The first tennis major of the season, the Australian Open, starts tonight at 6:30PM EST on ESPN2 and Breitbart Sports has the top five story lines to look for in the Open.
#1 – Novak Djokovic
All eyes will be on the defending champion. He ended 2012 on top, barely squeaking by Roger Federer for the world #1 ranking. Will he be able to win three straight Australian Open titles? No man has done it, but Djokovic could very well be the first.
#2 – American tennis without Andy Roddick
American John Isner's absence at the Open is a crushing blow to the United States. The U.S. used to be a dominant force in tennis, but after Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi retired, American tennis has not recovered. The U.S.'s hope was Andy Roddick, but he never really lived up to the hype. He retired after the 2012 US Open and now Isner is out of the Australian Open. Will any of the Americans at the Open surprise us? American tennis fans sure hope so.
#3 – Will the top-10 men take advantage with Rafael Nadal not in the field?
Nadal has not competed since last year's Wimbledon and it was thought he would make his return at the Australian Open. He had to pull out due to the stomach flu. This presents a great opportunity for players in the top 10 to make their mark. These players include Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin Del Potro, Janko Tipsarevic, and David Ferrer. Berdych and Del Potro cause problems for Roger Federer. Ferrer came out of his shell in 2012 and won his first title. It should not come to a surprise to anyone if any of these men unseat the top 3.
#4 – Roger Federer’s first round
Federer is not the player he used to be and he showed it at the U.S. Open and the minor tournaments following it. He will face Frenchman Benoit Paire in the opening round and will most likely face Nikolay Davydenko in the next round. It is not expected for either to upset Federer, but they could force the matches to four sets and tire out Federer, which will affect the way he plays against the higher seed players in the latter rounds should he advance that far.
#5 – Serena Williams
She’s back and defending champion Victoria Azarenka should be worried. Last year, Williams lost in the fourth round of the Australian Open and the first round of the French Open. People started to think she was on the downhill, but the second part of 2012 proved otherwise. She won Wimbledon and the US Open along with the gold medal at the Olympics. While the U.S. may lack men in tennis, the country still has Serena Williams to bring America glory. Hopefully she finishes higher in the 2013 Australian Open.