Hard court action at the Australian Open

2015-01-18 15:00

Besides setting the tone for the tennis year that is to be, the Australian Open has often been the site of record-breaking feats.

The hard court event has proved to be a favourite for many leading players because of the warm, friendly and highly appreciative crowd.

The weather has also, over the years, proved to be accommodating, unlike the other Majors, where rain is such a constant threat to the action that play has had to be extended into a third week on occasion.

In fact, the weather might be a little too accommodating. It was just last year that some matches had to be moved to the evening due to an intense heatwave that saw temperatures soar above 40°C.

The play is often just as dazzling as the Australian sunshine. The tournament has never failed to produce some sizzling tennis and the 103rd edition at Melbourne Park promises to live up to expectations.

The world’s number one-ranked male and female players are both in the draw as number one seeds. Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams will be the ones to beat Down Under.

Despite being seeded fourth, expect last year’s surprise winner Stan Wawrinka to play the tennis of his life in a bid to defend his title and prove that his 2014 triumph was not a fluke.

The absence of last year’s ladies’ champion, Li Na of China, does not mean that Williams will have it all her own way.

She, just like the eventual men’s winner, will have to sweat blood to lift the coveted trophy that comes with a first prize of $3.1?million (R36 million) for both the male and female champions.

Players knocked out in the first round, will go home with $34 500 from the record pool of $40 million.

The tournament has not been short of surprises and upsets over the years. Just last year, both defending champions – for the first time in the Open era - were eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Djokovic – a three-time champion – was beaten by Wawrinka, while Agnieszka Radwanska downed two-time champion Victoria Azarenka.

Wawrinka, who was playing the best tennis of his career, defeated Rafael Nadal in the final, while Na took the title after romping to a victory over Dominika Cibulková.

There will be many scores to settle after last year’s upsets and the sport’s juggernauts will want to restore normal service.

The top seeds should not expect a walk in the park as there will be many challengers for the title.

Djokovic will have a serious challenge from the likes of crowd favourite Roger Federer, Nadal and the impressive Japanese upstart Kei Nishikori, who has made great progress over the past few years and is seeded fifth.

Williams’ rivalry with second seed Maria Sharapova is legendary, while Petra Kvitová, Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki and Rwadanska are all capable of mounting a serious title challenge.

Tennis connoisseurs should fasten their seatbelts and get ready for a rollercoaster ride over the next fortnight, which will end with the ladies final on Saturday, January 31, and the men’s one the following day. The first round begins tomorrow.

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