That is proper, it is summertime Down Beneath and meaning only one factor — it’s Australian Open time.
And for sure, there’s a lot happening on the “Pleased Slam” this 12 months.
Recent off an unbelievable 2022 season, and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it offseason, the primary main of the brand new 12 months is upon us. Final 12 months’s match noticed greater than its fair proportion of drama, beginning with the deportation of Djokovic and ending with the unbelievable victories of Ashleigh Barty, who grew to become the primary Australian to win the match since 1978, and Rafael Nadal, who broke the document for many Grand Slam titles by a male participant. Since then, Barty has retired from the game and Nadal earned yet one more main trophy in Paris however struggled with accidents later within the season.
Will Nadal do Nadal issues and discover a option to defend his title? Who will step up within the absence of the newly retired Serena Williams and Roger Federer to create world headlines and curiosity? May Nick Kyrgios develop into the primary Australian man to win at house in 47 years? Listed here are the gamers and storylines it’s good to know heading into the 2023 Australian Open.
Djokovic is again
It is easy to overlook that till lately Djokovic was referred to as the “King of Melbourne,” because of his astonishing 9 titles on the Australian Open. However then 2022 occurred and, properly, we’re not fairly certain that nickname nonetheless holds.
Forward of final 12 months’s occasion, Djokovic discovered himself in the course of a world firestorm and authorized battle because of his unvaccinated standing. He ultimately had his visa revoked and was deported from the nation simply hours earlier than the principle draw bought underway. It was a debacle and dominated the primary a number of days of the match. Initially it appeared as if Djokovic can be banned from coming into Australia for 3 years, however he was granted a visa and began his season in Adelaide this month.
So now the query is: What can we count on from Djokovic? Regardless of enjoying a restricted schedule in 2022 as a consequence of journey restraints, he nonetheless received Wimbledon, the ATP Finals and three different titles, and he opened 2023 with the title at Adelaide. So he stays one in all, if not the favourite for the trophy. Nonetheless, as unflappable as he typically appears on the courtroom, will probably be a tall order to place all of these emotions from 2022 to the facet.
“Clearly what occurred 12 months in the past was not straightforward for me, for my household, workforce, anyone who’s near me …” Djokovic said. “You possibly can’t overlook these occasions. It is one in all these items that stays with you for, I suppose, the remainder of your life. It is one thing that I’ve by no means skilled earlier than and hopefully by no means once more. However it’s a priceless life expertise for me and one thing that as I mentioned will keep there, however I’ve to maneuver on.”
If Djokovic have been to win, he would tie Nadal with 22 main titles, and be only one behind Serena Williams for probably the most within the Open period. As if there wasn’t sufficient already on the road for him or something.
No. 1 is not executed (at the very least not one in all them anyway)
Previous to Carlos Alcaraz‘s withdrawal final week due to a right leg injury, it seemed as if each of the reigning US Open champions can be searching for back-to-back main titles. However alas, that’s not to be.
However whereas Alcaraz will not be there, Swiatek actually shall be, and she or he shall be trying to cement her standing because the inheritor obvious for tennis’ famous person title. With Williams and Federer already retired, and Djokovic and Nadal nearing the ends of their careers, and within the absence of Alcaraz, all eyes will squarely be on her to step into these ever-so-large sneakers.
The 21-year-old has already received three main titles and firmly held onto the highest rating since Barty retired in April. As a two-time French Open champion, her dominance on clay has been evident for a while, however she proved she is simply as dominant on the onerous courts in 2022.
Throughout her mind-blowing 37-match win streak, the primary 19 of mentioned victories have been on the floor and she or he earned three 1000-level hard-court titles (Qatar, Indian Wells, Miami) throughout that run. Swiatek reached the semifinals in Melbourne final season and is probably the most important girls’s favourite to win a serious title since Serena in her prime. To not point out, the US Open victory gave her an additional dose of confidence about her recreation.
“It is a affirmation for me that [the] sky is the restrict,” she mentioned in September.
Swiatek began the 2023 season by main the Polish workforce to the semifinals on the United Cup and recording straight-sets victories in her first three singles matches, together with in opposition to Belinda Bencic. Though she was handed a surprising 6-2, 6-2 loss by Jessica Pegula within the semis, the usually unflappable Swiatek will doubtless use that as motivation in Melbourne.
Talking of momentum …
Whereas Swiatek is a heavy favourite and coming off a monumental season, there are just a few others who completed 2022 on even hotter streaks that they are going to look to proceed within the new 12 months. Caroline Garcia, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Holger Rune mixed for seven particular person titles from August by means of the top of the season.
No lady was extra dominant on the onerous courtroom in the course of the latter a part of 2022 than Garcia, who received the title in Cincinnati, notched the primary main semifinal look of her profession on the US Open and concluded the 12 months with a WTA Finals trophy — and a matching cowboy hat.
Auger-Aliassime, 22, notched three consecutive titles in October, and helped lead Canada to its first Davis Cup victory and Workforce World to a Laver Cup title. Throughout that dominant stretch, he defeated Djokovic, Nadal and Alcaraz and made it clear he might beat nearly anybody.
However the man who stopped Auger-Aliassime’s win streak? That might be 19-year-old Rune. After dropping to the Canadian on the Swiss Indoors ultimate, Rune bought his revenge on the semifinals of the Paris Masters the very subsequent week. Rune then beat Djokovic, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, to win the 1000-level title, his second title of the autumn.
Yup, 2023 may very well be an enormous 12 months for all three of those gamers.
Nadal’s Jordan Slam?
Few anticipated Nadal to win the 2022 Australian Open. He had missed many of the second half of the 2021 season with a power foot damage and had been bed-ridden with COVID-19 shortly earlier than leaving for Australia in December. However he was all like, “21, CAN YOU DO SOMETHING FOR ME?” and his trademark tenacity carried him to an unbelievable victory, together with a comeback five-set thriller in opposition to Daniil Medvedev within the ultimate. Please take a second to remind your self of how epic that win was by rewatching the spotlight under.
A 12 months later, Nadal arrives in Melbourne in an analogous state of affairs. He struggled with accidents for a lot of the latter a part of the season and was pressured to withdraw forward of the Wimbledon semifinals with a recurring belly tear. He was upset by Frances Tiafoe within the fourth spherical on the US Open and performed sparingly after, recording a 1-3 document to finish 2022. The brand new 12 months hasn’t began significantly better — he misplaced his solely two matches on the United Cup.
But when there’s one factor we all know for certain, regardless of how Nadal is feeling, he’ll give one hundred pc and do every part he can to win if he is enjoying. He can by no means be counted out. If he have been to win his third title in Melbourne, he would additional his lead for probably the most by a male participant, tie Serena Williams’ Open period document and be only one behind Margaret Court docket’s all-time mark of 24.
It is Nadal. Something is feasible.
So shut they’ll nearly style it (the remainder remains to be unwritten)
Within the 2022 season, each Ons Jabeur and Casper Ruud reached the primary Grand Slam ultimate of their respective careers — Jabeur at Wimbledon and Ruud on the French Open — after which they every reached their second main championship match on the US Open later in the summertime. Whereas that could be a enormous feat by itself, and marked historic firsts for his or her house nations of Tunisia and Norway, each walked away title-less from their efforts.
However now the query is: How will final 12 months’s disappointments gas them going into the primary main of 2023? They’ve each proved how good they are often on the onerous courts and know what it takes to make a deep run. Maybe Melbourne is the place the No. 2 seed Jabeur and/or No. 3 seed Rudd can declare a long-awaited first Grand Slam trophy.
Ruud, who additionally reached the ultimate of the year-end ATP Finals, appeared each excited and pragmatic when requested in November in regards to the upcoming season.
“It is all the time refreshing to start out a brand new 12 months down in Australia,” Ruud mentioned. “It is just like the mentality after all is you wish to do properly, however you understand that is only the start of an extended 12 months … It is like the beginning of a marathon and you might be motivated for it.”
The American contenders
After a lot pleasure when Venus Williams acquired a wild card to play within the match, she was forced to withdraw due to injury last week. However there stays a powerful contingent representing the pink, white and blue this 12 months, and several other of them have an opportunity to make runs deep into the second week. Listed here are just a few you may wish to keep up all night time to look at:
Coco Gauff: The 18-year-old had a serious breakthrough in 2022 and reached the primary (of doubtless many) Grand Slam finals in Paris, in addition to the quarterfinals on the US Open. She ended the 12 months at No. 7, after reaching a career-high rating of No. 4 in October, and is trying extra assured than ever. Gauff made an announcement in her first match of the brand new 12 months by profitable the third singles title of her profession in Auckland. Her earlier finest lead to Melbourne is the fourth spherical, however count on that to alter this time round.
Jessica Pegula: Coming off the perfect season of her profession, the 28-year-old reached the quarters in Melbourne, Paris and New York and ended the 12 months with the No. 3 rating. Coming off a 1000-level title on the Guadalajara Open in October and a head-turning efficiency on the United Cup which noticed her get that victory over Swiatek, Pegula is a professional risk on the onerous courts. (And she or he and Gauff might simply contend for the doubles title as properly: The pair reached the French Open ultimate in 2022 and received three titles collectively final 12 months.)
Taylor Fritz: It has been a tricky stretch for the U.S. males, and it is now been 20 years since an American man has received a serious title (Andy Roddick, 2003 US Open). However after Fritz’s outstanding 2022 season, he is likely to be the perfect hope to finish that drought. He received three titles final 12 months — together with at Indian Wells in opposition to Nadal within the ultimate — and reached his first main quarterfinal at Wimbledon, which he misplaced to Nadal in a fifth-set tiebreak. His win over Hubert Hurkacz within the United Cup semifinals carried the U.S. workforce to the ultimate, and his victory in opposition to Matteo Berrettini clinched the title for his nation. Fritz is aware of he can compete in opposition to the perfect, and he’ll have yet one more probability to do exactly that.
Frances Tiafoe: Can we simply delight in Tiafoe’s unbelievable upset win over Nadal on the US Open fourth spherical another time? After his outstanding victory on Arthur Ashe, the 24-year-old went on to achieve the primary main semifinal of his profession, the place he gave Alcaraz a relentless five-set battle. Tiafoe did not win in New York, however he has executed properly in Melbourne up to now — he made his first Grand Slam quarterfinal look on the match in 2019 — and has what it takes to go even additional in 2023. He was additionally probably the most essential contributors for the U.S. workforce within the United Cup and went 5-0 in singles play.
Danielle Collins: The surprising 2022 Australian Open finalist did not fairly capitalize on her early-season success the remainder of final 12 months, however she has a surprisingly sturdy Aussie fan base and can wish to show her earlier consequence was no fluke.
Sebastian Korda: The son of 1998 champion Petr Korda, the youthful Korda has been poised for giant issues since he received the junior title in Melbourne in 2018 after which reached the fourth spherical in simply his second main on the 2020 French Open. He is recent off a ultimate look at Adelaide and exhibits no indicators of slowing down.
Madison Keys: Again within the prime 10 for the primary time since 2019, Keys recorded a 5-0 singles document within the United Cup. The 2-time Australian Open semifinalist appears to be rediscovering her finest tennis simply in time for the 12 months’s first main.
As soon as believed to be the longer term centerpiece of girls’s tennis, and with the sponsorships and enterprise savvy to help that declare, Naomi Osaka is now two years faraway from her final Grand Slam title and will not be reversing that development in Melbourne. On Wednesday, Osaka, 25, joyfully introduced she is pregnant with her first child.
“I understand that life is so quick and I do not take any moments as a right, on a regular basis is a brand new blessing and journey,” Osaka wrote on social media. “I do know that I’ve a lot to look ahead to sooner or later, one factor I am trying ahead to is for my child to look at one in all my matches and inform somebody ‘That is my mother,’ haha.”
Osaka added she plans to be again on tour for the beginning of the 2024 season.
Together with her absence from the Australian Open this 12 months, there are solely two former champions within the girls’s draw — Victoria Azarenka (2012, 2013) and Sofia Kenin (2020) — and they’re going to play one another within the first spherical. Neither is a favourite to win the title this 12 months, though Azarenka, who confronted Osaka within the 2020 US Open ultimate, is coming off a quarterfinal look in Adelaide and stays a powerful presence on tour.
Kenin has struggled mightily as of late and has handled a collection of accidents and stops-and-starts. She misplaced within the first spherical of each majors she performed in 2022 and is at present ranked No. 280. Three years after her main triumph, Kenin would have wanted a wild card for entry had she not used a protected rating. However Kenin is much from the one current Grand Slam champion searching for a resurgence in Melbourne. US Open victors Bianca Andreescu (2019), Dominic Thiem (2020) and Emma Raducanu (2021) will all be doing the identical in Melbourne after difficult 2022 seasons. Thiem needed a wild card for entry as a result of his rating on the finish of final season was simply exterior the cutoff for direct entry.
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!
Barty did what felt just like the not possible in 2022 along with her Australian Open victory — and her emotional response, and that of the group, summed up precisely what it meant to the nation.
So now that the drought has ended, and with it all the speak and strain round it, will or not it’s simpler for Australian gamers to win their house Slam? There are actually just a few gamers who’ve proved over the previous 12 months they’re greater than able to dealing with the large moments.
Along with profitable the Australian Open doubles title in 2022 alongside fellow countryman Thanasi Kokkinakis, Kyrgios reached the primary main ultimate of his profession at Wimbledon, and eventually lived as much as the hopes many had lengthy bestowed upon him. He additionally received his first singles title since 2019 on the Citi Open in August.
A crowd favourite who continuously performs his matches on John Cain Enviornment, which is primarily a basketball venue, Kyrgios will undoubtedly be shouldering a lot of the nation’s consideration this 12 months, however it will not all be as a consequence of his expertise and polarizing on-court antics. Kyrgios is due back in court in February for an assault charge.
Seemingly extra below the radar than Kyrgios, Alex de Minaur, the second-highest-seeded Australian, additionally received a title in the course of the US Open hard-court collection in 2022 along with his second profession victory in Atlanta. He was the final Australian man standing in the course of the 2022 staging of the occasion with a fourth-round look, and began the 12 months with a win over Nadal within the United Cup.
Within the girls’s draw, look no additional than Ajla “Chilly as ice” Tomljanovic to maybe have the perfect probability to comply with Barty’s lead. The 29-year-old reached back-to-back quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the US Open final season, and, most famously, defeated Serena Williams in entrance of a shocked capability crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium within the final match of Williams’ profession. If she will be able to stand up to that form of psychological strain, who’s to say she will be able to’t win the Australian Open?
Do not take our phrase for it. Take Barty’s. When asked by the Australian Associated Press in December if Tomljanovic might at some point be a serious contender, Barty did not hesitate in her response.
“She already is,” Barty mentioned. “And that is the real feeling among the many gamers … It may all the time be taken away in a short time from you as an athlete, however she’s had an unbelievable 12 months, completely, and I sincerely hope that she has an enormous Australian summer time so that everybody can have fun along with her.
“She’s doing a hell of a job.”