aus$2.5 Million for the champion.
World number one players Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka are poised to defend their respective titles in Melbourne and I do not see an easy path for either of them.
Novak Djokovic bids for an unprecedented third straight Australian Open title with the strongest challenge coming from rivals Andy Murray and Roger Federer. Victoria Azarenka, on the other hand, faces great threats from Serena Williams, who beat her in the US Open finals last year, and Maria Sharapova, last year’s finalist in the Australian Open.
“It’s probably expected that the three of us, and Nadal of course, would still be main candidates to win all the major titles,” Djokovic said. Nadal, unfortunately, will miss this year’s opening grand slam as he is suffering from a stomach virus.
“But, you know, I wouldn’t underestimate Del Potro, (Jo-Wilfried) Tsonga, (David) Ferrer, (Tomas) Berdych, anybody who is in the top ten. I’m sure there are new young players coming up like (Bernard) Tomic, (Grigor) Dimitrov, and (Milos) Raonic. I don’t think it’s nice for me to predict that only the three of us will be champions of all Grand Slams this year”, Djokovic added.
However, the odds favor Djokovic who is targeting a third straight Australian title, a feat which has not been achieved in the professional era.
But Djokovic will face a stiff challenge from the newly assertive Andy Murray, fresh from his first Grand Slam win and keen to avenge his final and semi-final defeats to Djokovic in Melbourne in 2011 and 2012.
Also pressing hard will be Federer, holder of an unmatched 17 Grand Slams and still hungry for more even though, at the age of 31, he is six years older than his younger rivals. Murray, 25, said the Grand Slam breakthrough at Flushing Meadows in 2012 eased the pressure and set him up perfectly to build on the best year of his career. Murray, the world number three, was thrashed by Djokovic in the 2011 Australian Open decider, and narrowly lost out in their exhausting five-set semi-final last year.
But the Scot proved his mettle when he beat Djokovic in the 2012 London Olympics, and again in the US Open final as he became Britain’s first male Grand Slam singles winner since Fred Perry in 1936.
Meanwhile four-time winner Federer, keen to extend his long stay at the top of men’s tennis, opted out of playing a warm-up tournament. The Swiss has not reached the Melbourne final since his last win in 2010. But he said it had allowed him to feel fresh and eager for more Grand Slam glory as he prepared for his 53rd straight major.
In the women’s category, defending singles champion Victoria Azarenka is seeded ahead of last year’s finalist, Russian Maria Sharapova, five-time winner Serena Williams and Poland’s Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska.
Tennis, which has been my favorite outdoor tuning up exercise, always thrills me for as long as there are great players out there to watch. Still, I long for that master blaster serve from Pete Sampras and Andrei Agassi and the skillful strokes of famed John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg.
One thing sure is I will keep an eye on the Australian Open to see how my tennis idols go through their games. Unlike world basketball games which are quite predictable especially with the NBA, tennis excites me more because of its unpredictability.
I am certain, though, that the best man and woman will, of course, emerge the champions.