Who will ace the Oz Open?

2011-01-15 17:40

It is all systems go tomorrow for the Australian Open despite Mother Nature unleashing the wrath of floods on the smallest continent on the planet.

The world’s top tennis players have?converged Down Under not only?to?support?the?country?during troubled times, but to hopefully add the first Grand Slam of?the?year?to?their?trophy?cabinets.

King Rafa’s Crusade
The 2010 season was nothing short of a fairytale for World ­ ­No 1 Rafael Nadal.

The 24-year-old is on the verge of making history, having won three of the last four Grand Slams – French Open, Wimbledon and US Open. He needs the Australian Open to complete his own “Rafa Slam” (holding four Grand Slams at one time within 12 months).

Nadal won the Australian Open in 2009 and has said that nothing would make him happier than to battle longtime rival Roger Federer for the championship on the final Sunday.

Fed Express Chasing Time
Defending champion and four-time winner Federer had a mild season last year – only winning this major – but after his mouth-watering performance at the year-end championships, punters are betting on him to win the tournament again.

But the Swiss icon has slowly lost his aura of invincibility and felt the wrath of the giant killers last year when he failed to ­defend all his major titles.

Currently sporting 16 Grand Slams, Federer has made it clear that he intends bagging 20 majors before thinking of retiring. But he is turning 30 so time is not on his side.

The Dark Djoker’s Under the Radar

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic has been the most consistent ­performer in the top five and has a new-found sense of ­maturity to his game.

The “Djoker” is seen as the main “dark horse” of the ­tournament.

The world No 3 has arguably the best defence in the game and turns it into offence better than most players in the top 10. He hopes to reclaim the only Grand Slam he won – in 2008.

Giant Killer Looming Large
Sweden’s rising star, Robin Söderling, has built up quite a reputation as a danger man and this may be his time to triumph. The Super Swede has broken all barriers to displace Andy Murray (world No 4), but is yet to win any major title.

Nursing a Bruised Ego
Two-time Grand Slam finalist Murray still has everything to prove after a disappointing 2010, but the weight of expectation seems to be taking its toll.

After reaching world No 2 ­status the world thought his ­elevation to the top of the game was imminent, but fate did not agree. Winning the Australian Open would rid Murray of his ­“chocker” nickname.

Women

The absence of defending champion Serena Williams, due to a foot injury, has left the women’s draw wide open.

Young Blood Reigns
Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki has been at the top of the ­women’s game for less than six months and will for the second time in her career head into a Grand Slam seeded No 1.

The former US Open finalist has arguably the best return game in women’s tennis today.

The Feisty Russian
Vera Zvonareva was virtually an unknown until her breakthrough in 2008 to the WTA Tour Championships final.
Now seeded No 2 she surprised the tennis world by featuring in two Grand Slam finals – Wimbledon and the US Open – last year.

Veterans on the Hunt
Belgian Kim Clijsters will seek to add one more Slam to her two US Open titles while Venus Williams, with seven Grand Slams, must be thinking of defending family honour.

The two, seeded 3 and 4, are the only pair in the top five with majors to their names.

Meanwhile, locals have pinned their hopes on ­Samantha Stosur, who had a wonder run to the French Open final last year. The fifth seed hopes to finally win her first major.

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