The draw for the 2014 tournament was conducted on Friday, and there was no shortage of outcry from Australian fans, as the players drew the short end of the straw.
With temperatures set to peak in the high thirties and low forties in the first week, the players will be working overtime to put in their best performances.
Everyone also likes an underdog, and for Ash Barty, the experience of playing Serena Williams in the first round will be nothing short of daunting and very beneficial. The powerhouse that is Williams – a five time Australian Open champion – is not going to back down. Her path is very open against a spree of young talent, and Barty’s doubles partner Casey Dellacqua said that the fear is real.
If Barty has it hard, so does wild boy Bernard Tomic. His opponent is none other than Spaniard Rafael Nadal. Experience matters against the world number one, but Boris Becker hinted at the fixture launch that challenges await.
Facing the stifling conditions will not be easy for anyone, even the Australians. Lleyton Hewitt is going to face Italian Andreas Seppi (underrated, in my opinion), and there can be little doubt that the 32 year old will still be buoyed by his win over Roger Federer at the recent Brisbane International.
Predictions (fan based)
Competition is always fierce on the blue Australian Open courts, and the heat is another natural element to overcome.
Focusing on Hewitt, grit and determination were key weapons in his battle against Federer. He can put them to good use again starting Monday. “Rusty”, as he is referred to by nickname, is going to live up to the moniker – a quarter final awaits if his body holds up.
Don’t forget James Duckworth and Sam Groth – though the former shapes up against old mate Federer. The obstacle is there and will not be easy to overcome.
Tomic has a battle some would envy, and some would run away from. However, Wally Masure, from Fox Sports, believes that Nadal is at his most vulnerable at the start of the tournament. Natural aggression for the young Aussie is key against a powerful and slick mover like Rafa.
Sam Stosur needs a boost after a fluctuating 2013. If there was ever a time to stand up and fight, it’s at Melbourne Park. Taking on Klara Zakopalova in round one might well prove to be an edge in itself, as Stosur has taken on the Czech recently in the lead up tournaments.
Australia must fight hard to claw their way into the finals of the Australian Open. A tough slog, yes, but an achievable one if everyone plays strong, attacking games.