Australian Open

There’s Something Distinct About Alex de Minaur

by Rajagopalan Rohinee

All it takes is one glance at Alex de Minaur to know the teenager has something distinct about him.

He does not have the imposing stature – height bestowed or otherwise – many of his peers and rivals command. But given the quick-fire way expectations have been passed over in the Australian men’s tennis circuit, like a baton, from youngster to youngster, de Minaur’s lack of physical impressiveness seems like a much-needed antidote.

More importantly, with his spryness on the court, coupled with a compact and wiry frame – justifying his nickname, Demon – de Minaur looks capable enough to not only hold the weight of these expectations, but also live up to them as and when opportunity presents itself before him. And, in the course of the last few days, between the end of the 2018 season and now, at the start of the 2019, de Minaur has had several opportunities to back up claims about his potential.

A quarter-final finish in Brisbane followed by the maiden ATP title win in Sydney meant that the 19-year-old had his job cut out for him at Melbourne Park, as the top-ranked Australian player. And against Pedro Sousa, who had quelled his personal demons – pardon the pun – in reaching the main draw of a Major for the first time in his career, de Minaur had a riveting first round opponent.

Watching him play, it became clearer why his game reminded many of Lleyton Hewitt although personally, I thought his game had a splashing of David Ferrer, too, as he went about his shot-creation – serving as a reminder to his Spanish connection.

The match, then, reiterated de Minaur’s tactical prowess as he exploited and bested Sousa’s aggressiveness with craftiness, drawing out the errors from his racquet instead of going for winners outright. With the win, de Minaur equalled his previous best result in the tournament – reaching the second round in 2017 – but this time around, he does not have the advantage of the relative obscurity he had had before. In his post-match press conference, de Minaur, too, concurred about him being a different player than who he was in 2017.

“I think I’m a completely different player from a couple years ago. Really looking forward to going out there, coming back, just having fun. I think that’s the main thing. To feed off the energy of the crowd. I mean, the support I’ve been getting has been amazing. Just makes you want to go out there, compete and have fun,” de Minaur admitted.

It’s for this reason, perhaps, the draw takes on added significance for him this year, with a third-round clash against world no. 2 and 2009 Australian Open champion, Rafael Nadal looking imminent as the first week unwinds. Undoubtedly, Nadal would go in with an edge over his younger rival in the match. But it is what de Minaur – with his unfazed temperament – would present on the day that continues to add to the fervour building around that potentiality.

Beyond the obviousness of that one match-up centred on de Minaur – as far as the home hopes go – de Minaur’s continuity at the Australian Open is also acting as a buffer to blot the backdrop of chaos unfolding in Australian tennis.

At a time, when the divisions in the country’s tennis ranks are almost spilling out with Thanasi Kokkinakis voicing his opinion about not receiving a main draw wild card, and Bernard Tomic accusing the country’s Davis Cup captain Hewitt of favouritism, focusing on de Minaur’s on-court exploits, then, is quite a normalcy-offering respite, much like his game.

Most Memorable Women’s Australian Open Finals

The first Grand Slam of the tennis calendar kicks off later this month with the Australian Open down at Melbourne Park.

Caroline Wozniacki is the reigning women’s champion but it is the seven-time winner of this event, Serena Williams, who is the bookmakers’ favourite to be the Australian Open 2019 women’s winner, with current odds of 4/1.
Whether this year’s competition will produce another classic final remains to be seen or not, but here are five from recent memory that we thoroughly enjoyed:

2018: Caroline Wozniacki 7-6 3-6 6-4 Simona Halep

Last year’s Australian Open was up for grabs as Serena Williams didn’t participate following the birth of her child in September the previous year. The final was contested between the world’s top two players at the time, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki.

In a classic encounter it was Wozniacki who upset the world number one in three sets that lasted two hours and 49 minutes, with the match finishing shortly before 10:30pm local time.

Caroline Wozniacki became the first Dane in men’s or women’s singles to win a Grand Slam in doing so.

2016: Angelique Kerber 6-4 3-6 6-4 Serena Williams

Germany’s Angelique Kerber took her first of three Grand Slams to date at the 2016 Australian Open with an upset victory over Serena Williams in the final.

Kerber beat future Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka 6-1 6-1 in the third round before seeing off Victoria Azarenka and Johanna Konta in straight sets in the quarter and semi-finals respectively.

Few gave Kerber a chance of beating Serena in the final, particularly after losing the second set, but she came through in the decider to become the first German of either sex to win a Grand Slam singles competition this millennium.

2004: Justine Henin-Hardenne 6-3 4-6 6-3 Kim Clijsters

Belgian Justine Henin-Hardenne took her first and only Australian Open crown with a dramatic 6-3 4-6 6-3 win over fellow countrywoman Kim Clijsters in 2004.

Henin-Hardenne looked set to win the final in straight sets with a set and 4-2 lead in the second before the world number two broke back, pulling off four straight games to take the match to a decider.
However, Clijsters couldn’t keep the momentum going as she fell 0-4 down in the third and final set. Justine Henin-Hardenne produced the goods at the right time to make it 3-0 in Grand Slam finals versus Clijsters, having also beat her fellow Belgian in the 2003 French Open and the 2003 US Open finals.

2003: Serena Williams 7-6 3-6 6-4 Venus Williams

2002 saw the Williams sisters’ rivalry swing in the favour of Serena for the first time. The 2003 Australian Open was also the fourth consecutive Grand Slam final that saw the two Williams sisters face each other.

Serena had beaten her sister in straight sets at the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open finals the previous year and completed the ‘Serena Slam’ with a three sets victory at Melbourne Park in 2003.

This would be Serena Williams’ fourth Grand Slam and her first in Australia. The future tennis Hall of Famer has won in Australia six times since and has 23 Grand Slams overall. To get to the final in 2003 she had to come from 1-5 down in the decider against Kim Clijsters in the semi-final before beating Venus in in the final.

1993: Monica Seles 4-6 6-3 6-2 Steffi Graf

Two-time defending Australian Open champion Monica Seles made it three in a row by coming from a set down to beat Steffi Graf in an historic final back in 1993.

Winning the first set 6-4 in the final, Graf hadn’t dropped a single set at the Australian Open that year, which included victories over Jennifer Capriati and Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in the quarter and semi-finals respectively.
However, the Yugoslavian fought back with an impressive display in the next two sets to take what would be her eighth of nine career Grand Slams.

Should Alexander Zverev Be Taken Seriously For The Australian Open?

by Shubham Singh

If we take a look at last 4 years of the Australian Open, the tournament has either been won by the world number one, Djokovic, or the Swiss Maestro, Roger Federer.

It is the first major tournament of the year and players rarely miss out on it. It generally takes place after a decent break that gives players ample time to pull their socks up, get their heads in the right place and their bodies in the ideal condition — that’s where these two perfectionists get the better of their opponents.

However, regardless of the fact that fans generally fancy these two to the lift the trophy, the winds of change that have blown through tennis recently suggest that it could be a different story this time. Alexander Zverev’s two outstanding victories in the ATP Finals against Roger Federer in the semi-final and Novak Djokovic in the final, both won in straight sets rocked the tennis world.

Many players come out of the blue every year and send a wave of awe across the world of tennis but not many are as special as Alexander Zverev. That’s why everyone has been talking about him lately, that’s why he looks like a realistic punt — as per the suggestions of Australian Open odds — he’s charming, talented and desires to be one of the best players to grace the court. So, what makes him so special and such a serious contender for the Australian Open?

The reason for his inclusion in the upper echelons is not just his current success. He has shown significant growth in his style of play and on the overall aspects that play a crucial part in the long run. He brought Jez Green into his team in 2013 to bolster his fitness which shows he’s taking not purely concentrating on his style, but also, his fitness.

He isn’t short of success at his age, but he doesn’t want to settle for the minor titles. His biggest concern has been his lukewarm presence in the Grand Slams. Although he has been coached by his father, the addition of Ivan Lendl has been instrumental in his recent success at the ATP Finals. Lendl was influential in Murray’s success — he guided Murray to three Grand Slam titles and an Olympic Gold in 2012. We could expect some of his expertise to rub off on Zverev. Even Zverev acknowledged Lendl’s advice being crucial in his recent triumph. After his victory, he credited Lendl for his advice that helped him in both the semi-final and final.

“He talked about golf to me before the match. No, I’m kidding,” Zverev joked following his victory. “He obviously analyzed the match that I played with [Djokovic] a few days ago, told me a few things I had to do different. I was more aggressive today.”

“Obviously Ivan, the experience he has on and off the court, is amazing. That helped me, as well, to kind of play the two matches that I played back-to-back now.”

With an already strong camp, Lendl’s inclusion would be a cherry on top.

One of the best things about Zverev right now is that he is surrounded by proven winners in his camp and his interviews and behaviour on the pitch reflect a good sense of maturity. Djokovic was full praise for the youngster who defeated him in straight sets and mentioned how he the two of them are common in some aspects.

He said, “I mean, there’s a lot of similarities in terms of trajectory of professional tennis, in our careers.”

“Hopefully he can surpass me. I mean, I sincerely wish him that. He seems like someone that is very dedicated. Without a doubt, he’s a really nice person, someone that gets along very well with everyone. He deserves everything he gets so far. There’s a lot of time ahead of him. Wish him to stay healthy and obviously win a lot of titles.”
But the 21-year-old has his feet planted firmly on the ground and didn’t spare a moment to play down the comparison. He said, “Oh, Jesus. Oh, my God,”

“I mean, I’ve won one of those [ATP Finals]. He won five. He’s won, I don’t know what, 148 titles more than me. Let’s not go there for now. I hope I can do great. I mean, but just chill out a little bit.” ‘Chill’ is certainly apt.

What to expect from Zverev in 2019?

It’s obvious that he’d be treading into Australia with huge confidence. With Lendl’s winning formula and Zverev’s potential, we can expect at least one Grand Slam next year.
Although there are few things about his play that need to be addressed. All the star players have big weapons in their repertoire at their disposal in crucial moments. For now, Zverev seems to lack that. He does have a fantastic first serve that can turn the game in his favour many times but he needs to put work on his overall game if he’s aiming for something big.

He’s just 21 and has many years ahead of him. If he keeps progressing like this, 2019 would certainly be a big year for him and we would probably see him lift a Grand Slam title.

“Dominant” Simona Halep and Serena Williams Favorites To Win Australian Women’s Title

ESPN recently named Simona Halep as one of the most dominant athletes of 2018.

Many have debated whether the diminutive Romanian was in fact, dominant. In a head-scratcher, she was ranked as more dominant than LeBron James of the NBA as well as golfer Brooks Koepka and fellow tennis player Novak Djokovic, both of whom won two of the four major titles for the year in a golf and tennis, respectively.

In fact, the great thing about women’s tennis over the last few years is the fact that there hasn’t been any dominant player and that each major tournament has been an exciting battle for the title, waged between eight to 12 players who have legitimate chances of raising the championship trophy.

As the world No. 1, Halep can be seen as the favorite to win the first major championship of 2019 at the Australian Open. However, she has only broken through in a major final once, last year at Roland Garros against Sloane Stephens. Last year in Australia, she lost a hard-fought, tight final to Caroline Wozniacki, but was resilient and tenacious in reaching the final.

The major wildcard in this year’s Australian Open field will be Serena Williams, who will be playing in her first tournament since her much-discussed U.S. Open loss to Naomi Osaka. She hasn’t played in Australia since she won the title, while pregnant, in 2017, her last event before giving birth to daughter Olympia. Serena will be gunning for her 24th career major singles title, which would tie her for the all-time record set by Australian Margaret Court in the 1960s and 1970s. The Australian Open would be an appropriate venue for Serena to equal this mark. She will be extra motivated to right the wrong she felt she was given in her controversial U.S. Open final loss where point and game penalties, she felt, where wrongly administered.

Serena will probably be one of the more popular tennis betting favorites to win in Australia. Since the tournament comes so early in the year – and after the short off-season – unpredictable results are also common. Therefore, some longer-shot players, with potential to win majors, should also not be overlooked, such as American Madison Keys, a former Australian Open semifinalist, the highly-touted Aryna Sabalenka or even home-favorite Ashleigh Barty of Australia.

Roger Federer Claims 20th Major Title At The Australian Open

Roger Federer became the first male tennis player to win 20 major titles with a thrilling, topsy-turvy 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win over Marin Cilic at the Australian Open.

Federer joins Margaret Court (24), Serena Williams (23) and Steffi Graf (22) as the only player to win 20 or more major singles titles.

Federer moves again farther away from his major rival Nadal, who won his 16th major singles title at the U.S. Open last September, in the men’s major haul.

It also marked his sixth Australian Open, tying him with Novak Djokovic and Roy Emerson for the most ever among men.

“He continues to exhaust superlatives,” said Chris Fowler on ESPN of Federer and his greatness.

Federer arrived in Melbourne at the start of 2017 after an extended injury layoff and on a Grand Slam title drought that dated back to 2012 at Wimbledon. Having successfully defended his Australian title, Federer has now won three of the past five majors in a stunning career resurgence.

“I’m so happy. It’s unbelievable,” Federer said in the trophy presentation. “Of course, winning is an absolute dream come true — the fairytale continues for us, for me, after the great year I had last year, it’s incredible.”

At the age of 36 years, 173 days, Federer became the second-oldest man to win a Grand Slam title in the Open era after Ken Rosewall, who won the 1972 Australian Open at 37.

Federer is the only men’s player to win three different major titles at least five times (Wimbledon, Australian, U.S. Open) and two different major titles at least six times (Wimbledon, Australian Open). His win concluded a successful defense of the dramatic Australian Open final he won last year as a perceived washed-up No. 17-seed recovering from a knee injury who was down 1-3 in the fifth set against chief rival Rafael Nadal. It marked the first time he successfully defended a major title since the 2008 U.S. Open – a decade ago!

As documented in the “Days of Roger Federer” book by Randy Walker, the final against Cilic came exactly 11 years to the day when Federer broke into the double-digits in his Grand Slam tournament title haul with his 10th major title with a straight-set win over Fernando Gonzalez in Melbourne. It took Federer three-and-a-half years to win his first 10 majors and 11 years to win his second 10 majors.

Caroline Wozniacki Back To No. 1 With Australian Open Title

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) announced that Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki will reclaim the WTA World No.1 ranking when the official WTA rankings are released on Monday, January 29.

Wozniacki ascends to the No.1 spot for the first time since January 2012 after defeating the reigning World No.1 Simona Halep to lift her first Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open on Saturday. Wozniacki’s return to the top of the game marks exactly six years since she held the top spot, the longest gap since computer rankings were introduced in November 1975.

Since the start of the 2017 season, Wozniacki has won 71 matches, more than any other player, and also owns the most wins on hardcourts within that period (52). During this successful run, she defended her title at the Toray Pan Pacific Open (Tokyo) and won the prestigious 2017 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. She reached a further six finals last season and started her 2018 campaign with a runner-up finish at the ASB Classic (Auckland).

The Dane first captured the No.1 ranking on October 11, 2010 and became the 20th woman overall and the first representing Denmark. Her second and most recent stint at the top lasted 49-straight weeks from February 2011 to January 2012. Including this upcoming week, Wozniacki will sit at No.9 on the all-time list for weeks at No.1, with 68.

At the start of the 2018 Australian Open, six players had a chance at leaving Melbourne Park with the No.1 ranking. By capturing her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne, the Dane ensures her ascension to the top spot.

“It was a dream come true to rise to World No.1 in 2010, but, to do so again after so many years really makes me proud,” said Wozniacki. “To become World No.1 again after winning my first-ever Grand Slam here in Melbourne is one of the happiest and proudest moments of my career.”

“This is a special moment for Caroline and I congratulate her on this deserving feat,” said WTA CEO and Chairman Steve Simon. “Caroline’s journey and career has been remarkable and inspiring to fans around the world. Her hard work and determination has paid off and we at the WTA are very proud to see her attain the very special ranking of World No.1.”

Wozniacki will be presented with the WTA World No.1 Trophy, the focal point of which is a silver “star-map” tennis ball that represents the tennis universe. All world No.1s, past and present, are depicted by a diamond in the sky, which represents each champion’s mark on the sport.

Click here to read more on Wozniacki’s historic achievement.

Wozniacki is one of 25 players to reach the pinnacle of women’s professional tennis since the computer rankings were created in 1975.

Wozniacki Shakes Off “Greatest Ever To Not Win A Major” Label With Australian Open Victory

Caroline Wozniacki shock off the label of the greatest woman tennis player of all time to never win a major title by dramatically winning the Australian Open women’s final with a 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-4 win over Simona Halep.

Despite being ranked No. 1 in the world for 67 weeks, winning 27 previous singles titles in her career and playing 43 major tournaments, Wozniacki had not been able to break through and win her elusive major title. She lost in the final of the 2009 and 2014 US Opens and also painfully lost a Australian Open semifinal in 2011 to Li Na, despite holding match point. She was also a big favorite in a U.S. Open semifinal as the No. 1 seed in 2010 against Vera Zvonareva, only to lose.

To win her elusive major title, Wozniacki had to battle the top seed Halep, herself hungry for her first major championship, making for an amazing subplot in the final. To boot, both Halep and Wozniacki had both saved match points in previous matches en route to the final. Wozniacki was down 5-1 in the final set and saved two match points in her second-round, 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 win over Croatia’s Jana Fett. Halep saved match points in two matches en route to the final, three in her 15-13 in the third set win over American Lauren Davis in the third round and four in her 9-7 in the third set win over Angelique Kerber in the semifinals. Halep would have been the first player to ever save match points in two matches in win a major title. She badly turned her ankle in her opening round match against Australia’s Destanee Aiava, which she also had to overcome during her run to her third major final. Halep had previously lost the 2014 and 2017 French Open finals.

The win returns Wozniacki to the No. 1 ranking, replacing Halep. She last ranked No. 1 in 2012, a span of six years which is the biggest hiatus between ranking No. 1 in the history of tennis..

She is also the first player from Denmark to win a major singles title.

Will A First-Time Major Women’s Winner Be Crowned At The Australian Open?

The Australian Open may seem destined to crown a first-time major singles champion in women’s singles in 2018.

With Serena Williams out of the field following the birth of her daughter, shocking first-round losses by Venus Williams and U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens as well as the defeats of the likes of Maria Sharapova, Jelena Ostapenko, Garbine Muguruza and Petra Kvitova, leaves Angelique Kerber as the only player left in the field who has won a major title. Kerber, the 2016 Australian and U.S. Open champion, however was nearly upset in the fourth round Monday, escaping Su-Wei Hsieh of Taiwan 4-6, 5-7, 6-1.

The women’s singles field is wide open with fans having to check the website and mobile app for CrownBet the fastest growing online sports and racing wagering business in Australia, for the latest odds.

The two favorites are the top two seeds, No. 1 Simona Halep and No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki, who by a strange curious statistic, are the top two seeds at the season’s first Grand Slam tournament despite having never winning a major tournament. Halep, however, did reach the French Open final on two occasions, losing in 2014 to Maria Sharapova and last year to the young upstart Jelena Ostapenko. Despite being the No. 1 seed, Halep has a long history of unsuccessful battles against her nerves on the biggest stages.

Wozniacki, like Halep, has achieved the world No. 1 but has only reached two major finals, both at the U.S. Open in 2009 and 2014. She has won a healthy number of singles titles (27), including the year-end championships last year in Singapore so she can seen as a bigger “big match” player.

Madison Keys may be on a collision course with destiny this week as the 22-year-old American showed brilliant form in defeating Caroline Garcia of France, one of the most in-form players on the WTA Tour, by an easy 6-3, 6-2 scoreline. Keys may be channeling the disappointment and feelings of the “agony of defeat” from her loss to friend and fellow American Sloane Stephens in last year’s U.S. Open final. Pete Sampras, the 14-time major singles winner, said that his loss to Stefan Edberg in the 1992 U.S. Open was so difficult for him to digest that it spurred him on to victories in many other major finals. This could perhaps be the same situation for Keys, who is being fueled by her U.S. Open final-round loss. To boot, she has the Hall of Famer Lindsay Davenport in her camp as her coach. Keys is also seeded No. 17 which is the same seeding that Roger Federer had in 2017 when he claimed the men’s crown.

Also flying under the radar is Karolina Pliskova, the big-serving Czech star and former world No. 1, who could face Halep in the quarterfinals. Pliskova lost a tough U.S. Open final to Kerber in 2016 and getting more used to playing in the later rounds of majors and could be a dark horse pick to win the title by week’s end.

 

 

Surprises, Comebacks Highlight Start of Australian Open

The first Grand Slam is already underway in the beautiful city of Melbourne, Australia. Since the 10th of January with the start of qualifying, we have seen great action and endurance from some of the emerging talents in the world of tennis as they battle Down Under.

This is not just a great time for the players themselves but for fantasy players as well as they try to win big in the first Grand Slam of the year and lay down the marker for future success. If you want to become a tennis fantasy player, you need to keep in mind that it’s less than football fantasy betting and more of the lottery. At the start of the year, you need to bank on chance that your fantasy players will play to their potential rather than base your choices on player’s current form. Even if it’s more of a game of chance, you still possess the ability to win just like when you play the Powerball lottery online.

Below is a recap of some the early highlights so so far at the Australian Open.

Three of the four women’s semifinalists from the previous Grand Slam, the US Open, lost in the first round! Sloane Stephens, the 2017 US Open, was defeated in the opening round to China’s Zhang Shuai 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2. She is now 0-8 in matches since her US Open triumph last September. Coco Vandeweghe, an Australian and U.S. Open semifinalist last year, couldn’t fight through her flu and lost in the first round to Timea Babos 7-6, 6-2. Venus Williams, last year’s finalist at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and a semifinalist at the U.S. Open lost 6-3, 7-5 to Belinda Bencic, who is still on an inspiring high after pairing with Roger Federer to win the Hopman Cup for Switzerland.

Six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic played his first tournament match since Wimbledon, with a new service motion, a sleeve on his right arm to protect his injured elbow, and new coach Radek Stepanek in the coaching box alongside Andre Agassi. He had little trouble in the first round with American Donald Young, who played helped Djokovic into the second round with poor play in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 decision.

Stan Wawrinka, the 2014 Australian Open champion, also played his first tournament match since Wimbledon and sported a nasty looking scar on his right knee from his summer surgery. The Swiss man only dropped a set in his first round win over Ricardas Berankis. Wawrinka’s fellow Swiss Roger Federer, the defending champion and No. 2 seed, had little trouble with Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene winning in three sets.

 

 

Expect The Unexpected At The 2018 Australian Open

The Australian Open has a history of producing unpredictable results with healthy helping of long-shot champions, finalists and semifinalists. A primary reason for this is because the event is played in the third week of the tennis season and a players off-season training – or lack thereof – showcases itself.

Injuries and comebacks are the major theme heading into the 2018 Australian Open. On the men’s side, five-time finalist Andy Murray is out of the event after undergoing hip surgery. Former top 10 star Kei Nishikori of Japan is also not competing due to injury. Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka are expected to post in their returns to tournament tennis. Djokovic has not played since last summer with a right elbow injury. Wawrinka has also not played since the summer after undergoing  knee surgery.

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal had a much shorter injury layoff, not playing an official tournament since having to withdraw from the ATP World Tour Finals at the end of the 2017 season with a hampered knee.

The Australian Open has a long history of long-shots advancing deep into the tournament and also claiming the men’s and women’s singles titles. On the men’s side,  some most recent surprise performances have been champions Petr Korda (1999), Thomas Johannsson (2002) and also Marcos Baghdatis, Fernando Gonzalez and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who made their only major singles final appearances in 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively. Since then, winners and runners-up have been among the elite of the elite – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray – with the lone exception being Stan Wawrinka, who was ranked No. 9 when he won his first major title in Melbourne in 2014.

In 2017, Grigor Dimitrov had another breakthrough major tournament by reaching the semifinals, where he lost in an epic five-set thriller to Nadal. After his victory at the year-end ATP World Tour Finals in London to end 2017, Dimitrov is the top choice to win the title in Melbourne this year other than No. 1 Nadal and No. 2 seed and defending champion Roger Federer. Austria’s Dominic Thiem, ranked No. 5, and Germany’s Alexander Zverev, ranked No. 4, are also poised for greatness and could begin this next generation of champions with an Australian Open win. Australia’s immensely talented Nick Kyrgios, ranked No. 17, could put his temperament aside and rise the tide of local support to fulfill his massive potential. His title in Brisbane leading into the event have buoyed his tennis betting odds.

On the women’s side, the Australian Open has also crowned unheralded champions such as Kerry Reid in 1977, Chris O’Neil in 1978 and Barbara Jordan in 1979. Angelique Kerber was the Australian Open surprise in 2016, winning her first major title with a final-round upset of world No. 1 Serena Williams.  Kerber and 2008 champion Maria Sharapova are the only two former Australian Open winners in the 2018 women’s singles field. Defending champion Serena Williams has pulled out of the event, not feeling her post-pregnancy comeback has progressed fast enough for her liking. Vika Azarenka, the 2012 and 2013 Australian Open champion, also pulled out of the event since she is not able to travel overseas in a custody battle of her son.

The top two women’s seeds, Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki respectively, have never won a major singles title, which may place No. 3 seed Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 French Open and 2017 Wimbledon champion, as the favorite. Elina Svitolina, the No. 4 seed, has also never won a major singles title but appears as though she is a future candidate for that role and Australia would be an appropriate stage for this kind of breakthrough.

Johanna Konta of Britain, born in Australia and ranked No. 9, may be a surprise pick to win the title. She was a surprise semifinalist Down Under in 2016 and also at Wimbledon in 2017 so she could make a move to a later round.