Tennis

Players who can win the Australian Open

The first tennis Grand Slam of the year is fast approaching as the world’s top players battle for glory. Ivan Smyth picks the men in contention to lift the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup.

  1. Novak Djokovic

The Serbian enters this tournament as the favourite after an outstanding end to his 2018 season. The number one ranked player in the world returned from injury to win Wimbledon and the US Open. He suffered defeat in Doha last week, losing to an inspired Roberto Bautista Agut. The 5-set format suits his game and it is hard to see many players who could potentially upset the 14-time Grand Slam Champion. He is aiming to win a record seventh Australian Open title and he will have a major say in who reigns supreme in two weeks’ time.

Novak Djokovic
Can Novak Djokovic win a record seventh Australian Open title? Photo By: PA
  1. Roger Federer

The 20-time Grand Slam champion comes in to this tournament in impressive form after helping Switzerland secure the Hopman Cup. He was undefeated throughout the competition where he defeated Cameron Norrie, Stefanos Tsitsipas and rival Sascha Zverev. Federer is tied with Djokovic and Roy Emerson (who won six titles from 1961-1967) on six Australian Open victories. He struggled towards the end of last season but if he is physically fit then he can create further history.

Roger Federer
Can Roger Federer win three titles Australian Open titles in a row? Sourced Via: Sky Sports
  1. Marin Cilic

It seems like now or never for the 6ft 6in Croat to claim an elusive Astralian Open crown. He is a Grand Slam champion after winning the US Open in 2014. He reached the final last year where he lost out to Roger Federer in a classic final. The 30-year-old reached three Grand Slam quarter finals and helped Croatia to win the Davis Cup in 2018. The fast courts Down Under suit his hard-hitting game and nobody would begrudge him another Slam. He faces a tough first round against Bernard Tomic, but he can go deep once more.

 

  1. Rafael Nadal

The 32-year-old Spaniard will always enter a Grand Slam among the favourites. He has been disrupted by injuries since losing to Novak Djokovic in an epic semi-final at Wimbledon. He has yet to play a competitive game in 2019 which is far from ideal preparation. The 2009 Australian Open champion faces a tough draw in which he may have to face Alex Di Minaur, Kyle Edmund, Kevin Anderson, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic to win his 18th Grand Slam title. It would be one of his most impressive Grand Slam victories if he could achieve the feat. If anyone can do it then Nadal can.

Rafael Nadal
Will Nadal win the first Grand Slam of the year? Photo By: Getty.
  1. Sascha Zverev

The talented German has yet to progress beyond the quarter final of a Slam. The 21-year-old is one of the biggest prospects in the game, but he needs to serve big and improve his forehand. Since 2005 only two players outside of Djokovic, Federer or Rafael Nadal have won the Australian Open. Zverev may well be the best bet to break those player’s hold on the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup. He has not yet progressed beyond the third round of this competition, but he beat both Djokovic and Federer and the ATP Tour Finals last November.

  1. Karen Khachanov

The Russian is an outside bet to win his first ever Grad Slam title. His big serve and large forehand are well suited to the Australian courts. He defeated four top 10 players to win the Paris Masters last November: John Isner, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic. The no.10 seed has not progressed beyond the second round in this tournament before, but he should rectify that stat this year. He can beat any player on his day.

 

The Australian Open runs from 14-27th January. It promises to be a fantastic tournament with plenty of top-quality action in the men’s and women’s draws.

Advertisements
Uncategorized

Talking Points ahead of US Open Men’s Tournament

Tennis’ final Grand Slam starts tomorrow as the best players battle it out to become US Open champion. Here I preview the action in what promises to be an action packed two weeks of tennis.

Nadal gets a favourable draw

Although Nadal will not admit it, he must be quietly pleased with his draw for the tournament. Te defending champion is on the opposite side of the draw to Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. He may have to face Karen Khachanov, Kyle Edmund and Kevin Anderson or Dominic Thiem. Nadal will feel that he can outlast those opponents and he will be determined to defend the US Open for the first time.

Rafael Nadal
Will Nadal win his second Grand Slam of the year? Photo By: Getty

Tough Draw for Federer

Roger Federer has not enjoyed a happy few months of tennis by his own high standards. He was knocked out of Wimbledon by Kevin Anderson and was comfortably beaten by Novak Djokovic in the final of the Cincinnati Open. The 20 time Grand Slam champion is projected to face Benoit Paire in round 2, Nick Kyrgios in round 3 and Hyeon Chung or Fabio Fognini in the last 16. That is before a potential semi-final with Djokovic. A tough draw indeed.

Novak Djokovic
Can Djokovic win back to back Grand Slams? Photo By: PA

How far can Murray go?

Andy Murray will play his first Grand Slam tournament since Wimbledon 2017. Murray’s return is great to see but question marks remain over his movement as a result of his hip injury. Murray is keen to quash any talk of him being a dark horse but if he is fully fit then he could be a dark horse. He could face Juan martin Del Potro in round 3 in what could be a titanic tussle.

Dimitrov v Wawrinka Part II

Grigor Dimitrov and Stan Wawrinka were paired together for the second Grand Slam in succession after being drawn in the opening round of Wimbledon earlier this year. The unseeded Wawrinka won that day and he has enjoyed an excellent hard court season – reaching the quarter finals in Cincinnati. Dimitrov has endured a difficult season but a win here could reignite his season.

Britain Wimbledon Tennis
Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland plays a return to Taylor Fritz of the U.S during their men’s singles match on day two of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Tuesday, June 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

Can Zverev make the breakthrough?

Alexander Zverev is a force to be reckoned with but he has not proved himself on the major stage yet. He reached the quarter finals at Roland Garros this year. He holds three Masters 1000 titles but if he is to progress deep in this tournament then he will need to show greater mental fortitude than he has in previous Slams. To his credit he managed to win five set matches on the French clay but he faces a tough draw. He has the potential to beat anyone as he has one more chance to go deep in a Slam in 2018.

The 2018 US Open promises to be an action packed tournament filled with drama. May the best player win.

Uncategorized

Wimbledon Women’ Final: Will it be number 8 for Serena or can Kerber etch her name in Wimbledon history?

The 2018 Wimbledon Final will be contested between number 11 seed Angelique Kerber and number 25 seed Serena Williams. This match is a repeat of the 2016 final which Williams won in two tight sets. Here I preview what promises to be a fascinating encounter.

Wimbledon Women's Trophy
The Venus Rosewater Dish will be presented to the winner but who will hat be? Photo By: Gary M Prior/Allsport

Kerber’s Route to the Final

R1. v Vera Zvonareva 7-5 6-3

R2. v Claire Liu 3-6 6-2 6-4

R.3 v Naomi Osaka 6-2 6-4

R.4 v Belinda Bencic 6-3 7-6(5)

QF v Daria Kasatkina 6-3 7-5

SF v Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 6-3

Angelique Kerber has dropped just one set on her way to the final. Her most impressive performance was in the semi-final against the power of Ostapenko. She will come up against a similar type player in Serena Williams. Kerber’s fairly routine progress means she shouldn’t be affected by fatigue and she will need all her energy if she is to triumph here.

Angelique Kerber
Will Kerber be elebrating on Saturday? Photo By: Reuters

Williams’ Route to the Final

R1. v Arantxa Rus 7-5 6-3

R2. v Viktoriya Tomova 6-1 6-4

R3. v Kristina Mladenovic 7-5 7-6(2)

R.4 v Evgeniya Rodina 6-2 6-2

QF v Camila Giorgi 3-6 6-3 6-4

SF v Julia Goerges 6-2 6-4

Serena has peaked perfectly in this tournament. Her response to losing her first set in the quarter final showed what a champion she is. She dug in and found a way to win. Her semi-final performance was excellent. Goerges played a great match but Serena’s power and angles were too much. She will need a big performance to beat a familiar foe on Saturday.

Serena Williams final
Will Serena be roaring with delight on Saturday? Photo By: UPI

My Thoughts

Serena understandably enters the match as the favourite considering her past victories here. She is going for her eighth title and looking to equal Margaret Court’s Open era  record of 24 Grand Slams. She won 87% of points behind her first serve in the semi-final and her serve was what won her the title against Kerber in 2016. She will face a different type of pressure as she has not played much tennis since the birth of her daughter. Can she handle it?

Kerber has made steady progress throughout the tournament on what I consider to be her best surface. Her serve has been vital to her progress. She made 77% of first serves in her semi-final and will need to make a similar number in the final. The German’s defence has been wondeful throughout the Champioships and she has been excellent in nullifying the big shots of Osaka and Ostapenko.

It would be special to see Serena win her 24th Slam at the All England Club and create history. It would be equally sweet to see Angelique win her first Wimbledon after her nightmare 2017. I’m giving the nod to Serena in two tight sets or over 3 sets. It promises to be a great game of tennis.