Last year, I laid my cards on the line and predicted who I thought would be victorious in the 2012 tennis Grand Slams (click here to read the post). It turns out that most of those predictions ran true, and, had I placed a bet at the time of writing I probably would have received a substantial amount in return.
Now, with just over two days before the 2013 Australian Open begins I’ve decided to hedge my bets once again. To start with, I’m going to predict who will win in Melbourne and then attempt to choose the other Grand Slam winners in future posts.
This year’s Australian Open is arguably less of a challenge to predict. The break between the ATP Word Tour Championship finals in November and the start of the Australian Open does not often seem to hamper the form of the top players. Therefore, my prediction is rather predictable. Andy Murray is the man in form at the moment. In 2012, he proved the critics wrong by lifting the US Open trophy and winning Olympic gold and silver.
Admittedly, the hard courts at Flushing Meadows have always favoured him. However, Murray will surely have his sights set on becoming world number one this year. His appointment of Ivan Lendl has proved to be a monumental success and that relationship seems to be for the long term. An almost routine victory in Brisbane will not have done his confidence any harm. Most importantly though, his game has changed; the Scotsman can now be the aggressor when he chooses to be and this makes him formidable when coupled with his outstanding defensive play.
Rafael Nadal is unfortunately not a contender this year and therefore, the likelihood is that only Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer will stand in his way. I believe that Federer will be the biggest challenger to Murray in this tournament. At the start of each tennis season, the Federer doubters come to the fore, citing his age as an increasingly great barrier for the Swiss player. However, Federer is still rightfully at the top of the game. Last year, in his Wimbledon final victory against Murray, he proved that when he is in top form, Federer is the one to beat.
Novak Djokovic also had a fabulous year in 2012, albeit his achievements did not reach the heights of the previous year. However, 2011 was a special year for the Serbian, one that will be hard to replicate. For many other players on the ATP tour, 2012 would have been at the pinnacle of their career achievements and this shows just how high Djokovic has set the bar. Especially, as his Australian Open double header against Murray and Nadal was arguably one of the most gruelling and impressive displays of physicality to win a major tournament. With just under 11 hours of outstanding play in 3 days, Djokovic was imperious. He is odds on favourite to complete a hat-trick of Australian Open titles this year and if he does so, few tennis fans will be surprised.
The wild card for most tennis commentators is Juan Martin del Potro. This is unsurprising as he was the last man to break the dominance of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal before Murray’s US Open victory last year. It will also come as a relief to his fans that he will start the season free from injury doubts. Del Potro is a great hard court player, his forehand is a devastating weapon. It is his mental temperament that will prove vital this year. However, as a previous Grand Slam winner, there is no doubt that he has both the ability and the will to win.
The player to watch in this tournament? Marcos Baghdatis. He is one of the most likeable players on the tour but was a deserved finalist in 2006. There is a great chance that he might not even make it through his first round in Melbourne this year. However, the Cypriot is one of those players that is incredibly unpredictable and a great crowd-pleaser. He broke quite a few rackets in Melbourne last year, but hopefully this year his can entertain crowds by reproducing some good form, and making it into the second week.
If this year’s tournament can replicate 2012, tennis fans will be in for a treat.