Australian Open 2013 Predictions: Underrated Players Who Will Make Deep Runs

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2013

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 10:  Gael Monfils of France plays a forehand during his quarterfinal match against Tommy Haas of Germany during day four of the Heineken Open at the ASB Tennis Centre on January 10, 2013 in Auckland, New Zealand.  (Photo by Hannah Johnston/Getty Images)
Hannah Johnston/Getty Images

All eyes are on the usual suspects, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, as tennis prepares for its first Grand Slam event of 2013. While those players will steal the headlines, don't lose sight of other players hoping to make an Australian Open impact.

The first major event of the season is always intriguing because it's a chance for every player to get the year started on the right foot. An unexpected deep run in Melbourne can jump-start a terrific year, and that's what every player outside the elite group is aiming for.

With that in mind, let's examine three players who aren't on the radar right now, but are capable of making deep runs in Australia.

Kevin Anderson

Anderson is still in the process of adding more versatility to his game, but the 26-year-old South African is always a threat on hard courts thanks to his blistering serve. He reached the third round last year before falling in a competitive match with Tomas Berdych.

He's a tough player to face, especially in the early rounds, because he puts constant pressure on his opponent by holding his serve with relative ease. That leads to a lot of tiebreaks, which is the last thing a top player wants an early match in a major to hinge on.

Anderson has got his season started with a strong run in Sydney, which should give him the necessary confidence to make some noise in Melbourne. If his return game even makes a slight improvement from last season, he will enjoy a big 2013.

Gael Monfils

Once the No. 7 player in the world, Monfils' 2012 season was derailed by lingering issues with his knees, which caused his ranking to plummet. Now he's back on tour and looking to make a move back toward the top.

When healthy, Monfils is one of the most exciting players to watch. His combination of athleticism and shot-making ability is uncanny. He showed it off during a thrilling victory over Tommy Haas in the Heineken Open, an Aussie Open warm-up event.

Every player knows what the Frenchman is capable of, which means he's not going to sneak up on anybody like other sleepers will. That said, as long as the draw breaks favorably for him, he can make a serious statement in his first major in a year.

Bernard Tomic

If rankings and results were based purely on natural talent, Tomic would be nearing the top 10. Instead, he's ranked outside the top 60 and is still looking for a big breakthrough. Doing it at his home slam would certainly be fitting.

The most important thing the 20-year-old phenom needs to learn is how to grind out wins. It's not always going to be easy, especially in majors, and he's had a tendency early in his career to check out mentally when the going gets tough.

While it's not uncommon for young players who dominated at the junior level to go through those type of growing pains, getting past them is the key. Tomic will be around for a while if he stays mentally engaged during the season's first major.