The 2019 Australian Open is finally here! Let's get to some headlines:
Murray's Last Hurrah?
It came out this past week that Andy Murray plans to retire after this year's Wimbledon, but has stated that the Australian Open could be his last tournament. There was a blog previously published with sentiment regarding Murray's retirement, which can be found here.
Obviously it is a shame that Murray's career has to come to an end due to his hip injury, but let's discuss his presence at the Australian Open. Murray drew the 22nd seed Roberto Bautista Agut. This is a brutal draw for Andy as RBA is coming off an impressive title run in Doha, which came with arguably his biggest career win versus World Number 1 Novak Djokovic.
Andy has not been shy about the hip pain he faces on a daily basis. I don't expect him to be able to get past RBA in round 1, but hopefully he can put on a good show. With that all being said, Andy will be truly missed on the ATP tour.
The State of Australian Tennis
Every time the Australian Open rolls around it is a good time to look at where the state of Australian tennis is. Remember back in 2015 when we thought that we were witnessing the rise of three young Australian stars? Nick Kyrgios reached his second career Quarterfinal in a major and cracked the top 30 at only 20 years of age. Bernard Tomic, who was 22, won his 3rd career ATP title and finished the year ranked 18. And finally, Thanasi Kokkinakis who was only 19 finished the year inside the top 100.
I think it is safe to say that none of their careers are where we thought they would by now. Bernard Tomic is now 85 in the world and faces the 6 seed Marin Cilic in the first round. Nick Kyrgios, once as high as 13 in the world has fallen outside the top 50 and faces 16 seed Milos Raonic. Thanasi Kokkinakis had to work his way through qualifying to get to the main draw of the 2019 Australian Open.
Not only has their on-court performance been disappointing the last few years, so has their off-court performance. I am sure most readers are well aware of this, and this blog is running long, so I will not dive too deep into their respective off the court antics. Feel free to google it, their is plenty of content there. For those of you wondering, yes I am aware that injuries have been an issue for all of these guys (especially Kokkinakis). That being said, it is still safe to say that their characters have been a definite factor in the relative disappointment of their careers thus far. The bright side is that all of these guys are still young and have time (and enough talent) to right the ship.
There is one Australian seeded in this year's Australian Open. 19 year-old Sydney native Alex de Minaur is currently ranked a career best 29 in the world and is the 27 seed at this year's tournament. If you haven't heard the name make yourself familiar with this guy, he is good. Arguably the fastest person on the ATP tour, de Minaur is a grinder. This guy gets to everything, and makes life miserable for his opponent across the net. He is coming off his first career title in his hometown Sydney and is someone to keep your eye on, plus he is fun to watch. He is the antithesis of the aforementioned Aussies, not as heavy on talent but boy does this guy know how to work. If you could take the work ethic and hustle of de Minaur and pair it with Kyrgios' hands, serve and talent... boy oy boy...one can only dream.
The first thing that jumps out when you look at the draw is the Novak and Rog are on opposite sides, which means that the two favorites to win the title wouldn't meet before the final. Roger shares the same half as Nadal, which sets up a potential heavyweight semifinal, but the big question is Nadal's health.
If Nadal is fit, he should be a virtual lock to the quarterfinals where he could potentially face the 5 seed Kevin Anderson. In round 3 looms the before mentioned Alex de Minaur. This is a great test to see where Rafa is physically, any signs of fatigue and de Minaur will give Rafa all he can handle.
The next highest seed in Federer's draw is Marin Cilic If they were to meet in the quarterfinal it would be a rematch of the 2018 final that went the distance before Federer could overcome the hard-hitting Croatian. Similar to Rafa, if Roger is fit and playing well I don't see any way he does't reach the QF, his only tough match en route may be the young Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Novak stands atop the draw as the World Number 1. In all honesty, this is Novak's tournament to lose. At the end of the 2018 season we saw the return of a dominate Novak Djokovic. As stated earlier he was bounced by RBA in Doha leading up to this tournament, but that doesn't mean Novak wasn't on top of his game. Look for Novak to cruise to the second week before there are any possible hiccups.
Why I love the Australian Open is that it presents an opportunity for players to breakout to start the new season. Last year there were 3 unseeded players in the quarterfinal. I am looking forward to seeing who those gentleman will be this year.
Sleeper picks: Tomas Berdych, Grigor Dimitrov, Nikoloz Bashalisvili
Enjoy the tournament! Thank you for reading!
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