The first week of the tennis season is almost at the end. The first tournament winners are known and with Australian Open starting in 7 days we can draw first conclusions about favorites and underdogs.
Australian Open Men Favorites
Roger Federer in January is different from Roger Federer in November. Alexander Zverev learned it hard way during Hopman Cup final. We already saw it twice in 2018 and 2017, that Roger likes Australian summer a lot. After the needed rest in December, he is fresh and strong and hardly beatable by anybody. Can he make it three in a row at Australian Open? That is a question everybody would like to know an answer to. He was terrific in last two Australian Open finals, but this year he will face healthy Novak Djokovic at some point. And that is the only hurdle which can be too much for him. However, Federer chances for another Grand Slam win are still alive and Australian Open is the best place for him to claim it.
Novak Djokovic did not finish his first tournament of 2019 season the way he wanted. He played pretty well in Doha, but he was not able to hold on with a performance for all match. He lost set with Fucsovics and Basilashvili, and finally, he lost two with Bautista. His loss with Bautista was surprising but I still have Novak as the biggest favorite of Australian Open. I will not make a conclusion from one tournament, and I still think that Novak main goal for the season is to go for all 4 Grand Slam wins.
Bad news came from Nadal camp, as he withdrew from Brisbane tournament. He wants to be 100% ready for Melbourne, but doubts remain. Rafael Nadal is battling with injuries for the last two seasons and I do not expect him to fully recover till the end of his career. I would really be surprised to see Rafa in Australian Open semifinal. Even quarterfinal participation would be a success for his thigh and knees.
Frankly, I did not think Berdych will come in such good shape this January. Once a Wimbledon finalist was struggling for two years and his descent from top 10 was clearly visible. However, he returned with pretty solid performances in Doha. His wish to win at least one Grand Slam will not be fulfilled, but he can still win some ATP Tournaments this season. And his return to top 20 is almost sure bet for me.
Tennis Column is irregular and biased opinion column written by Tennis Pro Guru about everything tennis related.
Australian Open Ladies
We did not see all the possible Ladies top players during the first days of January. Some, like Halep, are starting the season this week in Sydney, so we get the full picture during the next 7 days.
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Karolina Pliskova is back at the top form. She had always good starts of the season (remember Brisbane 2017), but had problems to perform at big stages. Can she change it this year? I believe in her. She is older, more experienced and can handle the pressure better. The only question remains with her schedule. She played Brisbane, will start in Sydney and then move to Melbourne. That can result in four weeks full of tennis. Can she really handle it? Would not it be better to save something for Grand Slam?
The USA did not succeed at the Hopman Cup in Perth, but Serena played her standard. She easily won her three singles matches and remains the biggest favorite for Australian Open.
She stayed in the shadow of Zverev Federer clash in Perth and Serena Williams performance, but she reached quite spectacular results. She beat Muguruza, Cornet, and Barty (Bencic match is underway right now). If you look for someone who can make it in Melbourne, Angelique Kerber can be your choice.
Once a Roland Garros finalist and Berdych girlfriend is at the end of her career. She planned to say goodbye in Melbourne, but injury prevents it. Hopefully, she will make it at least in WTA Prague tournament at the end of the April. And then she can start her coffee shop as she already planned. She will be missed not just by her doubles partners Mattek-Sands and Strycova, but also by all tennis fans.