The Australian Open officially gets underway and the question on everyone’s mind is who will win it? For a long time now, the Grand Slams have been about the Big 4. The only difference this time around is the fact that there is no Nadal who is still not back to the tour yet. There is an air of mystery surrounding Nadal’s continued absence and it doesn’t help that he is always kind of ambiguous regarding his exact status. Is it an injury or is it a stomach bug? I don’t have the latest on this saga, I am sure this is being discussed to death in various forums. Anyway, if he is not 100% fit, then it is best for him to skip the years first Grand Slam because going by his history here, he will be stretched physically. He would want to make a huge impact when he returns.
So let’s talk about the favourites. With Rafa out of the picture, it comes down to the other 3. No one else springs into mind as a serious threat. Sure there are a few names going around but would you put your money on them? When was the last time someone other than the top 4 won a Grand Slam? Del Potro in 2009(US) but even there he was two points away from going down to Federer. Therefore, the favourites are Djokovic, Federer & Murray, in that order.
The top seeded Djokovic has been handed a kind draw. If he plays at his normal level he has shown in the last 2 years, he should make the final, easily. There is no name that pops up in his quarter who can potentially upset him. Berdych maybe; he has done it before, at Wimbledon but he has also lost 11 times in return. The only worrisome thing for him is the heat; it is expected to get really hot down under. But after that near 6 hour final last year, I don’t think he will be unduly affected though as he has put those health issues behind him.
David Ferrer gets his own quarter in Nadal’s absence. It also looks like all the big guns who can potentially down him are out of his way as well. But he was easily beaten by Davydenko and that shows he can be beaten by a guy who is hot on that day. Still, he is the best bet to come through this draw.
The third quarter pits Murray vs Del Potro. It will be an interesting quarter-final in these two make it till there, let’s just say these two are not best friends. Murray starts off with Haase, the same guy who took him to 5 sets in 2011 US Open (and also Nadal at Wimbledon). Other than that, there isn’t anyone who looks like preventing the Murray-Del Potro quarter-final.
Last but certainly not the least is Federer’s quarter. It seems he has pissed off the guys who organised the draws because he has got a tough one. He starts off with Paire and could then face Davydenko. Their previous AO match saw Davydenko come out firing in the sun. He took the first set and then the shadows crept in as Federer started taking control of the match. Roger could then get Tomic in the third round and possibly Raonic in the fourth. Tomic just won his maiden title and looks like he is putting in the hard work. Raonic ran Federer close a couple of times last year. Both youngsters are due for a major slam break through, but I hope it is not here and certainly, not at the expense of Federer. He is projected to get Tsonga in the quarters but I read Jo is coming in not fully fit. The other possible name is Gasquet but betting on him is practically suicide.
How will the semis look like? Well, Djokovic, Ferrer & Federer should get through their quarters. But Murray might run into trouble with Del Potro. If I am right, the courts will be faster this year and that will suit Federer and he should get by Murray/Potro. I am still not convinced by Murray, he took 5 sets to beat Djokovic who was clearly agitated by the windy conditions that day. If it was Federer, Nole would have been taken to the cleaners on that day in Those conditions.
Novak should have no problems against Ferrer and will attempt a hat trick of Aussie Open titles. It would be fitting if he is up against Federer, a 4 time champ in Melbourne. Nole has beaten him in straights the last two times these guys met here. Add to it the age factor and the relatively easier path to the final, Nole should be the favourite but if there is anyone who can take Djokovic off his game, it is Federer. I am not going to explicitly declare what my brain says; I will reserve that for the day of the final. Till then, my heart says Federer gets his 5th AO title and his 18th Grand Slam. Let the games begin!