Australian Open 2013 Rankings: 7 Biggest Developments of the Opening Week

Graham SearlesContributor IJanuary 22, 2013

Australian Open 2013 Rankings: 7 Biggest Developments of the Opening Week

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    With the 2013 Australian Open entering its second week, things are beginning to take shape in the race for the first major title of the year.

    There have been some cracking encounters already, and the action is set to get even hotter as we enter the quarterfinals. The favourites for the men's and women's title still remain despite some close calls, and there are bound to be a few more epic battles as the tournament reaches its conclusion.

    We look back at the first week and assess the seven biggest developments of the 2013 Australian Open and how they will shape the tournament as it unfolds in Melbourne. Taking a close look at who has set the courts alight and who has sunk without a trace.

7. Still No Sign of Nadal

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    Rafael Nadal has now missed the last two majors, as well as the end of tour championships, through a knee injury that continues to plague his career.

    There is no question that any tournament misses the swashbuckling Spaniard, but it is always a big disappointment when such a talented player continues to miss majors through injury. He is a huge fan favourite and well liked in the locker room, so the longer he spends on the sidelines the worse the effect on tennis as a whole.

    If he is still recovering from knee problems, then it is wise for the King of Clay to miss the Australian Open as he will want to play in the clay season come spring time. The defence of his French Open crown is Nadal's top priority, and the chance of re-injuring his knee in Australia is a risk not worth taking.

    However, the longer he spends in rehab the longer rumors and speculation will continue to circulate concerning Nadal's future in the game. Rafa has suffered many recurring injury problems throughout his career and many put this down to the intense physical nature of his game.

    When he does return, will he be the same buccaneering bullfighter he was before?

6. Jeremy Chardy Highlights Growing French Field

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    The French field of tennis players continue to grow in strength, and they, mostly, put in some very impressive performances last week.

    Unseeded Jeremy Chardy has blasted into the quarterfinals of the tournament by notably defeating three seeded players in his last three matches. Spectacularly, Chardy defeated former major champion and sixth seed Juan Martin Del Potro, 6-3, 6-3, 6-7, 3-6, 6-3. Chardy faces Murray in the quarters and will go into the match believing he can upset the odds again.

    Rock-solid Jo-Wilfred Tsonga has yet again shown his class by making it to the quarters alongside Chardy. Tsonga has become a stalwart of the second week of slams, and you feel that he deserves to win a Slam because of his very consistent form over the past five years.

    Finally, the battle between Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon in the third round will go down in history as one of the most painful but compelling tennis matches in recent times.

    Both men play a counterattacking style of tennis and long rallies ensued from the first point to the last. Gilles Simon somehow managed to fight off intense mental and physical fatigue to see off Monfils in five sets. Crowds witnessed a 71-shot rally in the third set, highlighting just how gruelling the five-set thriller was.

5. Caroline Wozniacki Continues Her Poor Major Form

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    Caroline Wozniacki's dismal form in major competitions continued this week by failing to make the second week of a major again.

    The Dane has not reached the quarterfinal of a major since the Australian Open last year, and she is arguably still suffering from being named women's No. 1 without having actually won a major title. Wozniacki is undeniably a very talented player, but she is very fragile mentally and opponents are beginning to exploit this fact.

    Wozniacki performed well in the tournament until meeting the unseeded bandit in Svetlana Kuznetsova. Kuznetsova, the two-time major champion showed her raw ability in overpowering Wozniacki, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5, but Wozniacki will no doubt be disappointed in the manner of her defeat. She argued a great deal with the umpire of the match over a contentious call in the third set and never seemed to recover.

    Wozniacki was reported by Luke Buttigieg of Sportal as saying, "Are you kidding? I had the racquet on the ball.

    "He called it out, that's not my fault.

    "Are you serious? That's not my fault.

    "I had the ball on my friggin' racquet. It (the fault call) disturbed me."

4. Sam Stosur Flops in Front of Her Home Crowd... Again

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    Sam Stosur once again flopped in front of her home crowd, compounding Australian heartache for another year.

    The former major champion has flown the flag for Australian tennis for a few years now, but her woes in Melbourne continue to grow and grow. She slumped to a three-set defeat to Jie Zheng in the second round, 6-4, 1-6, 7-5.

    Stosur is quickly being branded a choker, and this is a harsh assessment, but she can be susceptible to sharp, sudden dips in confidence. Much like Wozniacki, her ability is unquestionable but her random lapses in confidence are alarming. The fact they frequently come in front of her home fans show she struggles to cope under pressure.

    Stosur is not alone in the underperforming Aussie camp, though; Bernard Tomic was thrashed by Federer in the third round in straight sets. Whilst he was never predicted to win the match, his performance left a lot to be desired.

    Tomic vowed to make the top 10 by the end of the year, and on last week's performance, his arrogance will be his downfall.

    In his controversial interview (via Courtney Walsh, the Australian), Tomic said, "It's just a matter of time when I get up to the big group of boys in the top 10.

    "I've got to believe and do the things that I was doing the last few weeks. I know I'm going to be in there with this attitude."

3. British Women Continue to Improve

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    British female tennis starlets Laura Robson and Heather Watson showed that 2012 was not a flash in the pan. They both reached the third round of the tournament before sadly being defeated.

    Laura Robson arguably caused one of the upsets of the tournament by defeating the former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the second round, 2-6, 6-3, 11-9. She succumbed in the next to Sloane Stephens, 7-5, 6-3, because of a shoulder injury.

    Her performances show a definite upward curve, and Robson will continue to climb up the rankings as she matures.

    Heather Watson also put on a very good display in beating Cadantu and Pervak in two close three-setters. Sadly, though, she was no match for fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka, who beat her with consummate ease.

    However, much like Robson, she showed maturity that belied her 20 years.

2. Andy Murray Demolished All Comers in Week 1

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    Andy Murray showed his class in week one by beating all of his opponents with consummate ease and in doing so didn't drop a single set.

    Murray thrashed Robin Haase and Joao Sousa in the first and second round, respectively. He certainly was never pushed out of his comfort zone against either men.

    In the third round he faced his toughest test, but Richard Berankis couldn't match Murray's incredible pace and power. Finally, Andy smashed a battle-weary Gilles Simon in and easy three-set encounter.

    Tougher tests are certainly yet to come for Murray, but he has only been able to play what the draw has given him. The prospect of meeting Federer in another semifinal is one that he will be relishing given his recent form against Roger.

    British fans will be hoping that Andy can recreate the mesmerising displays he put on at the U.S. Open last year and make 2013 even better for British tennis than 2012 was.

1. Djokovic Roars into Week 2

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    Novak Djokovic had to survive a huge scare on Sunday as he fought off Stanislas Wawrinka in an epic five-setter that was definitely the highlight of week one.

    Djokovic fought back from 1-6, 2-5 down to come back and win 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7, 12-10. The relief to come through the match was etched all over his face, and in an interview with ESPN, he said the win was: of the longest, most interesting, and most exciting matches I have played in my career.

    Even though I was 6-1 5-2 down, I believed that I can come back if I am two sets down. I've been in those situations before. I was just outplayed by my opponent. He was better on the court for the first hour-and-a-half, no question about it.

    It is no doubt that the match will have taken a lot out of the Serb, but he is one of the most physically and mentally enduring people on the planet. It would be no surprise for Djokovic to be spurred on by his momentous victory and make this year his third Australian Open title in a row.

Honourable Mention: The Fans!

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    Year on year, the fans prove to be one of the most important parts of the Australian open. They provide a fantastic environment for the players, and the tournament would not be the same without them.

    On many occasions in the last week, matches have raged on until around 2 a.m. and on no occasions did the the crowds consider going home to bed.

    The spectators remained energised, and in the case of Monfils vs. Simon, they gave a huge boost to the men battling into the early hours.

    The party atmosphere down under is brilliant to watch, and it's great to see fans enjoying the tennis with a beer in their hand and a smile on their face!