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.

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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.

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Wimbledon Men’s Championship Review: Djokovic triumphs in an epic two weeks of tennis

Wimbledon 2018 was one of the most exciting men’s slams in recent memory. We had epic matches, new records, shocks and controversy. Here I look back on the main talking points from 2 weeks of action.

Djokovic is back

Novak Djokovic won his first Grand Slam title since 2016 in a relatively straight forward final. His epic win over Rafael Nadal shows that he is truly back to his best. When he won Roland Garros two years ago, he held all four Grand Slams at the same time, being the only man in history to do so. His run here proves he is back and now looks the man to beat as we approach the hard court season.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic won his fourth Wimbledon title this year. Photo By: PA

Big Servers are prospering

Kevin Anderson’s run to the final and John Isner’s run to the semis show that the big servers can make a deep run in Slams. Marin Cilic’s final appearance at Wimbledon last year and the Australian Open in January has highlighted how the taller players are now appearing at the business end of Slams. They key now is for a big server to consistently chalenge for them. Cilic was consistent up until his second round exit at SW19.

Kevin-Anderson
Kevin Anderson has made huge strides in recent years. Photo By: Getty

Federer feels the pressure

Roger Federer suffered the shock of the Championship when he lost in five sets to Kevin Anderson. The Swiss maestro was in complete control and had a match point in the third set. As the match went in to a fifth set, his forehand misfired as it did against Kokkinakis in Miami and Del Potro in Indian Wells. He seems to be putting pressure on himself after all his success. His problem seems to be caused by himself and he will need to solve it before the US Open.

Roger Federer
Federer was unable to defend his title. Sourced Via: Sky Sports

An Old Man’s Game

The men’s final was contested by two men in their thirties. It is the first time in the Open era that two men in their thirties have contested a Wimbledon final. This begs the question: where are the young guns? They don’t seem to be ready yet to beat Federer, Nadal and Djokovic in a 5 setter.

Nadal-Djokovic rivalry is up there with the greatest in the sport

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic played out a Wimbledon classic under the roof in a match that exceeded the high expectations. The two warriors slugged it out in endless rallies until Djokovic emeged victorious. The semi-final was the best game of the Championship as Djokovic now leads the head t head by 27-25. Their rivalry is up there with Nadal-Federer and Agassi-Sampras. We are lucky to witness rivalries such as this.

Nadal and Djokovic
The Nadal-Djokovic rivalry has emerged as one of the biggest in the history of tennis. Photo By: Getty

 

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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.

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5 Men who can win the Men’s Singles title at Wimbledon

Roger Federer

The King of Grass is looking to retain his Wimbledon crown that he won so emphatically in 2017. He has won this title a record eight times and will be the man to beat when the tournament commences on Monday, July 2nd. He is seeded 1 at Wimbledon and looks to be placed on the easier side of the draw. Despite losing the final at Halle last week, it will take a special performance to beat Federer at his favourite tournament.

Roger Federer
Can anyone stop Federer retaining his Wimbledon title? Sourced Via: Sky Sports

Marin Cilic

The big serving Croat is well built for the grass and reached the final last year. He suffered from blisters and was easily beaten by Federer. He enters the tournament having won the Aegon Championships at the Queens tennis club last weekend. He reached the final of the Australian Open and the quarter finals at Roland Garros. He is in the same side of the draw as Federer but he will not fear facing the defending champion. Winning that match could be the key to winning Wimbledon.

Novak Djokovic

The champion of 2011 and 2014 returns to Wimbledon with hope. He lost the final of the Aegon Championships where despite having match point, he lost to Marin Cilic. His run to the final is encouraging news but will he be able to last two weeks and beat the big guys? He has shown before that he has the game to win but question marks still remain. If he i physically right then he can be the king of SW19 once more.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic won his second of hi Wimbledon titles in 2014. Can he win his third this year? Photo By: PA

Rafael Nadal

Nadal did not play in a grass court tournament and instead chose to play exhibition matches against Lucas Pouille and Matthew Ebden. He beat Ebden but lost to Pouille. There are question marks hanging over his fitness and he has exited Wimbledon early for the past few years. He lost to an inspired Gilles Muller last year but from the period 2006-2011 he reched the Wimbledon final every year with the exception of 2009 when he did not play. He has the potential but can he banish the recent losses at SW19.

Rafael Nadal
Can Nadal bring his clay court form to the grass? Photo By: Getty

Juan Martin Del Potro

Del Potro is a real fans’ favourite in Southwest London and reached the semi-final in 2013 where he lost an epic match to Novak Djokovic. He has not had as much success in recent years but he has enjoyed a decent season so far, reaching the semi-final at Roland Garros. He suffered a one-sided defeat to Novak Djokovic at Queens last week and has a history of injuries. He is placed on the tougher side of the draw but he is a dark horse.

Juan Martin Del Potro
Can Juan Martin Del Potro be the dark horse this year? Photo By: Getty

Nick Kyrgios

The talented Aussie has a game perfectly built for grass. He beat Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2014 and he reached the semi-final of the Aegon Championships last week. His temperament is questionable to say the least but if he performs to his potential then he will be a match for anyone. His biggest opponent is himself.