Wow, Christmas has only just passed and already the Australian Open is on our doorstep. The players may wish they had a little more time to shake off the ring rust before the first slam of the year but I love the unpredictability it brings. Everyone’s struggling a little for form and trying to adjust to the conditions and so often we see the rankings list turned upside down as a result.
So after week 1, who’s looking sharp and who badly needs a good week of match practise before things kick off on the 14th?
Serena’s ride to the Brisbane title was made a little easier by Victoria Azarenka’s withdrawal ahead of their semi-final (Azarenka complained she had a toe infection following a dodgy pedicure) but the American still showed why she’s the player to beat in Melbourne. A notoriously slow starter to the year, when Serena’s winning titles in the first two weeks then everyone else should be worried. She’s won the Australian Open five times in the past and after her 6-2, 6-1 final demolition of Russia’s Anastasia Pavyluchenkova earlier today, she’ll take some stopping.
Davydenko was one of the favourites for the Australian Open title three years ago before sinking without trace following a wrist fracture. However having watched his run to the final in Doha this week, I can honestly say I haven’t seen the Russian strike the ball this well since he was top three in the world. He made David Ferrer look extremely ordinary in their semi-final and he knows what it takes to reach the latter stages of the slams.
Tomic still has plenty of fans down under despite his petulant displays on tour over the past year. The former child prodigy always rises to the occasion during the Australian swing and he won all three of his matches at the Hopman Cup, stunning Novak Djokovic in straight sets. Tomic got Melbourne rocking with his fourth round run last year and he’ll be one of the most dangerous floaters in the draw once again.
Kerber enjoyed another fabulous season in 2012, making the Wimbledon semis and securing her place in the world’s top ten. A superb mover and very physically strong, conditions in Australia should be to her liking but she has work to do after a straight sets loss to Pavyluchenkova in Brisbane followed by an ousting in Sydney to Dominika Cibulkova.
The Australian Open is unequivocally Berdych’s weakest slam and he’s never been past the quarters down under. Doesn’t seem to be much likelihood of him bettering that after a shock quarter-final loss to the little known Spaniard Roberto Bautista-Agut in Chennai and a straight set loss to Lleyton Hewitt in Kooyong.
Isner is determined to make an impact at the slams this year but he has now been ruled out of the Australian Open due to a nagging knee injury that forced him to pull out of the Hopman Cup. It wasn’t looking particularly great for the American after straight sets losses to Kevin Anderson and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Perth and now he’s lost the time to recover for the year’s first Slam.
David Cox writes for Live-Tennis.com, an award-winning tennis, news and live stream website.