It’s finally here, the first grand slam of the 2013 season is upon us, starting at midnight on Sunday the stars of the ATP and WTA do battle at Melbourne Park in Melbourne. So what do we need to know? Who’s on form? Who suits the conditions? And most importantly who’s going to win?
To start with, as it is a tour Grand Slam event the men will be competing on a best of 5 set basis unlike regular tour events where they only compete over best of 3. This makes a massive difference as with the heat, stamina and conditioning will play their part. A tie-break is played in the first four sets at six games-all. There is no tie breaker in the fifth set if we go beyond 6-6 with the Winner needing a two-game margin.
In tennis, probably more than any other sport the surface that the players play on makes a HUGE difference, as put simply certain types of surfaces particularly suit and advantage certain players. The type of court they use at Melbourne is the Hard Court but more importantly it is the Plexicushion surface which is officially rated as medium to medium-fast paced. However, if you ask the players they will describe it as slow, epecially Federer.
To add to the slow pace of the courts, the material they are made of tends to fluff up the balls more which makes them heavier and thus they travel through the air slower. This will mean that there will be longer rallies and big servers will have less of an advantage. This plays into the hands of players like Djokovic, Murray and Ferrer who are happy to grind away at points.
Federer often complains about the pace of the courts getting slower and slower nowadays and this is because his chances of success here lie with keeping the points as short as possible. Any drawn out baseline rallies that he gets involved in normally end up in an error from him as he finds it harder to hit through the good defensive players.
NB : Note that Rafa Nadal is out injured
In the Men’s event there is a notable gap between the big 4 or 5 from the rest of the field. To be honest it has been that way for a good few years and in my opinion will continue for the foreseeable future. Previously I would have just said the big 4 but now I include David Ferrer in the mix purely for his dogged and consistent game and the fact he goes into the tournament on the back of a win at Auckland. For me though the most important thing when the draw was made was that Murray and defending champion Djokovic were drawn on different sides of the draw so they can’t meet till the final.
I really can’t see anybody stopping Djokovic getting to the final so I shall just take that as a given. He is a master on the Plexicushion surface and it suits his game perfectly. Since they changed to this surface he’s won 3 of the last 5 Australian Opens, he’s only dropped 16 sets since 2008 (winning 88 sets) and he only dropped 1 set en route to his first win in 08 and then again on his win in 2011. These are truly frightening stats for his opponents and I have it down to only Andy Murray that is capable of stopping him claiming his third Australian Open in a row.
On paper Murray’s route to the final is quite tricky but certainly achievable: R1: Haase, R2: Sousa, R3: Mayer, R4: Dolgopolov/Simon, QF: Del Potro, SF: Federer, F: Djokovic.
So there it is I have it down to a Djokovic V Murray final and unfortunately will have to go against my countryman being able to topple Djokovic’s dominance on this surface.