As the Australian Open, the first major of 2013, gets underway Sunday in Melbourne, there are a number of interesting questions arising. When the 2012 season came to an end tennis fans saw very interesting storylines beginning to take shape.
Last week just before she left for Melbourne I spoke to ESPN analyst Chris Evert, the winner of 18 Grand Slam singles championships. Evert counts among those titles two Australian Open wins in 1982 and 1984.
During the conference call Evert had a chance to set the stage for the Australian Open as well as preview the 2013 season.
She is part of the round-the-clock coverage that begins on ESPN2 Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET. (Click here to to find out how to follow the Australian Open on all media platforms.)
Can Serena Williams win the calendar year grand slam in 2013?
Evert: Is it possible? Absolutely. It's absolutely possible. I think she's got the motivation, there's no doubt about it, because she's been out of the game so many different times, either for injuries or for other interests in her life, whatever, so she's still a fresh older player. So I don't think that motivation will be a factor.
To stay healthy in this day and age is, as we've seen Nadal and other players, I think more difficult, especially for someone like Serena who is such a physical player and has a tendency to get injured. When she's on, she's unbeatable. She's dominant and unbeatable. I don't know if anybody can really stop her. But you have to remember that we're talking Grand Slams in the same sentence, and they're two-week tournaments and have always provided surprises for us.
So, the big question is for those two-week periods, can she keep the high level of focus and fitness for 14 days in a row. There's no easy matches anymore, as we saw last year here when she lost, and also last year at the French when she lost. You got to start out 90 percent to 100 percent from the first match.
Evert: It's all speculation, isn't it? First of all, Nadal, we don't even know when he's going to come back, right? Yes, it very well could happen. But I just think if Nadal gets his act together in February, March, and he gets healthy, he's pretty invincible on the red clay, even though Novak Djokovic did have a good match with him last year at the French. I think Nadal, puts all of his eggs in one basket when it comes to winning at least that one Grand Slam. I think he's going to do everything he can to prepare for that one Grand Slam. So in that respect, you know, no, that won't happen. I mean, I predict Nadal is going to come back and win the French. I think Andy Murray is also going to win a Grand Slam this year, and Djokovic also.
As for Roger, you can never count Federer out, especially on the grass. But I think, gosh, each year gets a little bit tougher, you know, for him.
I would love to see him win a Grand Slam, but I don't know. I don't think you could ever be 100 percent sure with him.
This has been a very hot summer in Australia. How will that factor into the Open?
Evert: Conditioning is always a factor. It's 100 percent a factor. Especially coming off of everybody had a rest. Who knows, some players went skiing, some players really did take time off and are kind of working their way into the beginning of the year. Some already have worked hard and are very fit. I think conditioning and fitness is definitely going to be a factor with the heat. You're going to have some players that are going to fizzle and some players that aren't going to be able to cope as well as others. It's just a matter of conditioning for the players.
All quotes for this story were obtained first hand during a conference call set up by ESPN PR.