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Australian Open 2014: Who will start the season with a bang?

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The first real test of the new tennis season gets underway next week, but who will be the main contenders? Alex Bonner assesses the top players’ chances:

Men’s Section

 

Djokovic is no stranger to success in Melbourne. Photo: edition.cnn.com
Djokovic is no stranger to success in Melbourne. Photo: edition.cnn.com

Novak Djokovic – (Seeded 2nd)

The Serb should be expected to challenge again for this year’s title, following his superb end to the 2013 tennis season, which ended with victory at the ATP World Tour Finals. Having won the tournament a joint record four times previously, Djokovic is no stranger to coping to the demands of this particular tournament. Djokovic’s style of play suits the hard courts of Melbourne well, with the Serb having dominated this Grand Slam tournament in recent years.  His rivalry with Rafael Nadal is legendary, with both these fierce competitors ending the 2013 season as the top two players in the world. Expect another gripping final between these two greats, with Djokovic likely to overcome the challenge from the Spaniard.

Prediction – (Winner)

Rafael Nadal – (Seeded 1st)

Following Nadal’s dominance last season, many have tipped the Spaniard to continue with that form, starting with the first Grand Slam tournament of the year. Nadal’s record in Grand Slams puts him amongst the tennis greats, meaning he should never be discounted as a potential contender. Having won the Australian and US Open, Nadal has excelled on hard courts, placing him among the favourites for this year’s tournament.  The key for Nadal is to remain fit until the tournament begins, as knee injuries last season hampered his chances in some major tournaments, including Wimbledon. Nadal will be looking to add to his one previous win in Australia, in 2009, with the Spaniard looking good for the title following his form last year.

Prediction – (Finalist)

 

David Ferrer has a good chance this year at Australia. Photo: sportsillustrated.cnn.com
David Ferrer has a good chance this year at Australia. Photo: sportsillustrated.cnn.com

David Ferrer – (Seeded 3rd)

Ferrer will be looking to add another Grand Slam final appearance to his already impressive record at the Grand Slam tournaments this year. Having reached the semi -final of the Australian Open two times previously, Ferrer will be expected to challenge at the tournament’s latter stages, with another semi-final possible for the Spaniard. Despite being known as a clay-court specialist, Ferrer has performed well on hard courts, with his dogged style of play well accustomed to such a surface. Despite not boasting a direct challenge to the likes of Djokovic and Nadal, a semi-final place beckons for the third seed.

Prediction – (Semi – Finalist)

Juan Martín del Potro – (Seeded 5th)

Del Potro’s recent form has been excellent of late, with the Argentinean performing well in the latter half of 2013. Having reached the semi-final stage in three of the four Grand Slam tournaments in his career, del Potro will be looking to reach at least the semi-final stages of this tournament. At the age of 25, del Potro still has the best years ahead of him, with the Argentine tipped to have a very good 2014. With none of the top players injured for this particular tournament, del Potro will have a very difficult task challenging for this year’s title, with a semi-final place  looking the most likely outcome for the World no. 5.

(Prediction – Semi – Finalist)

Other potential contenders

Andy Murray, having reached the final of the Australian Open three times previously, should not be ruled out for this particular tournament. Indeed the Brit looks well conditioned to the hard courts of Melbourne. However, Murray’s recent run in with injury has been well documented, and will likely have a significant impact on his chances for further Grand Slam success at the Australian Open. Roger Federer, having won the coveted Australian title four times previously, should be expected to reach at least the quarter-final stages at this year’s tournament. However, despite a resurgence in evidence for Federer, a fifth title looks unlikely for the veteran Swiss. Stanislas Wawrinka, following his excellent performances in the 2013 tennis season, should be expected to challenge, with the Swiss needing a favourable draw to challenge in the tournaments later stages. Expect a strong challenge from Wawrinka, who will be a potential dark horse candidate.

 

Women’s Section

Serena Williams – (Seeded 1st)

Williams’s dominance in recent years has been remarkable, with the American finishing successive years as world no.1.  Having won this tournament five times previously, Williams will be expected to challenge again for an unprecedented sixth Australian Open title. The 2014 tennis season will mark Williams’ 20th season since turning pro, a remarkable achievement for the American. Having dominated women’s tennis for a considerable period, Williams has been tipped to produce another year of dominance, which will likely start at this year’s Australian Open.

(Prediction – Winner)

Agnieszka Radwańska – (Seeded 5th)

Known for constructing points and making intelligent use of the court, Radwańska’s style of play seems ideally suited to the hard courts of Melbourne. A model of consistency, Radwańska has been a consistent top five player of late, with the Pole having a strong season in 2013. Following Radwańska’s appearance in the 2012 Wimbledon final, many predicted a bright future for the young Pole. Expect a strong 2014 for Radwańska, which may begin with a final appearance at the Australian Open.

(Prediction – Finalist)

 

On her day, Lisicki's serve is unplayable. Photo: commons.wikipedia.org
On her day, Lisicki’s serve is unplayable. Photo: commons.wikipedia.org

Sabine Lisicki – (Seeded 15th)

2013 marked a very strong season for the young German, with a final appearance at Wimbledon a notable achievement for her. Expect Lisicki to perform well in this tournament, with her dominant serve and strong groundstrokes likely to trouble the toughest of opposition. Despite being at the young age of 24, Lisicki has displayed incredible maturity and attitude towards the game, with these traits likely to benefit her when performing in this particular tournament. Expect Lisicki to go far in Melbourne, with a semi-final place looking a realistic goal for the German.

(Prediction – Semi – Finalist)

Ana Ivanovic – (Seeded 16th)

Having re-discovered some of her best form in 2013, Ivanovic will be expected to challenge the very best players in 2014. Winning the 2008 French Open means Ivanovic is no stranger to coping with the pressures of a Grand Slam tournament, with her aggressive style of play and impressive forehand likely to benefit her in Melbourne. A seeding of 16th suggests Ivanovic won’t be among the favourites to take the title at Melbourne, but her rediscovered form in 2013 should put her in the running for a place in the semi-finals.

(Prediction – Semi – Finalist)

Other Potential Contenders

Li Na’s consistency in the big tournaments has been in evidence in recent years, meaning she should never be ruled out, with the Chinese player reaching the final of this tournament in 2013. Na’s style of play also suits the hard courts of Australia well, putting her in the running for her first victory at this tournament. Victoria Azarenka’s performances on hard courts in recent years have been exceptional, with the Belarusian taking the Australian Open title in 2012 and 2013. Azarenka exerts an air of confidence when playing at Melbourne, meaning those ruling her out will do so at their peril.

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