The 2014 ATP World Tour season is now fully underway with many players capturing their first title of this year’s campaign.
However, most of the tennis world will not be focusing on who wins the smaller events, but wondering who will triumph at the first Grand Slam of the year: The Australian Open. Now the draw is released, predictions can be made as to who will be victorious in Melbourne after two weeks of hard-hitting tennis.
The contender with the worst route to the final surely has to be Roger Federer. For the Swiss legend to win his 18th Grand Slam title, it’s possible he might have to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Fourth Round, Andy Murray in the Quarters, Rafael Nadal in the semis and Djokovic in the final.
Even for the Federer of old that would have been a tough ask. This, coupled with the fact that he is sporting a new racquet, as well as having suffered a shock defeat by Lleyton Hewitt in the recent Brisbane final, leads me to believe that he won’t be one of the contenders for the title. However, that said, there is a strong possibility that the World Number six could make the semis.
Murray will be playing in only his second competitive tournament since having a back operation last September to correct a slipped disc. The double Grand Slam winner will surely be lacking match practice, as well as fitness - something highlighted in his recent Round of 16 exit in Doha. The Wimbledon champion has enough talent to give himself a fighting chance but like Federer, the draw has not been kind to him and I feel that winning the title will be just too much to ask.
Despite David Ferrer’s excellent 2013 season, rising to a career high of world number three, I see his maiden Grand Slam not coming at Melbourne where previously his best results have been semi-final showings in 2011 and 2013.
There is no reason why this year he cannot replicate this result. However, the title is a step too far for him, I feel. Juan Martin Del Potro will be looking to build on a 2013 season that saw him returning to the level he achieved when he won the 2009 US Open. His potential quarter-final match-up with Nadal could be one of the upsets of the tournament.
Nadal had the best 2013 season of them all, winning two Grand Slams and countless other tournaments to end the year as number one. He will no doubt be looking to triumph in Melbourne, the Australian Open being the only Grand Slam he has not won more than once. His recent victory in Doha puts him in a good position and I see the Spaniard reaching the final.
However, I believe getting to the final is where it ends for the World Number 1. Novak Djokovic has been handed the easiest draw. While Nadal, Federer, Murray, Del Potro and Tsonga will be battling it out in one half of the draw, Djokovic need only negotiate his way past potential opponents such as Ferrer, Tomáš Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka.
As his main rivals waste energy in their attempts to reach the final, he can conserve his for a final showdown against his most likely opponent: Nadal.
The man from Serbia has made the Australian Open his own, much as Nadal with the French and Federer with Wimbledon. Having finished 2013 so strongly and having won the last three titles in Melbourne, I find it hard to see another man being victorious in this year’s first Grand Slam.
Irrespective of the result, fans all around the world can look forward to two weeks of scintillating tennis as the ATP World Tour returns with a bang.
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