It is almost time! A new season of tennis is upon us, and the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam, starts on Monday. What will it have in store? Here is my analysis of the Open.
1. Rafael Nadal is back for a complete season
2013, besides Wimbledon, was a great year for Nadal. It was not his best year, but it definitely showed why he is one of the best. After Wimbledon in 2012, Nadal missed seven months due to two horrible knees. It goes without saying that knees are pretty important to tennis players. He missed the 2013 Australian Open, but came back on February 5 at the Chile Open. He returned with a blast. Was this the same guy who missed over 222 days? Not only that, he dominated the French Open and became the only player to win a single Grand Slam tournament eight times. He lost in the first round of Wimbledon, but then again, the 2013 Wimbledon was just strange. He headed to New York and won the 2013 US Open. Two out of four Grand Slams. Now, many are concerned about his first round match against Bernard Tomic, but personally I think Nadal will beat him. The man is on fire and is there anyone who can slow him down?
2. Novak Djokovic Owns the Australian Open
Nadal is King of Clay, but Djokovic has won the Australian Open four times. It is his favorite place to play. Not only that, the #2 seed received a fantastic draw! More than likely he will not have a problem until the quarterfinals when he may face #8 Stanlias Wawrinka. It is a pretty sure thing Djokovic will make it to the Finals, and I believe he will face Nadal. He faced him in the semi-finals at the French Open and the finals at the US Open. Nadal won both times. It is so hard to choose, but I think Nadal may very well prevent Djokovic from winning his fifth Australian Open.
3. No One Gives Juan Martin del Potro Proper Credit
I almost always pick del Potro to be a dark horse, and I am usually correct. Despite his being seeded #5 the experts are skipping over him and talking about #6 Roger Federer. I do not mind. Anyone who knows me knows I am a Federer girl and one of his biggest fans. But it is not fair to del Potro, who has received less attention than David Ferrer. Del Potro has won a Grand Slam event (2009 US Open). He also completely dominated Tomic at the Sydney Invitational, 6-3, 6-1, last week. Do not be surprised if del Potro causes a few upsets (he could beat Nadal) and makes it far in the tournament.
4. All About Serena Williams
She suffered an early defeat at 2013 Australian Open at the hands of up-and-coming American Sloane Stephens, but I doubt anything like that will happen if she stays healthy. She remained professional, but everyone knew her injured ankle had something to do with her loss to Stephens. She stays healthy and she will win.
5. Serena vs. Azarenka in the Finals
There will be upsets, but these two will end up on top. There are a few people who love the underdogs, but it is always very exciting to see these two play against each other.
6. The Americans
No, not the awesome FX show, but the ones in the Australian Open tournament. I will not waste time on the men. Besides Serena, there is light at the end of the tunnel for American women. Stephens is #13 and recovering from an injury, but she could still be the next Serena. Then there are Jamie Hampton, #17, and 18-year-old Madison Keys. All three will eventually bring back American dominance to the game.
7. Hey There, Maria Sharapova
She had four months off due to an injury to her right shoulder, but came back to reach the semi-finals in Brisbane. She claims she is lowering her expectations at the Open due to the injury, but come on. She is still Sharapova and #3 because she is one of the best even if she is coming back from an injury. She could meet Azarenka in the semifinals, which is very exciting. Head-to-head Azarenka is only ahead 7-6. Their semifinal match could be the most exciting one in the Open.
8. Is Andy Murray in Top Form?
Murray underwent back surgery at the end of September and he says the surgery definitely helped. However, since he has not played much, other parts need to be loosened up. He told BBC Scotland he does not believe he will win this tournament and is not used to playing in extreme heat. His first two rounds should be easy and able to get his body used to playing. It is more fun when the top seeds advance far!