2019 Australian Open: The old versus new wine

Serena Williams at Wimbledon. [Photo credit: Forefront Nigeria]
Serena Williams at Wimbledon. [Photo credit: Forefront Nigeria]

The first tennis Grand Slam of 2019 kicks off on January 14 in Australia with a familiar storyline – the old guard seeking to keep the status quo while the young Turks are looking for the opportunity to disrupt that status quo.

The Men’s Draw | The top three still hold the aces

At the start of the 2018 tennis season in Australia, few pundits could have predicted that the top ranking at the end of the year would be Novak Djokovic [31]; Rafael Nadal [32]; and Roger Federer [37]. With 41 Grand Slam titles out of the 43 held by players in the top 10, the top three have a virtual stranglehold on the men’s division.

Men’s Top 10
Name Age Professional Years Grand Slam Titles
Novak Djokovic 31 15 14
Rafael Nadal 32 17 17
Roger Federer 37 20 20
Alexander Zverev 21 5 0
Juan Del-Potro 30 13 1
Kevin Anderson 32 11 0
Marin Cilic 30 13 1
Dominic Thiem 25 7 0
Kei Nishikori 29 11 0
John Isner 33 11 0

 

Both Djokovic and Federer have won the Australian Open six times apiece while Nadal’s solitary title down under came in 2009. Federer, whilst chasing a 21st Grand Slam title will also be simultaneously chasing a 100th ATP title.

It looks like a tournament for Djokovic to win his 15th because he ended 2018 strongly though he has had some setbacks at the beginning of this year while Nadal is coming off another injury-induced layoff though he has said nothing stops him from winning a second-ever Australian title.

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Having just played one match since the end of October, he needs more match fitness to withstand the stress and the expected heat in Australia. “The only thing is that I didn’t play matches for a long time ago,” Nadal told TennisWorldUSA. “But I have one week and I am healthy now and I can practice now in Melbourne for one full week and the good thing is I am going to have the chance to play matches.”

Everyone who knows this Spanish battler understands he will keep going till the end.

Nishikori starts as the No.10 seed in Australia and said in a press conference that,  “They [Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer] are on another level.

“They’re always well prepared for playing me and they target my weak points, but I enjoy trying to find a way to break up them, it’s fun to play them.”

In a press conference after losing to Roberto Bautista Agut in Doha last week, Djokovic revealed his goal was to win the seventh title in Australia.

The world No.1 revealed that he was well rested and refreshed for the 2019 season. “I think my coach and my coaches and me handle it well. I had a very good pre-season. I had almost two months at home.”

The question then is – ‘Can anyone see beyond one of these top three picking up another title come January 27?’

The Women’s Draw: Spotlight still falls on Serena Williams

The quest for a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam title is the main storyline in the women’s draw.  For the 37-year-old mother of one, the aim would be to wipe away the meltdown on which her 2018 ended at the US Open final, in which she lost in two straight sets to Naomi Osaka. Maybe, the last has been heard of that spat with the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos

Women’s Top 10
Name Age Professional Years Grand Slam Titles
Simona Halep 27 12 1
Angelique Kerber 30 15 3
Caroline Wozniacki 28 13 1
Naomi Osaka 21 5 1
Sloane Stephens 25 9 1
Elina Svitolina 24 8 0
Karolina Pliskova 26 9 0
Petra Kvitova 28 12 1
Kiki Bertens 27 9 0
Daria Kasatkina 21 4 0

 

Seeded 16th, Serena Williams has more Grand Slams than all the current top 10 – eight in all – with No.2 seed, Angelique Kerber, boasting three titles, the last won against Serena at Wimbledon last year. It has been very close but no cigar for Serena Williams in the last two Grand Slam tournaments – at Wimbledon and the US Open, where she lost in the final match.

Former tennis champion, Chris Evert, believes opponents in Australia have something to fear in a leaner and fitter Serena.

“The one thing I notice, she seems fitter than last year,” Evert told ESPN.

“The scary thought looking at the women, they have to be thinking at this point: ‘Gosh, she was 60, 70% last year reaching two finals, and now she seems fitter, leaner, she’s moving better.’ Like I said before, she’s fresher.

“Look at the way she played at the Hopman Cup. She’s definitely a favorite here. The court, if it’s a little bit faster, is going to favor her. But I think it’s just about being relaxed, it’s about being healthy for her. That’s when she plays her best tennis.”

So can Serena go one better this year and finally tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles?

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