The first Grand Slam of the year starts on Monday. With players easing into action after the Christmas break, and with the brutal heat of the Australian summer bound to take its toll, it’s tougher than ever to predict form.
But here are some things that will (almost) definitely happen.
Nadal will crash out early
Forget the wrist injury and the appendix surgery. More worrying for Rafa (9.00 to win the Australian Open) is his lack of match wins.
He hasn’t beaten a top-20 player since last year’s French Open (in June). Earlier this year he lost to a player ranked 127 in the world.
At least he’s being realistic about his comeback.
“I will hope for first round, second round, and take the wins as they come,” he said modestly.
Common sense says he won't set the world on fire until February at the earliest when the clay court tournaments start in South America. He may even lose to his first round opponent at Melbourne Park. Mikhail Youzhny is never easy.
Nishikori will reach the final
The Aussie Open calls itself “The Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific”, yet the male event has never been won by an Asian.
Enter Kei Nishikori (13.00 to win). The 2014 US Open finalist is on the rise. He doesn’t yet possess the gravitas to win a Grand Slam title but runner-up is achievable.
Serena won’t win
The world No.1 (3.25 favourite) hasn’t won the title at Melbourne Park since 2010. And with her mental state always an unknown quantity, predicting a win this year is an optimistic move.
Expect her to go home after the semis.
Forget Del Potro
Much has been made of this Argentinean player (141.0 to win) who spent nearly all of 2014 on the sub’s bench with a dodgy wrist.
This is his first Grand Slam since last year’s Aussie Open where a ham-fisted effort couldn’t push him past the second round. Don’t expect him to hit the ground running on his comeback.
He’s got Jerzy Janowicz (201.0) first round. A tough ask.
The local legend will lose first round to Zhang and swiftly announce his retirement.
At last. He’s nearly 34.
The Big Four are over
The 2015 Australian Open will be remembered as the final nail in the coffin for the Big Four.
With Nadal struggling back after injury, Murray (11.00 to win) struggling to beat the other three, and Federer (7.00 to win) edging into retirement, there’s only Djokovic (1.90 favourite) left. The Big One, in other words.
Bring on the new boys!
Several players from cooler climes will pass out in the infernal summer heat. Medical experts will berate the tournament organisers for imposing inhumane conditions. Tennis shoes will melt on the court surface. Children’s charities will get involved when ball kids collapse.
Eighteen years old, fresh into the world top 100, and impressing pundits the world over, this Croatian is the newcomer to watch.
Last year he beat Nadal, Gulbis, Rosol, Roger-Vasselin and Janowicz.
This year, at the Aussie Open, he’s going to stun Jeremy Chardy (601.0) first round, and take out his second round opponent (either Seppi or Istomin). Then he’ll battle valiantly third round against Federer, losing in four sets.
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