No clear favourite, as Australian Open serves off

FOR the first time in many years, tennis faithful around the globe are finding it difficult in predicting favourites for the first grand slam of the year, which will serves off Monday in Melbourne, Australia.

  Last year, both the men and women’s favorites fell by the wayside, while unfamiliar faces grabbed the slam titles. 

  In the last nine years, slam titles have been guarded fiercely and shared amongst just four men: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray. 

  It was not the case last year, as only two of the quartet won slam titles: at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. 

  The draw for the 2015 Australian Open was released last Friday with Djokovic and Nadal falling in the same half with Djokovic in the top quarter and Nadal in the second.

  Federer and Wawrinka, seeded second and fourth, fall in the other half with Federer being in the same half and Wawrinka in the other. Some tennis analysts believe that Federer and Wawrinka’s half are easier. 

  If Djokovic, the top seed wins, it will be his record fifth title and he will surpass Federer who he is currently tied. 

  If the 33 year-old Federer win, it would be his record 18th slam overall and his fifth also.  

  Nadal, a finalist for the last two years, is hoping to get back on top, but has been besieged by injuries recently, including stem replacement for his back problems and an appendectomy last year. Nadal is yet to give a good showing as he has lost to several lower-ranked players recently. 

  Of the four, Andy Murray of Britain is yet to win a title at Australia and despite him being ranked 6th, it is expected he would make a deep run well into the second week. 

  The newcomers are not resting either. The likes of Nishikori, Raonic, Dimitrov, Cilic are knocking on the door. But it remains to be seen how they perform in the next two weeks.

  On the women’s side, it is even more difficult to pick a likely winner. Who would have predicted Cibulkova and Li Na as last year’s finalists? 

  Serena Williams will be aiming for a record 19th title in Australia, which would put her in second place for slam titles overall. But events of last season and the just concluded Hopman’s Cup have proven that the field is widely open.

  Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Eugenie Bouchard and Agniezska Radwanska are other top ten players who are also looking for slam titles. Of the lot, Sharapova is the only one with a title at Australia.

Analysts believe the top seeds should survive till the second week at least, while the newcomers will attempt to crash the party by casuing major upsets.


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