The heat is on in Australia and no, it isn’t because of the climate. The Australian Open is underway down under and this year has already created headlines. We take a look at the stars and challengers at this year’s edition of the star studded event.

Has the Big Four era ended?

In the run up to the Australian Open, the Tennis world was shocked when Andy Murray announced that he would retire at the end of the tournament, at the age of 31.  After making his professional tennis debut in 2005, Murray went on to win 45 singles titles which includes the 2012 US open title, the 2013 Wimbledon Title and 2016 Wimbledon Title. He was the first man from Great Britain to win the Wimbledon title since Fred Perry in 1936. He is the current Olympic Champion after winning the mega tournament in 2016 in Rio. He’s finished as runner-up at the French Open and the Australian Open on various occasions. After such a glorious career, Murray was headed towards the twilight of his career and he’d have hoped to run an extra mile but that wasn’t to be after his nagging hip injury forced him to make the decision.

On Monday, Andy played his last game after he lost to Spaniard R. Bautista Agut after a five set cracker. In his post match interview, the Brit fought back tears as he was shown a video with all his fierce rivals including The Big Three paid their tributes to him. He thanked everyone for all their support and even hinted that he would do all he could to make it back. If it was indeed your last match, then thank you, Andy, for all the beautiful tennis along the years.

Roger or Novak, who makes it seven?

This year, two of the game’s greatest players will attempt to win their record seventh Australian Open Title. First seeded, Novak Djokovic and third seeded, Roger Federer will go out all guns blazing to get to the magical number. Both the players are well on their way with advancements on to to the round of 32. Federer takes on America’s Fritz in the Rod Laver Arena early Friday morning while Djokovic goes head to head with Canada’s Shapovalov.

Roger Federer, now 37, is playing some brilliant tennis. And just like wine, he only seems to be getting better with age. He has won 20 Grand Slam singles titles- the most in history for a male player and he’d surely be looking forward to adding to his trophy cabinet. He won the previous edition last year and he could surely do it again this time.

Djokovic, a true legend of the game is also on course to win his 15th Grand Slam title this year. He is the first player ever to hold all four major titles at once on three different surfaces: hard, grass and clay. He last won the Australian Open in 2016 and you could be sure he’s rearing for more this year.

Djokovic seems to be in some good form with a convincing win over Joe Tsonga (6-3, 7-5, 6-4) on Thursday in the Round of 64. Federer also win his corresponding fixture over D. Evans but he did have to toil hard for victory (7-6, 7-6, 6-3). The tournament is beginning to take shape and the players are finally starting to gain some rhythm and it isn’t long until these two warriors find some real tough competition but with the form that they have been in and the record that they have, we can sure expect them to take their game to the next level.

Will Rafa battle fitness and go all the way?

Rafael Nadal has won 33 Grand Slam titles in his glittering career, the second highest in history for a male player. His grit determination and hard hitting brand of tennis has never failed to make us get off our seats. The Spaniard has won one Australian Open title but he really looks fired up to win his second. That can only turn into a reality if he can stay fit and take care of his body. Nadal has faced a lot of injuries over the years such as hip, knee, foot and the thigh. His latest injury was when he sustained a knee injury during his US Open Semi-Final match against Juan Martin del Potro. After a successful surgery, he now looks on course to win this year’s tournament. Rafa showed no signs of pain as he moved into the third round with an easy win over Matthew Ebden on Wednesday. He next faces a tricky test as he locks horns with Australia’s top seeded, Alex de Minauir on Friday but he doesn’t seem daunted by the match up.

If Nadal can keep this form going and take utmost care of himself, he could very well run rampant against his opponents. This time though, it looks like he’s finally got it right after his post match interview where he stated that he still has a couple more years left in him.

Will a new name emerge victorious in Melbourne?

After Andy Murray announced his retirement and made an early exit in Australia, it seems that it is now upon the Big Three to come out as champions, but they have some stern opposition ready to challenge for the title.

One of them could be Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka. He enters the tournament unseeded but he sure does know how to make his presence known as he did so in the 2014 edition when he went all the way and won it.

19 year old Australian youngster, Alex de Minauir will be riding high on confidence with the home support behind his back.

Alexander Zverev would also be in some high run of form after his win over Djokovic in the ATP finals in November.

Dominic Thiem could be another surprise winner after reaching the French Open Final in 2018.

Also Read: Serena Williams – A Ninja coach, self talk and art of breaking opponents raquets- not serve.


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