AUSTRALIAN OPEN PREVIEW

What does 2018 hold for men’s tennis? The only thing we can say for sure is that if it’s half as good as 2017 – and the opening tournaments of the year suggest it may well be – then we’ll be in for a treat.

The Australian Open is our first chance to see all the top players face off, and there’s plenty to consider. Will the Fedal resurgence continue? Will Novak Djokovic return to form at a venue where he has enjoyed unparalleled success in the past? Or will one of the wildly-talented bunch of Next Gen ATP stars enjoy a breakthrough on the biggest stage? Here are some of the things to look out for in the coming weeks…

Fedal Frenzy to continue?

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will go down in history as two of the best – if not the two best – players we’ve ever seen. But even by their astronomical standards, the successes of 2017 must have come as some surprise – not least because of their age.

Federer will be 37 years old this year and before every major tournament in 2017 he downplayed his chances for exactly that reason… but he apparently forgot to tell his body. The Swiss went on to win two Grand Slams, including the Australian Open, and three ATP 1000 titles – an astonishing haul for a man of his age.

Not to be outdone, of course, Rafa Nadal’s resurgence was just as impressive – potentially even more so when you consider the physical exertions of his playing style. The Spaniard snapped up the other two Grand Slams and two ATP 1000 titles of his own, to end the year as no.1 in the world. Nadal begins his campaign in Melbourne against Victor Estrella Burgos, and it’s fair to say the Spaniard is in the easier half of the draw…


Djoker in the pack

The biggest threat to Rafa and Roger’s dominance? Unquestionably the return of a fully-fit and firing Novak Djokovic. If the former World No.1 can return to the top of his game, then we should see another big year for the Serbian legend.

Let’s not forget that the Rod Laver Arena and its environs are very much Djokovic’s domain. Between 2011-2016 he won an incredible five of six titles, before his surprise early exit last year. Is 2018 the year we see the Djoker smiling once again? He’s in a tough section of the draw – potentially facing Gael Monfils in the second round, followed by Albert Ramos-Vinolas – but the Serbian has looked good in the practice tournaments and should never be written off.


Young guns firing

Is this the year a supremely talented generation introduce themselves to the trophy engravers at a major tournament? Alexander Zverev leads the way and would seem best placed to cause an upset in Australia – although given he’s ranked number four in the world, and bagged trophies at ATP 1000 events in Rome and Montreal last year, would it really be much of an upset?

The German is joined by the likes of Hyeon Chung, who won the inaugural Next Gen Finals in Milan last November; Andrey Rublev, who used his monstrous forehand to batter his way to the Doha final recently, and Denis Shapovalov, whose one-handed backhand is beautiful and devastating in equal measures. Shapovalov begins his Australian Open campaign against fellow youngster Stefan Tsitsipas – a tough assignment first up.

All may well be household names of the future, but could they cause a surprise even sooner?


Other runners and riders

There are plenty of other quality players who will no doubt be eyeing a deep run at the Rod Laver Arena. Grigor Dimitrov enjoyed comfortably his most successful season in 2017, culminating in a stunning victory at the Nitto ATP Finals in London – can the hugely talented Bulgarian translate that into Grand Slam success in Australia?

Dimitrov’s opponent in London, David Goffin, has all the weapons to threaten the best, as does fellow top-10 dweller Dominic Thiem. And what of Stan Wawrinka and Juan Martin del Potro? Both men are loved by crowds around the world and both are on the comeback trail after injury – perhaps most importantly, both have hard-court Grand Slam wins to their name.

Last but by no means least, you can’t discuss Australian tennis without mentioning Nick Kyrgios. The outrageously talented Kyrgios has hit the ground running, triumphing at the Brisbane International recently – a run that included the semi-final defeat of Dimitrov. Is this the year the local boy comes good?

Some of the names mentioned above will enjoy successful runs over the next couple of weeks – others won’t. But fear not – for those that don’t, you can catch them year-round, from all corners of the globe, right here on Tennis TV.

Please note that Tennis TV does not stream the Australian Open, but you can listen to the tournament in full on ATP Tennis Radio. Find out how here.