Fact: only in three of 24 Grand Slams since 2004 have we had a male champion other than Djokovic, Nadal or Federer. At this year’s Australian Open, the pattern is set to continue.
Indeed, we can expect a grand spectacle and digest all the delights that come with it, but, deep in our hearts, we know the outcomes already. Though, of course, this won’t deter us from what will inevitably be another memorable Grand Slam.
…or at least pushing the Serb to his absolute limit.
Looking at the men’s draw, the oligopolistic dominance of the top three seeds is virtually guaranteed to remain unsurpassed. And within this elite group, one must look no further than the powerfully driven, lion-resembling beast that is Novak Djokovic: having won three of the last four Grand Slams. After losing the 2009 US Open final, Djokovic transformed his mental approach to the game; he hasn’t looked back since. The Serb improved his service game dramatically, while developing a return of serve that is now the undisputed best of its kind on the tour. The top seed is undoubtedly the favourite. For him not to conquer Australia once again would provide a shock of at least 8.9 on the Richter stale.
Nonetheless, if Djokovic were somehow to miss out on the title, the arena would be open to two of the sport’s greatest gladiators: second and third seeds, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. It will take something special for either man to dethrone Djokovic after spending so much of last season in his shadow. Yet, at their best, both are capable of doing so, or at least pushing the Serb to his absolute limit. After confessing to have lost some of his passion for the game last year, Nadal is now playing with more verve and confidence. He is pleased with his current return of serve: a key reason for defeats at crucial stages last season. Federer, on the other hand, may be held back by fitness worries; the 30-year old is unbeaten in 15 matches but is harbouring a back injury.
…Murray is extremely unlikely to win this year’s Australian Open…
Now, being in Britain, it is almost by law that I am obliged to champion our own lion resembling beast (albeit a substantially less well-groomed one), Andy Murray. I’ll keep it brief: Murray is extremely unlikely to win this year’s Australian Open, despite the Scot reaching the last two finals in Melbourne. Yes, his partnership with new coach, Ivan Lendl, may well be a beautiful one, but this is only its beginning; only time will tell whether Murray can break the Grand Slam barrier. Even briefer is the case that anyone else will win it… miracles can happen: Tsonga might.