2021 Australian Open Preview

With the Australian Open fast approaching, it’s time to take a look at the contenders to take home the first Grand Slam title of the year. Multiple players are in contention to lift the trophy on both the mens and womens side, and the tournament looks set to be one of the most competitive yet. But the question is, who will reign supreme in this years Australian Open?

Australian Open: Mens Singles

Let’s be honest, if you’re predicting anyone other than Novak Djokovic to take out the Aus Open title this year – you’re out of your mind. HOWEVER, let’s entertain the thought and run through the top picks in Melbourne this year.

The Top Male Contenders

Novak Djokovic

When it comes to this tournament, his record speaks for itself. The eight-time champion has a 100% record in Australian Open finals, and when he’s at his best there is almost no beating him on the slow hard court. Djokovic is not one to lack motivation, but he is currently at 306 total weeks at world #1, which means he is fast closing in on Roger Federer’s record of 310. Winning in Melbourne will help him surpass the Swiss atop the leaderboard, and it’s a record that Djokovic is hungry to break. He also has 17 Grand Slams to his name, and will be aiming to surpass Federer and Rafael Nadal who are both on 20.

Conclusion: He deserves to be the odds on favourite. Very tough to beat.

Dominic Thiem

Thiem was the runner up in last year’s thrilling final and and is the reigning US Open champion. He also led Djokovic by two sets to one in 2020 before eventually losing to him, but it will no doubt have been a huge learning experience. If he can put together another sensational run this year and stay focused in the important moments, he will surely be in with a chance.

Conclusion: He has the firepower to trouble Novak. If he is firing on all cylinders, he could well be winning his second major.

Rafael Nadal

Rafa is a player who can never be counted out, and the fiercest competitor on tour. Having won all the other Grand Slams multiple times, he would become the first player since Rod Laver to have won every Grand Slam more than once. Currently tied with Roger Federer on 20 Grand Slams, claiming the title will put him atop the Grand Slam leaderboard for the first time ever.

On the flip side, Nadal has struggled against Djokovic on hard courts in recent years, not winning a match on the surface since 2013. He was blown away in the 2019 final in straight sets, and he looked completely outmatched. If they’re to face off in this year’s final, he will need to be the aggressor and at his absolute best to stand a chance.

Conclusion: The ultimate competitor – Rafa will go deep into the tournament but ultimately fall short.

Daniil Medvedev

A man who has proved countless times over the last two years that he is right at the top of the men’s game. At the ATP Finals last year, Medvedev beat Djokovic, Nadal and Thiem on his way to the title. Yes, you read that correctly.

His unforgettable run of tennis during the 2019 American hard court swing culminated in him reaching the US Open Final, taking Nadal to five sets in an outstanding match. He has very quickly become one of the toughest players to beat on tour, and it’s surely only a matter of time until he wins his first major.

Conclusion: The tenacious Russian will go deep into the second week, but won’t have the firepower to trouble Thiem, Nadal & Djokovic at the pointy end of the Australian Open.

Dark Horses?

Stefanos Tsitsipas, who made the semi-finals in 2019, and Alexander Zverev, who reached the US Open final last year, are both players who will be putting their hands up in contention for the title. However, compared to the top four, it is difficult to see either of these two winning the tournament.

Of the Aussie chances, Alex De Minaur & Nick Kyrgios lead the charge and have decent draws to launch off of. And you can never count out John Millman at his home slam.

Prediction: Novak Djokovic

Australian Open: Womens Singles

As always, the womens side shapes as a much more open affair. With lots of contenders to choose from, a strong case can be made for multiple players.

World No. 1 & Aussie Hopeful

Ash Barty

Ashleigh Barty stands as the biggest and best hope of producing a first local champion since Chris O’Neil won the title in December of 1977. Unlike nearly all of her rivals who were forced into mandatory hotel quarantine upon their arrival into Australia, Barty has had a relatively interruption-free lead-up to the Australian Open, being able to train outdoors as much as she liked. She took out the lead in tournament (Yarra Valley Classic) which will give her some valuable match practice as she bids to go one better than her semi-final showing last year.

Conclusion: Despite an 11 month layoff, Barty picked up right where she left off and will go deep into the second week. We are predicting a maiden Final appearance in her home slam.

Simona Halep

Last week, the Romanian racked up six consecutive years in the top ten, with no other women’s player able to spend that long ranked in this bracket since January 2014. It is a testament to her consistency which has seen her win 20 WTA titles, three of them last year – in Dubai, Prague and Rome. Simona has a chance to eradicate the memory of her blitzing at the hands of Iga Swiatek in Paris last year. If she does so, her consistency and tenacity are attributes that should bode well deep into the tournament. The extended layoff for most of the WTA Tour due to COVID-19 points to consistency being the key.

Conclusion: Simona can go as far as going all the way, even if it’s at the expense of the local favourite.

Naomi Osaka

Despite playing only four tournaments in season 2020, Naomi Osaka showed signs of her best in the second half of last season, as evidenced by reaching the final in Cincinnati and winning the US Open for a second time. Naomi has quite a tough few early rounds. She faces last year’s quarterfinalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first round, potentially followed by veteran Polona Hercog, the tricky Ons Jabeur and former champion Angelique Kerber or 2020 finalist Garbine Muguruza, consecutively. When it comes to Melbourne Park, I expect her to bring her best form and again reach the latter stages of the tournament.

Conclusion: Naomi has the firepower, experience and is a former champion at Melbourne Park. I think she goes deep into the second week, but will ultimately fall short.

Sofia Kenin

Last year, the American took advantage of an upset-ravaged quarter of the draw, which saw the previous three champions, Naomi Osaka (last year), Caroline Wozniacki (2018) and Serena Williams (2017) all fail to reach the quarter-finals.

At the 2020 Roland Garros she performed extremely well, reaching the final before being beaten by unheralded Pole Iga Swiatek. The American now returns to Melbourne Park – the scene of her greatest triumph – with the added pressure of being the defending champion, and it will remain to be seen how she handles this status at Grand Slam level for the first time.

Conclusion: I have her again going into the latter rounds, possibly as far as the semi-finals and will be neck and neck with Barty and Halep.

Dark Horses

Short answer – heaps. Iga Swiatek, Serena Williams, Elina Svitolina, Angelique Kerber, Victoria Azarenka, Bianca Andreescu are all capable of taking out the title and beating the aforementioned top 4 contenders.

Of the Aussie chances, Ash Barty headlines as the world no. 1 and biggest chance at the title. We also like Astra Sharma’s chances of causing a few upsets early.

Prediction: Simona Halep

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