The Australian Open has largely belonged to simply two males since 2004, with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer profitable 14 of 17 titles. With Federer sidelined by an damage, Djokovic is the plain favourite, and there are simply two different clear-cuts: Rafael Nadal, who captured his twentieth Grand Slam singles title final 12 months in France and will declare his file twenty first in Australia, and Dominic Thiem, who earned his first on the 2020 United States Open. (Thiem additionally beat Nadal in final 12 months’s Australian Open and pushed Djokovic to 5 units within the ultimate.)
The ladies’s draw is extra open, however it has just a few gamers within the highlight. As with the lads’s facet, it begins with the highest three within the rankings: Australia’s personal Ash Barty, the world No. 1, who didn’t play in 2020 after the lockdown; Simona Halep, who reached the semifinals of the Australian Open final 12 months, and had a win streak of 17 matches and three titles; and Naomi Osaka, winner of three Grand Slam occasions, together with the 2019 Australian Open.
Then there’s Serena Williams, whom folks will watch due to her all-around greatness. If she wins this 12 months she is going to tie for essentially the most Grand Slam singles titles amongst girls with 24.
However there are less-recognizable gamers who may have deep runs into the second week and may even win. Listed here are six to look at in 2021.
The lads’s High 10 has a number of rising stars like Stefanos Tsitsipas or Alexander Zverev, however Daniil Medvedev is the very best guess to take house the title. To win, a participant will probably should take down two of the highest three seeds, and he’s the very best candidate.
Whereas Medvedev’s 16-19 file versus High 10 gamers might sound poor, it’s the best for a participant and not using a Slam. He’s winless in opposition to Federer, in order that absence improves Medvedev’s odds.
Medvedev, the 6-foot-6 Russian with the massive serve and protracted baseline recreation, emerged as one of many recreation’s prime returners and a High 5 participant in 2019. Grinding his approach to two Masters 1000 titles, he additionally reached six straight finals, together with the U.S. Open, the place he took Nadal to 5 units.
Most notable was his triumph in November on the ATP Finals, the place he had 5 straight wins, over Diego Schwartzman, Zverev, Thiem, Nadal and Djokovic. That stage of sustained excellence provides him an edge.
Kyrgios, of Australia, has an overwhelming serve, making him particularly harmful on the Open’s exhausting courts. His hard-court profitable share is among the many highest of gamers competing on the match. However he has to date didn’t stay as much as his huge potential. Temperamental and undisciplined, he has fallen via the years from thirteenth on the earth to forty seventh.
At 25, he’s nonetheless younger, and he’s prodigiously proficient.
His athleticism and flash all the time make him riveting to look at. If he can keep targeted for 2 weeks, he’s 5-5 lifetime versus Nadal and Djokovic, which ought to give the front-runners pause.
The youthful gamers who may make a mark in Australia embody Denis Shapovalov, Félix Auger-Aliassime, Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz. The more than likely American can be Thirtieth-ranked Taylor Fritz. Fritz has wins over Thiem, Zverev and prime veterans like Fabio Fognini and Schwartzman. Final 12 months, Fritz reached the finals in Acapulco, Mexico. A quarterfinal slot is perhaps a stretch, but when he survives till the second week, it is going to herald an enormous step ahead.
The cancellation of WTA’s year-end match gave the highest gamers a protracted break earlier than the Australian Open. However no prime contender has been off the courtroom so long as the eighth-ranked Bianca Andreescu, who has been sidelined with accidents since 2019.
That 12 months, she gained 31 of her first 34 matches, together with the BNP Paribas Open as a wild card due to a wide selection of photographs and a fearlessness in going for them. She capped her rise by upsetting Williams within the U.S. Open finals. If her shoulder and knee are wholesome, she has the aggressiveness, the ability and the Grand Slam expertise to tear via the match.
She could also be ranked solely thirteenth, however she is, as soon as once more, a particular menace. Winner of the Australian Open championship in 2012 and 2013, Azarenka reached No. 1 on the earth. She was the sport’s prime returner, breaking her opponent’s serve greater than half the time. However she fell off the map after having a child after which getting caught in a custody battle. When she did play, she struggled, reaching the fourth spherical of a serious simply as soon as.
However in 2020, Azaernka rediscovered her magic in a five-tournament run, the place she gained a title, reached two extra finals, together with the U.S. Open, and beat six gamers within the High 20.
She completed 2019 ranked thirty sixth. Then she went to the Australian Open in 2020 and reminded everybody that she was a former No. 1 and a Wimbledon and French Open champion. Muguruza used improved internet play to topple the High 10 gamers Elina Svitolina, Kiki Bertens and Halep en path to the finals. She misplaced to Sofia Kenin.
Muguruza’s large serve and potent, albeit high-risk, floor strokes additionally appeared spectacular in Rome in September, and he or she defeated Sloane Stephens, Coco Gauff, Johanna Konta and Azarenka earlier than falling to Halep. With each of these 2020 tournaments, Muguruza, now ranked fifteenth, confirmed she nonetheless had what it takes for a deep Grand Slam run.