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Australian Open 2014: Men's Preview
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The Grand Slam of the Asia Pacific has been given the epithet of the ‘Happy Slam’ by the players as they love the atmosphere of Melbourne Park - the intensity and the heat, the buzz that is around the grounds and most importantly the warmth that is showered on them by the fans. Once again, the Opening Slam will become a place of unparalleled drama, where emotions will run high as both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will wage a full throttle war to rewrite the record books of Tennis. We at TennisEarth offer you a sneak peek into the upcoming Open – The favourites, the underdogs and the dark horses.
Rafael Nadal: The Spanish Winning Machine’s coach and his uncle Tony Nadal has declared that his nephew’s main target in 2014 is to win the Aussie Open as that would make him only the second player ever in the history of the sport after Rod Laver to win each of the four Majors at least two times. Uncle Tony commented: “The challenge in 2014 will be to win Australia, because it would achieve something only Rod Laver did, which is twice winning the four (Grand Slams).”
Moreover, if he wins the competition at the Rod Laver Arena, he would have a pretty good chance of accomplishing something that hasn’t been achieved since 1992, that is to win the Australian Open and the French Open in the same calendar year. However, it wouldn’t be as easy as it may sound as his fiercest rival Novak Djokovic will not relinquish his thrown without a fight.
And, the plexicushion surface that is used at the Open gives Novak a definitive advantage as the Serb is a master at the art of outmanoeuvring his opponents – Nadal included and that’s why he has been unbeatable on the blue synthetic courts of the Victorian capital in the last 3 years.
Novak Djokovic: Like Rafa Nadal, the Serbian Express will have the chance of standing atop the pedestal in Melbourne if he wins his fourth consecutive trophy inside the Rod Laver Arena as that would give him an unprecedented 5th crown in Australia – something nobody has achieved in the past. If Djokovic succeeds in doing so, he will surpass both Roger Federer and Andre Agassi who have won four titles each at Melbourne Park.
Nonetheless, the one man who can spoil the Monte Carlo resident’s party is Rafael Nadal and the southpaw knows it really well – after-all he pushed Djokovic to the limits in the final two years ago when the duo produced some breathtaking stuff for nearly six hours. Yet, Novak’s spectacular run of 24 consecutive match wins during the concluding stages of 2013 including two lop-sided victories over Nadal would give him the much needed boost for Australia.
Andy Murray: As amusing it may sound, despite making three finals in Australia, Andy Murray will not arrive in Australia as one of the front-runners for the title as the Glaswegian is not ready at all for an assault at the ‘First Major of the Year.’ After undergoing back surgery in the middle of September, Andy has just returned to the courts in late November and will not be match-ready until the later part of February. So, a deep run in Melbourne is highly unlikely and we could see him making an early exit from the tourney as he is yet to shrug off the rust of months of inaction from the game.
Roger Federer: As funny it may sound, the 17 times Grand Slam champ – a man who has been triumphant in Australia on four different occasions in the past will head to Melbourne as a huge underdog. The master who never looked his usual self in 2013 due to an ailing back will be hoping to swing his fortunes around with the help of his new coach Swedish legend Stefan Edberg and what he says a pain free back.
Still, one has to be a bit realistic – his ranking has plummeted to No.6 in the World and that makes the situation a bit tougher for the 32 year old. He could now have to confront all the other members of the Fab Four to lift the trophy in Australia – something that is an assignment of mammoth proportions even for Federer. But, with a small piece of luck who knows he might just recreate the same good old magic yet again.
Juan Martin Del Potro: The man who is considered to be the biggest threat to the supremacy of the Big Four and often described as the guy who would transform the Fab Four into the Big Five – Juan Martin Del Potro will be the player to watch out for in Melbourne. With 4 trophies in 2013 and a re-entry into the top-5 of the rankings, the Argentine is back to his very best and can prove to be the principal stumbling block for the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray.
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