Australian Open 2016: Serena Williams Hopes to Repeat, Lleyton Hewitt Says Goodbye

Serena Williams
The Associated Press

The Australian Open begins Sunday night—Monday afternoon for those in the land down under—with Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams in the top spots. They remain the favorites. Is it possible for someone to dethrone the best?

Injuries and Illnesses in The Top 10.

The tennis season is only a few weeks old, but injuries or illnesses have plagued members of the women’s top 10. Serena Williams withdrew from the Hopman Cup due to a knee injury involving residual inflammation. Other withdrawals in the tournaments included No. 2 Simona Halep for an ankle, No. 3 Garbine Muguruza for her foot, No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska for her leg, No. 5 Maria Sharapova for her forearm, No. 6 Angelique Kerber for a stomach illness, and No. 7 Petra Kvitova for a stomach virus. Lucie Safarova, ranked ninth, withdrew from the Australian Open due to a bacterial infection.

This leaves Venus Williams as the only top ten player without any illnesses or injuries. No. 8 Flavia Pennetta retired from the game last year.

Williams showed the world in 2015 she still has gas left in her tank. It is quite possible the 35-year-old could win another Grand Slam. But if not her, turn your eyes to American Sloane Stephens, the teenager who stunned Serena in Australia in 2013. She won the tournament in New Zealand, showing signs of consistency and maturation in her game. Two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka moved back into the top 20 with her victory at the Brisbane International, the first title since 2013. Injuries pushed the former world No. 1 to the sidelines in 2014 and hampered her 2015 comeback, but she is finally healthy.

Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic Will Repeat

If Williams remains healthy, she will win. There is no stopping Djokovic either, who enjoyed one of the best seasons of all time in 2015. He lost five matches and won ten titles. He almost secured a calendar Grand Slam, but lost the French Open to Stan Wawrinka.

The Other Four Men

Andy Murray grabbed the second ranking from Roger Federer due to a fantastic 2015 season, including Great Britain’s first Davis Cup victory in 79 years. He has not beaten Federer or Djokovic since 2013, but he will be a force to be reckoned with.

Rafael Nadal’s 2015 season can be described as “meh,” but the Spanish star should never be counted out due to a resurgence at the end of the year at the World Tour Finals to snag the fifth spot. Wawrinka has proven he deserves to be named among the Big Four, but still needs consistent play.

Saying Good-bye to Lleyton Hewitt

The Australian will leave the game after he takes part in his home-country tournament. He knows he has the motivation to pull off a deep run in the tournament.

“That’s what’s pushed me the last few years: I don’t struggle for self-motivation, to get up early and do the hard work that no one sees,” he said at a press conference. “There’s no crowds or cameras around there. It’s just you in the gym or on the practice court. That’s one of the things I will miss, not having to go out there and push yourself day in and day out.”

Hewitt reached the finals of the Australian Open in 2005, but Marat Safin defeated him for the title. He won the U.S. Open in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2002. He only reached the quarterfinals at the French Open. Overall, though, he has won 615 times with 30 titles, reaching No. 1 in November 2001.

Now he mentors the young Australians who hope to burst into the top 10, including colorful characters Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios.

Australian Open Weather

The land down under is known for its hot and humid summers, baking players on the court and melting their water bottles. Kristina Pydynowski, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather, reports that players will face “intense heat” on the first two days. Temperatures will rocket into the mid-90s and might even top 100 on Tuesday.

The Australian Open enforces its Extreme Heat Policy “once the ambient (surrounding temperature) exceeds 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and the Wet Bulb Global Temperature reading exceeds 32.5 C (90.5 F).”

The Australian Open kicks off on Sunday, January 17, at 6PM ET on Tennis Channel.