Welcome back! 2016 might not have been what we all hoped for (unless you’re Angelique Kerber) but at least we can put it all behind us and prepare for some grand slam tennis down under. The Australian Open is a bountiful contest of uncertainty. The players have been on their holidays and only had a handful of tournaments to Practice for Melbourne Park. Who has trained hard? Who is still feeling sluggish? Only two weeks of scorching temperatures will reveal who can truly say “new year, new me.”
At opposite ends of the draw are reigning champion Angelique Kerber and Six-time winner Serena Williams. Williams surprised us this new year announcing her engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Some might claim this would distract the queen of the court, though she’s been doubted before big wins before. Serena has a tough opener against Swiss protégé Belinda Bencic. The world number 48 had a disappointing 2016 however you can be sure there are several names that Williams would have preferred to have come out of the hat instead. Kerber faces Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko who considers this to be one of her favourite tournaments. She has a career high ranking of 33 and two titles to her name, definitely not a pushover by any means.
First Round Sizzlers
We’ve selected these matches as must watch stalemates or potential for serious upset to the status-quo. We recommend you keep a close eye on these battles as we’re sure they could be absolute rollercoasters:
Laura Siegemund (26) Vs Jelena Jankovic
Lara Arruabarrena Vs Yulia Putintseva (31)
Ana Konjuh Vs Kristina Mladenovic
Camila Giorgi Vs Timea Bacsinszky (12)
Heather Watson Vs Samantha Stosur (18)
Kirsten Flipkens VS Johanna Konta (9)
Kateryna Bondarenko Vs Caroline Garcia (21)
Serena Williams (2) VS Belinda Bencic
Yanina Wickmayer VS Lucie Safarova
The Dark Horses
Johanna Konta – There’s been a lot of noise surrounding the British number one, who has steadily continued to add to her trophy cabinet and ranking. She recently enjoyed a straight sets victory over tour veteran Agneiszka Radwasnka at the Apia International Final in Sydney. A semi-finalist in 2016, she might not be a red-hot favourite for the title but just keep your eye on Johanna.
Naomi Osaka – A Potential second round opponent of Konta’s. Third round last year but showing a lot of promise. If she were able to dump Konta out, then her path to week two would very promising. The last eight would be a big stretch but we foresee bright things for Naomi at this slam.
Caroline Wozniacki – A career of trials and tribulations; Wozniacki was world number one for 67 weeks. Since then she has struggled to regain the dominance or success she once enjoyed five years ago. A reprieve at the end of 2016 when the Dane made her first semi-final in a slam since 2014 in the US Open, she also won titles in Tokyo and Hong- Kong. Still a long way to go if she wants to become the face of the women’s game once more, though she would appear to be a riser rather than a faller going into Australia and could go the distance, well at least most of it.
Weather forecasts suggest the temperature in Melbourne will be a bit milder this time round. In recent years, there have been concerns over the health risk to athletes with several fainting during matches. Let’s hope for an electrifying start to the 2017 tennis season. Got a favourite for the title this year? Send us a tweet or let us know on our Facebook page.