Australian Open 2012: 5 Compelling Storylines Heading into Week 2
With Aussie hopeful Bernard Tomic out having fallen to Roger Federer in straight sets, the weight of the nation falls on the shoulders of Lleyton Hewitt, who likely won't be crushed by the heavy burden, but rather his opponent Novak Djokovic.
Once again, the question entering Week 2 at the Australian Open is whether anyone has the game or the ability to knock off the Big Four. Considering they've only lost one set between them so far, the answer for the moment appears to be no.
5. Can Anyone Stop the Big Four?
Forget stop. How about just get a set off one of them? The Big Four are rolling through the draw with exceptional ease.
With Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal now through to the quarterfinals in the bottom half of the draw, the top four men's seeds have lost a combined one set in 13 matches (Federer was the beneficiary of an earlier walkover), winning the set count by a whopping 40-1 margin.
The game has never seen such an impressive display of tennis or such utter dominance. Bernard Tomic, the big hope and supposedly Federer's biggest challenge to date, got crushed by the 16-time Grand Slam champion who put on an utter clinic in front of a rather deflated crowd.
Nadal who was supposed to be battling lingering knee issues, hasn't dropped more than four games in a set, breezing by countryman and 18th seed Feliciano Lopez in two and a half hours.
Meanwhile, on the top half of the draw, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have both made quick work of their opponents, with Murray the only one to drop a set, losing one in his first round match against American Ryan Harrison.
3. The Rise of Kei Nishikori
As big an overnight sensation as teenager Bernard Tomic has been in his home country, fellow youngster Kei Nishikori is an even bigger celebrity in his home country of Japan.
And with good reason. The 22-year-old Nishikori has taken the tour by storm rising from 799 in spring of 2010 to his 24th seeding in less than two years.
A late-season surge last year with wins over Tsonga, Tomas Berdych and even Novak Djokovic can be credited for his surge in the rankings.
If he can pull off another win over the sixth seeded Tsonga, no small task, Nishikori will reach his first ever Grand Slam quarterfinal and send his adoring Japanese fans into a frenzy back home.
3. Will Novak Djokovic Repeat?
So far, Novak Djokovic has looked nearly untouchable. In three matches, he has yet to drop a set and has a 54-10 game advantage against his opponents.
Granted, he has yet to play a seeded player and shouldn't really be tested until a likely showdown with Andy Murray in the semifinals, but the way Djokovic is stroking the ball and the supreme confidence with which he is playing, makes it hard not to pick the reigning championship as a favorite to repeat.
2. Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer in the Finals?
Weren't these two guys supposed to be battling through injuries and their status uncertain for the year's first Grand Slam?
Juan Martin Del Potro and Tomas Berdych are no slouches, but the way Nadal and Federer are playing, at this point, you have to assume a spot in the finals will be fought for by the two great champions and rivals.
Nothing against Rafael Nadal, who has played near perfect tennis himself, but with the streak Roger Federer is on. He hasn't lost in his last 24 times on court. You just get that feeling that Federer is on a mission and will ultimately survive and advance.
1. Will Andy Murray Finally Break Through at a Grand Slam?
Andy Murray is too good to never have won a Grand Slam tournament. Given he's been in three finals, at some point he just has to break through and finally raise the trophy.
Will this year's Australian Open be the turning point where he cements his legacy as a Grand Slam champion?
For his sanity's sake, let's hope so. Murray loves the Australian Open, as evidenced by his two consecutive finals appearances.
Murray has the game to beat Djokavic, Federer or Nadal. He's just going to need to bring it and play flawless tennis for two consecutive matches.
Beforehand, Murray needs to focus on the task at hand and get to the semifinals as potential quarterfinals opponent Jo Wilfried Tsonga is the toughest player outside the Big Four.