You want drama, well you got it. The Djokovic fiasco has overtaken anything that’s happened on a tennis court during the lead up tournaments and whatever happens in the Federal Court hearing tomorrow will overshadow the next two weeks, regardless if the Serbian is in the draw or not. A lot of blame to go around here, but we’ll move on.
Ash Barty has played herself into form winning Adelaide with some high class wins over Kenin, Swiatek and Coco Gauff. Her draw shouldn’t pose any problems until a 4th rounder against Naomi Osaka, the 13th seed. Other threats in her half are Badosa (8), Sakkari (5), Krejokova (4) and Gauff (18).
It’s an uncomfortable lot, especially Osaka, but get through that I see a big run late into the second week.
The bottom half is more wide open, Sabalenka the number 2 seed is in free fall, as she was reduced to serving underarm in a 3 set loss in Adelaide after serving 22 double faults. She plays the Australian Storm Sanders in round 1 and if the serving yips continue will be lucky to make it beyond the first week.
There are so many other contenders in this half, Kerber (16), US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez (23), Halep (14), Kvitova (20), Swiatek (7) and Muguruza (3)
US Open winner Raducanu (17) has a blockbuster first rounder against the power hitting unseeded Sloane Stephens, that is an upset alert special. First time Slam winners usually at the next Slam go out early, keep an eye on that.
Serena withdrew from the tournament back in December stating “I am not where I need to be physically to be able to compete”, meaning Margaret Court’s 24 Slams is safe for now. It’s hard to imagine the now 40-year-old Serena reaching the magical ‘24’, although the Wimbledon grass is still her best chance.
Yesterday the Victorian government announced a 50% cap on crowds in Rod Laver and Margaret Court arenas that had yet to reach half capacity in sales. I imagine the later round sessions (Final, semis, etc) have already exceeded half capacity sales so apparently those tickets will still be honored, so I expect a near full stadium for the final, hopefully all that made sense.
But, and this is a big ‘but’, if covid cases continue to rise in Melbourne don’t be surprised if the Government drops the hammer further and the finals are capped, meaning cranky ticket holders get a refund and it’s a half full stadium, or worse near empty. Nothing would surprise me anymore.
Ok, beyond all that, it’s time to choose a winner. I don’t want to put the mock on Barty, she’d be the first Australian to win the Women’s Singles since Chris O’Neill in 1978, but she is so primed to do this. Great lead up form, the Djokovic debacle has taken the spotlight off her and she’ll have rabid crowd support. Ok, I’m tipping Barty to win her 3rd Slam (French, Wimbledon). Heading to Sportsbet now.
Over to the Men, it’s a bit more complicated. We’ll know by tomorrow if Djokovic is in, although I’ve read even if the Government loses this hearing, there is another avenue in the Law where the Minister could still cancel his visa.
It’s an ongoing nightmare and even if the World number 1 actually plays the tournament I just can’t imagine him winning 7 matches with the upheaval in his preparation.
If he is out of the tournament before Monday’s order of play is announced the seeds would be moved around and 5th seed Rublev would go to the top of the draw, the Russian is actually now recovering from covid, just to throw in another wrinkle.
Should the court’s decision be pushed back and Novak is still deported, and it comes after Monday’s order of play, a ‘lucky loser’ from Qualifying would fill Djokovic’s slot in the draw, essentially throwing the top half into chaos, crikey what a mess.
The players that could benefit in the top half include the flashy Frenchman Monfils (17), the power player Berrettini (7), the best player yet to win a Slam Zverev (3), Khachanov (28) and 20 time Slam winner Rafa Nadal (6).
The bottom half is more stable, for now. US Open champ Medvedev (2) hasn’t done much since winning in New York but his draw is soft, although a potential 2nd rounder against Kyrgios could provide sparks. Other players who could make a second week run are the young Italian Sinner (11), Auger-Alassime (9) and Tsitsipas (4), although he’s dealing with an elbow injury.
The more I look at it, the more wide open it looks. Nadal’s body has betrayed him missing Wimbledon and the US Open last year, even though he won the Melbourne lead up event can he handle seven best of 5 set matches?
I’m not so sure. I’m tipping Zverev to win his first Slam. The German won six titles last year including the year-end Masters with wins over Djokovic and Medvedev, he’ll ride that confidence to Grand Slam glory.