New place, new time
Draw in a new style. The draw for the Australian Open was held in Melbourne. If earlier it was held in the morning local time and at night for Europe, now the organizers decided to postpone it for the evening. The ceremony is now taking place at the Margaret Court Arena. The draw itself was carried out in advance: this is evidenced by “spoilers” that appeared on the network before the ceremony. The fact is that behind the back of the tournament director Craig Tealey were the fans who saw the monitor with ready-made grids. Individual pairs and even mesh sections became available 30 minutes before the official announcement.
The draw is now a television product. It was broadcast both on the most famous video hosting site and on the air of the most popular sports channel in Europe. Usually the reigning champions are invited to participate in the draw. Recall that they are Roger Federer and Serena Williams. Roger is participating in the next draw, and Serena had to withdraw, so the organizers invited Maria Sharapova, the 2008 champion. The fact is that Serena won in 2009, 2010 and 2015, Victoria Azarenko (2012 and 2013) also does not participate in this tournament, Kim Kleisters (2011) and Li Na (2014) ended their careers, and Angelica Kerber (2016) is not in Melbourne yet – she is playing in the Sydney tournament. That is, Sharapova became the most logical candidate in the given circumstances.
The presenter asked the athletes several questions in turn. So, Federer told about the video, recorded with Rafael Nadal several years ago. The Swiss and the Spaniard only had a few words to say on camera, but they constantly laughed. In addition, Federer was asked about an actor who could play him in a feature film. Roger named Matt Damon, among others. The interview was accompanied by interesting archival footage. The organizers prepared well for Maria Sharapova’s appearance on the court, and remembered her victory in the 2008 final over Ana Ivanovich. Maria also spoke about the meaning of the title in Chinese Tianjin at the end of last season. The interviews turned out to be informative and lengthy, but nevertheless, all the participants, first of all, were waiting for the draw. Before them, viewers and viewers still watched sketches of dark horses according to experts – short stories about those tennis players who are not included in the list of main favorites, but may surprise in Melbourne.
Djokovic got to Zverev
Finally, about 40 minutes after the announced start time, ready-made nets were presented to the court of tennis fans. The main intrigue of the men’s draw was the whereabouts of Novak Djokovic. The six-time champion of the tournament has not played since Wimbledon and dropped to the middle of the second ten. He got the 14th seed and got in the quarter to Alexander Zverev. Supermatch Djokovic – Zverev may take place in the fourth round. True, Novak must first beat Donald Young, who has no victories this season, and then Gael Monfils. The Frenchman is in excellent shape: the title in Doha is proof of that. In the third round, Albert Ramos-Vignolas is very passable. At Zverev, in the third round, a match is planned with his brother Misha, who beat Andy Murray here a year ago and reached the quarterfinals.
The two main favorites – Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – got a very comfortable net. In the Spaniard, it turned out almost perfect. The first difficulties may arise only in the quarterfinals, if Pablo Carreno-Busta and Marin Cilic show their best tennis in Melbourne. In the semifinals, a meeting with Grigor Dimitrov is possible, the Bulgarian, who has been playing great tennis since the end of last season, has a good net too. Note that Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori do not participate in the tournament, so the path for the favorites has become a little easier. Logically, no one should interfere with the repetition of the 2017 semifinal between Nadal and Dimitrov, and then they staged a real performance in which Rafael became stronger after five hours of struggle.
There are more strong tennis players in the lower part, and Federer and Zverev should to be a little more difficult. First of all, of course, Djokovic should be noted. Its 14th seed should not bother anyone. The Australian Open is his most successful Slam, and he shows his best tennis almost every year in Melbourne. The question is whether he will be able to get in shape during the tournament this time. In the bottom half and Juan Martin del Potro, and Dominic Tim, and Stan Wawrinka. The Swiss has not played for a long time due to injury, now it is difficult to understand what form he is in, but usually Stan knows how to tune in to “Grand Slam”. Finally, here is Alex de Minor, who has played great in the first two weeks of the season. He will have a match with Tomas Berdych in the first round – this is one of the most interesting meetings in the starting round. One representative of Ukraine will also play in Australia. Alexander Dolgopolov once reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne, but that was quite a long time ago – in 2011. He will start the tournament with Andreas Haider-Maurer and then most likely face John Isner. It is curious that tennis players have been on tour for a long time, but have not yet played with each other. Perhaps the debut game will take place in Melbourne.
Svitolina will try to play for the first time in the second week in Melbourne
In the women’s category, of course, the main hopes of Ukrainian tennis are associated with Elina Svitolina. The Australian Open is the only “Helmet” where the Ukrainian has not yet appeared in the second week. Three times, including last year, Elina was in the third round. This time, there is a good chance of taking at least one step forward. The first rival of Svitolina is still unknown – she will be the winner of the qualification. The second match with Maria Sakkari or Katezhina Sinyakova, two young promising girls, will surely turn out to be interesting. The closest seeded in the Ukrainian section is Peng Shuai. Peng has not played alone this season, so it is difficult to speculate about her form. In any case, the grid for Elina looks very passable. There are no particularly strong opponents in the fourth round: 13th seeded Sloane Stevens did not win a match after winning the US Open.
Bookmakers call Elina one of the three main favorites of the tournament. Simone Halep and Angelique Kerber also have a coefficient of 8.0. Kerber was recently the first racket in the world, but now she is not even in the top 20. Why is her chances so high? Because this season Kerber is playing great: she reached the Hopman Cup final and the final in Sydney. Another thing is that Angelique’s grid is not the simplest: in the third round, a meeting with Sharapova is possible, which experts also refer to as contenders for the title. But there are no serious rivals in the lower section of the upper half of the grid, since both French women Caroline Garcia and Christina Mladenovic and American Madison Keys are not impressive this season, and Mladenovic has not played at his level since the middle of last season. The third seeded Garbinier Mugurusa is also here, but she has played one full match so far and withdrew from both tournaments with a thigh injury, so her form is questionable. It is for this reason that the winner of the Kerber-Sharapova match has good chances for the semifinals.
It’s not so simple in Simona Halep’s quarter. In the third round, she can play with Petra Kvitova, and in the fourth, with Ashley Barty, Arina Sobolenko or Camila Georgie. All three girls are doing great this week and are in good shape. Nearby is Elena Vesnina, 16th seeded. She lost in Sydney in the second round, but still a fairly eminent rival – Dominica Tsibulkova. In the quarterfinals, Halep may face Karolina Plishkova. In the lower half of the grid, the chances are high for the semifinals of Svitolina – Caroline Wozniacki. Let’s not discount Venus Williams, 2017 finalist. She will face Belina Benchich in the first round. In addition, in this half there is Elena Ostapenko, as well as Yulia Görges, who is now in amazing shape. She has won three titles in a row since the end of last season.
As for experts, a lot of people are betting on Federer. Last year, rested Roger became almost invincible. He is still older than his rivals, but this time he has the advantage of being healthier, ”said renowned analyst Steve Tignor.
He also bets on Svitolina in the women’s category: “Two of the last three“ Helmets ”were won by girls who had not previously won such competitions. Why doesn’t Svitolina become the third? She has never been to the semifinals at Helmet yet, but for 12 months she has been playing at the same high level as everyone else. ”