Saturday, January 14, 2012
Djokovic, Williams Lead Australian Open Contenders
New year. Same names.
The top names in tennis remain the favorites as the first Grand Slam tournament gets underway in Melbourne, Australia, on Monday.
Novak Djokovic (Ranking: 1, 2011 W-L Record: 70-6, Best Australian Open Finish: Champion—2008, 2011)
Coming off an historic season, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic is the man to beat in 2012. The 24-year-old Serb finished with three Grand Slam titles (Australian Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open) last year to bring his career total to four major titles. Melbourne was also the home of his inaugural Grand Slam triumph back in 2008.
Andy Murray (Ranking: 4, 2011 W-L Record: 56-13, Best Australian Open Finish: Runner-Up—2010, 2011)
World No. 4 Andy Murray, the runner-up of the past two Australian Opens, reached all four Grand Slam semifinals last season and is a strong contender in Melbourne. The 24-year-old Scot recently hired the assistance of eight-time major champion Ivan Lendl to coach him to his first Grand Slam title.
Roger Federer (Ranking: 3, 2011 W-L Record: 64-12, Best Australian Open Finish: Champion—2004, 2006, 2007, 2010)
Sixteen-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer won his last 17 matches in 2011, capturing his sixth Tour Finals title. The 30-year-old Swiss also ended Djokovic’s 43-match win streak at the French Open and held double match points against the Serb at their U.S. Open semifinal encounter. The Swiss maestro should never be counted out at the Grand Slams.
Rafael Nadal (Ranking: 2, 2011 W-L Record: 69-15, Best Australian Open Finish: Champion—2009)
The 2011 season left 10-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal mentally and physically exhausted. The 25-year-old Spaniard struggled at the Tour Finals and lost in the Qatar Open semifinals. However, the grinder from Mallorca has the talent, experience, and game to take home the title.
Serena Williams (Ranking: 13, 2011 W-L Record: 22-3, Best Australian Open Finish: Champion—2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010)
Despite suffering an ankle injury at the Brisbane International, Serena Williams looks to be the woman to beat at the Australian Open. The 30-year-old American only played in six tournaments last year due to injuries but won two and reached the finals of the U.S. Open. Williams owns 13 Grand Slam titles, winning five in Melbourne.
Petra Kvitova (Ranking: 2, 2011 W-L Record: 60-13, Best Australian Open Finish: Quarterfinalist —2011)
Petra Kvitova, last year’s Wimbledon champion, has all the tools to become the next dominant women’s player. The 21-year-old finished the 2011 season by winning the WTA Tour Championships and leading the Czech team to a Fed Cup title. An Australian Open title would cement her status as the player to beat going forward.
Maria Sharapova (Ranking: 4, 2011 W-L Record: 43-14, Best Australian Open Finish: Champion—2008)
At only 24-years-old, Maria Sharapova is a veteran on the WTA Tour and one of the biggest names in sports. The Russian owns three major titles, winning her most recent at the 2008 Australian Open. Sharapova has the mental toughness to beat the best and can add to her Grand Slam collection at this year’s tournament.
Caroline Wozniacki (Ranking: 1, 2011 W-L Record: 63-17, Best Australian Open Finish: Semifinalist—2011)
World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki finished the 2011 season as the top ranked woman for the second year in a row. The 21-year-old Dane suffered a minor setback in her preparations for the Australian Open when she injured her wrist during her semifinal match at the Sydney International. Wozniacki is still seeking her first Grand Slam title.
Notable players that will be absent from the Australian Open because of injury include: Venus Williams (Sjogren’s syndrome), Robin Soderling (mononucleosis), Andrea Petkovic (back), Marin Cilic (knee) and Fernando Gonzalez (knee, hip).
The draw for the 2012 Australian Open will be available Friday, Jan. 13. The tournament runs from January 16–29.
This article was originally published by The Epoch Times. The online version can be seen here.